A Tall Tale – Very Short Story

The man in front of him was the nervous sort. The sort of man that had seen things – still saw them. Someone who didn’t want to believe what they saw, for nobody else did. It wasn’t the first time Arnte had interviewed such people, in fact, he’d built a reputation on them. He didn’t really care if they told the truth because they always had good stories for him to use. He eyed the young man who looked like any other peasant boy; strong built with a bowl cut, only, his mannerism didn’t match his appearance. The young man looked nervously from side to side, his shoulders timidly raised over his ears and sipping sparsely on his beer, even though it was provided for him. Arnte licked his lips and brought out his notebook and said. “So, Herr Frans. I’m ready when you are.”

Frans gave him a quick glance then jerked his head to the right, then to the left. Arnte noticed that Frans body was never fully still, as if he was constantly shuddering. Arnte was getting impatient and he cleared his throat. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’d like to remind you that you requested this interview. You’re wasting both our time.”

Frans suddenly heaved the contents of his drink in one great gulp and placed the mug back on the table. Arnte noticed that Frans stopped shuddering. Arnte sighed and gesture the waiter for another beer. If I’d help him talk… He thought.

Frans touched the mug and drew his finger around the edges and then lick his finger, as if to test if it was poisoned. Then said. “They are in the walls, you know, under the floorboard and even in our pockets if they want to.”

Arnte noted it down. “Who are they, exactly?”

Frans snorted. “I envy your ignorance. They might have left the consciousness for most of you, but they are still around, even if you don’t see them.”

Arnte raised an eyebrow. He was well spoken despite looking like a peasant. He noted that down too. “Can you tell me what they look like?”

Frans took another greedy gulp of the beer and his shoulders slowly slumped back below his ears. “Unfortunately, it would be pointless to describe them since they have no form. They appear differently from person to person, they change shape, and even then, they don’t like to be seen.”

“Have you ever seen one?”

Frans glowered at him. “I see one right now. In the crack on the wall there. Ah! too late, it’s gone.”

Arnte crinkled his lips. This was a mistake, he thought, and reached for the tab when Frans stopped him. “Look, you can’t see them unless they allow themselves to be seen.”

Arnte leaned back against his chair. “What makes you so special, then?”

Frans eyed his empty glass and Arnte called for the waiter, reluctantly.   

Frans licked his lips. “Special is not the word that I would use. They keep me reminded that they are always watching… Where I come from, they are normal. It’s a place where few outsiders visit, or leave for that matter… You remember the tales of elves and trolls from your childhood, surely your parents must have told them to you?”

Arnte nodded.

“Well, my village, is where it all began, the origin of these creatures in our world. It is where they like to be, nowadays, now that men are everywhere. Even on the tallest mountains and the deepest forests they cannot be alone, which is what they want in the end… Alone I mean.”

Arnte wasn’t sure what to make of all of this but was intrigued. “Then why did you leave?”

“Look, there are some nice creatures, I’ll admit. And I suppose I could’ve gotten used to the terrors at night once in a while; things disappearing and having to be extra polite to a certain stub near my house; however, I could never get used to the whispers. That was the worst of it. I never understood how the others managed. Perhaps I was just weak like that, perhaps their zealously towards her shields them somehow. Yet, I cannot put my faith in her. I know what she is. How the others didn’t run away with me is a mystery.”

“Where is this place, exactly? What is it called?”

Frans eyes grew wider. “What would you do if I told you?”

“To verify your story, of course.”

Frans started laughing and rose from his seat. “How can you do that if you haven’t even listened to a single word I’ve said?” He finished his beer. “Thanks for the drinks,” he said and walked away.

Arnte scratched his nose and looked as he walked away. He read his notes again and crossed them over with his pen. A bust then… he thought. He paid for the drinks and was about to leave when he turned and peered at the crack in the wall which Frans had alluded before. There was nothing in it and he sighed and looked down at his notes again. His eyes flashed as images popped into his mind and he began to furiously write down his thoughts. It was almost morning before he finally put down his pen. 

They had appeared to him.


© Christopher Stamfors

The Swedish Myth

In Europe, Sweden was amongst the last to be christened. I think there is a correlation between the time of christendom and how pious a country is. Granted, Sweden was highly religious, as most of Europe were, during the renaissance up until the end of the 1800s. But this is a relatively short time spann, considering how much earlier other countries became christened. This could explain why the people in the southern Europe remained Catholic while countries in the North converted.

But let’s backtrack a bit, because the nature of Norse mythology and the geographical location of Sweden, is also important when learning about Sweden.

It was actually with relative ease the vikings embraced Christianity. They saw Jesus as simply as yet another deity in their already large roster of gods. Not much changed for the converted, but in time, as we all know, the christian belief and practises overtook the Norse. It is said that the people in Svealand (the area around Stockholm) in the 11th century would still call for Thor’s aid when charging into battle, which is a sign that the old Norse traditions died hard.

I’d like to believe, as a Swede myself, that another reason Scandinavians converted with relative ease is that we are a very practical people. It’s easier to believe in one god rather than several, after all. However, something that remained even though Sweden was Christian, were the stories about the creatures hidden in the woods, under your house, in the sea and in the darkness of the night. These tales about trolls and other magical creatures stayed in people’s consciousness for many centuries to come, especially in isolated villages, which Sweden had many of. It is well known that Sweden is sparsely populated for its size, this was especially true a couple of hundred years ago. Imagine, large stretches of untouched forests and a village, with only a couple hundred people were the nearest neighbour is a week away on foot. This meant that the peasant communities had to be self-sufficient and it’s not hard to imagine the tales being told in such small and isolated communities. Parents telling their children about trolls snatching kids if they are not careful, or about werewolves and Draugs by the campfire during winter.

But it wasn’t just the wilderness where these fairy creatures could be found, they could be found on ships and in homes, were the animals lived and under rocks. There were ways to appease these creatures, much like they had done with the Norse gods before them. One such tradition was to offer a bowl of porridge to the house elf to keep the home safe and don’t cause mischief. These creatures weren’t strictly evil but there were those that were malicious and could kill you if you angered them. These tales became christened, of course, as they became more and more associated with the devil. A very clear example of this change is that they say trolls hate the sound of church bells and could be driven away by the holy cross and such. It was a comfort for these people to have these explanations to why bad things happened to them and that they had ways to prevent misfortune.

These traditions were so hard to get rid of that there are documents about maidens running around naked in the meadow in 1600 century Småland as a ritual of fertility.

All these things, I believe, has shaped how Swedes view themselves and the world today. For instance, the famous Swedish melancholy stem from Stig Larssons movies, but has roots further than that. It is not so much that we are a depressed people, we are an inward looking people, think a lot and are more comfortable within small groups. We aren’t very spiritual either, though most people would acknowledge that there’s “something” that we cannot explain. But if we don’t believe in Gods anymore, nor fairy creatures, then what is this “something?” We don’t have an answer to that and it’s how should be when confronting the otherworldly. The norse Gods were faceless, imageless; we knew they existed and our sacrifices matter, but that was all we knew. Perhaps we are going back to this ambiguity?


A little brain dump from my part. Hope you enjoyed it!