Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Swedish legends by the motorway
Sweden is a country full of myths and legends. Like other rural countries, many of these myths and legends are based around the dark woods, or rugged hilltops or deep lakes. These legends are passed on verbally down through the generations, and some are considered so important that the region builds a statue or another kind of monument in its honour.
One such statue, built in 1969, can be seen from the motorway just outside of Jönköping, in the town of Huskvarna. At this point, the motorway separates the town from the vast lake Vättern. On the town side, on the grass verge, a giant is standing. This giant is clutching a clump of grass in his arms and gazing beyond the motorway to the other side of the lake.
Of all the people who have driven past this place, I wonder how many have seen this giant? And I wonder how many know of the legend surrounding him?
The giant's name is Vist. And the story goes like this. Long ago in the area of lake Vättern lived the giant Vist and his wife. Every day, they would wander around the lake looking for food. It wasn't unusual that on their walks, they would end up on the opossite side of the lake from their home. But this wasn't a problem for Vist. With one giant step, he could stride across the lake and be home in no time. His wife, however, who had smaller steps than him, couldn't manage this and had to walk back home around the shore's edge.
One day, Vist was at home and his wife was wandering the countryside. She ended up on the opposite side of the huge lake. Hungry and weary, she realised she was too tired to walk all the way home so she shouted out to Vist across the lake. She told him to grap a clump of earth and throw it into the lake so she could use it as a stepping stone to get home quicker. Vist grabbed the earth and threw it into the lake and his wife came home.
We know this story to be true because the piece of earth remains today in Lake Vättern in the form of an island. The island of Visingsö - Vis's island.