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Friday, December 18, 2009

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: DRAGONS OF SWEDEN

Hello again, cryptophiles.

Today I present a summary of an article in Fate magazine concerning `The Dragons of Sweden`. Unfortunately I do not know when it was published; my apologies. The article is by Sven Rosen. Unfortunately the quality of the photocopy I have is poor so there are parts I cannot transcribe.

'In the mid-19th century Swedish newspapers published a number of reports in which people described encounters with dragons or giant snakes. Fascinated by the stories, the pioneering Swedish folklorist and scientist Gunnar Olof Hyltėn-Cavallius decided to investigate. From his studies he knew that such creatures, called lindorms, were widely known in Nordic Europe. Lindorms figure in Scandanavian mythology, in folk songs and tales and in the dragonesque style of the Viking Age. Throughout history descriptions of the creatures` appearance were remarkably consistent.Hyltėn-Cavallius noted, and now it appeared that specimens of this rare monster still roamed the Swedish countryside. So he set out to find a dragon….' (1).

This is Hyltėn-Cavallius` summary of his findings: 'In Värend - and probably in other parts of Sweden as well - a species of giant snakes, called dragons or lindorms, continues to exist. Usually the lindorm is about 10 feet long but specimens of 18 feet or 20 feet have been observed. His body is as thick as a man`s thigh; his color [sic] is black with a yellow-flamed belly. Old specimens wear on their neck an integument of long hair or scales, frequently lickened to a horse`s mane. He has a flat, round or squared head, a divided tongue, and a mouth full of white, shining teeth. His eyes are large and saucer-shaped with a frightfully wild and sparkling stare. His tail is short and stubby and the general shape of the creature is heavy and unwieldy…' (2).

'The dragon resides in dens and piles of stones, in wild and desolate places (?) marshlands, swamps or lakes.He often (?) been seen in the rocky mountains and forests east of Lake Ȧsnen. He has also been observed swimming in the lakes of (?) Rottnen and Helgasjön. Usually he (?) keeps his head two feet above water…he moves onward with the same kind of winding throwings as an ordinary grass snake…'(3).


'An encounter with a lindorm consists of of one or more of these elements;

1. Observation. The witness happens to see a dragon. The encounter is peaceful although the witness often is deeply affected by the snake`s appearance.

2. Pursuit. The snake, which moves quickly in an upright position and often snorts like a horse, chases the witness. (Of Hyltén-Cavallius` 48 cases only two deal with this type of event.)

3. Combat. The witness fights the snake (12 cases)

4. Appearance with other, smaller snakes (four cases)' (4)

Later the author describes the foul stench the decomposing carcass makes: 'The snake`s breath and the stench that he emitted after his death was so poisonous that I for eight days thereafter suffered from the aftereffects of it, and I and my companion could hardly come near to dead snake`s body [Case five.] The stench of the carcass, as well as the smell of the venomous liquid that he [the lindorm] vomited forth on me during the struggle was unbearable, and I was, because of that, confined to bed for three days thereafter, and was badly ill. [Case 23]….' (5).

'Descriptions of the lindorm appear frequently in Scandanavian literature from the 13th-Century Eddas on. Olaus Magnus, in his Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (1555), mentions in particular the dragon`s hard, scaly body. Sigurd of the Eddas and Siegfried of the Nibelungenlied found that a dragon`s weak point is its belly; so did Daniel Nilsson of Värend in Hyltén-Cavallius` case four' (6).


The author concludes with considering a psychological explanation: 'One major problem with this psychological interpretation is that 24 of Hyltén-Cavallius` cases involve more than one witness. Many of the 31 additional cases with which I am familiar also had multiple witnesses. One can speak of “collective halluncinations” without effectively explaining anything. Still it is possible, in my opinion, that the parallels between the monster stories from Värend and the characteristic features of hallucinations are not entirely coincidental.' (7)

There is information in Lake Monster Traditions by Meurger and Gagnon on the lindorm.

1 S.Rosen. The Dragons of Sweden. Fate. (date ?)
2 ibid pp.37-38
3 ibid p.38
4 ibid p.40
5 ibid p.42
6 ibid p.43
7 ibid p.45

For reasons too tiresome and unexciting there are no lyrics today, I hope there will be tomorrow!

1 comment:

janne said...

Hi there, happened to read this. I´m trying to collect as many of these kind of stories as possible. My theory regrading lindorms and lake monsters in Sweden is that they relate to very large or gigantic eels! This includes mythological beings like Näcken, Bäckahästen etc.