Stockholm University: Research Reveals Half of Viking Age Sigtuna Residents Were Immigrants

I’ve been meaning to share this for a while now, but something or other was always supposedly more important or interesting. No more! 🙂

The Viking Age Sigtuna, Sweden, was formally founded around 980 AD, and it was a much more cosmopolitan city than thought before. According to new DNA analysis, approximately half of city’s population were immigrants.

Flickr Guillen Perez Sigtuna Viking Rune Stone

The study looked at the remnants of 38 individuals who lived and died in Sigtuna between the 900s and 1100s CE, and included other scientific approaches as well (like analysing the strontium isotope contents of the residents’ teeth).

Roughly half of the population grew up in the near-by region Mälardalen (the Mälaren Valley, or Stockholm-Mälaren Region). The other half arrived either from southern Scandinavia (including Norway and Denmark) or further away. The long-distance immigrants came from the British Isles, Ukraine, Lithuania, northern Germany, and other parts of central Europe, and were more likely to be women than men (approx. 70 percent of women vs. 44 percent of the men).

Read more on the Stockholm University research news page: article in Swedish / article in English.

I guess I’m by far not the first woman to fall in love with a Viking and to move far away with him. 🙂

Found via Yle uutiset.

Image: section of a Viking rune stone from Sigtuna by Guillén Pérez on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Quotes: Finland Is Weird. Finland Is Different

I first became aware of Adrian Tchaikovsky when he won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2016. I’ve been meaning to check out his writing since then. Ironclads, a limited-edition hardcover novella, finally made it to the top of my TBR pile last month.

The novella was great in several respects, but I was especially tickled by the American POV character’s descriptions of Finland and Finns. For example:

“All the middle of Nordland is the bit we’ve got problems with, basically: Sweden and Finland, say the maps. Sweden is where the fighting is, and the other place… Finland is weird. Finland is different.“

– Adrian Tchaikovsky: Ironclads

The version of U.S. in the story is fighting in Scandinavia, and, due to having laxer laws on genetic modification, Finland apparently has become home to very interesting types of special forces.

But the best, the absolutely best detail is mentioned in this section:

Quotes Tchaikovsky Ironclads

“[F]or a long time I couldn’t even work out what was on her screens. Then it started animating, frame by stilted frame, and I worked out that some parts of what I was seeing were a satellite view. The vast majority of what should have been contested Swedish soil was smeared with roiling dark clouds that obscured any sight we might have had of what the enemy was doing.

“’Seriously,’ Sturgeon hissed, ‘what is that?’

“’Is that the flies?’ Lawes asked gloomily.

“’Yeah.’ Cormoran gave us a bright look. “Gentlemen, this is a gift from the Finns. They breed these little bugs, midges, they chip ’em and ship ’em, and every so often the Nords release a batch. There are millions of the little critters each time, and they basically just block the view of our satellites – and we can’t see a thing – no one can. So every time our forces advance, we’re going in blind. Makes for all kinds of fun.’

“’They bite?’ Franken asked uneasily. We were all thinking it: mosquitoes, disease, some kind of Finnish labgrown plague that zeroed in on the stars and stripes.

“’Not yet,’ Lawes told us. ‘Jolly thought though, ain’t it?’”

– Adrian Tchaikovsky: Ironclads [original emphasis]

The militarization of mosquitoes! We already joke—as a way of dealing with an irritant that’s just a part and parcel of life—that mosquitoes are the Finnish air force. Finally, someone did it! 😀

It makes perfect sense in a world with aggressive biological research to turn a ubiquitous pest into an asset. Come to think of it, it sounds very much like the strategies that Finns used in the Winter War of 1939-1940 against Soviet forces—making native conditions work for you and against the enemy.

Of course, no one person can disapprove or approve of any characterization on behalf of their whole group. However, in My Official Opininon As a Finn, Tchaikovsky managed to balance well the view of Finland as part of Scandinavia with Finns being distinctly different from their Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish cousins. Also, he got so many little details right, like the way the Finnish language sounds, or our deep appreciation of nature.

I practically tore through the book. Kudos!

Tchaikovsky, Adrian. Ironclads. Oxford: Solaris, 2017, p. 22 and p. 29.

This post has been edited to correct a typo.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Amatka Book Talks by Karin Tidbeck in BOS, NYC, and San Diego

Swedish fantasy and weird author Karin Tidbeck is giving book talks on her debut novel Amatka in the United States.

Karin Tidbeck Amatka

Amatka was originally released in Swedish in 2012. It was first published in English a few weeks ago, at the end of June 2017. The publisher describes the novel as follows:

“A surreal debut novel set in a world shaped by language in the tradition of Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. Le Guin.

“Vanja, an information assistant, is sent from her home city of Essre to the austere, wintry colony of Amatka with an assignment to collect intelligence for the government. Immediately she feels that something strange is going on: people act oddly in Amatka, and citizens are monitored for signs of subversion.

“Intending to stay just a short while, Vanja falls in love with her housemate, Nina, and prolongs her visit. But when she stumbles on evidence of a growing threat to the colony, and a cover-up by its administration, she embarks on an investigation that puts her at tremendous risk.”

In connection with the book birthday, Tidbeck will do a short publicity tour in the U.S. First, she’ll appear at Readercon 28 in Quincy, south of Boston, on July 13-16, 2017. (No further details at this writing.)

There’ll be a second book talk at New York City’s Scandinavia House on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, at 7 p.m. (free entry).

Finally, Tidbeck will be at Comic-Con in San Diego on July 20-23, 2017. (No further details at this writing.)

I haven’t read Tidbeck before, but Amatka sounds intriguing. She describes the birth of the novel in a blog post like this:

“I had spent some years collecting dream notes, and I found myself wondering if they could be mapped. What did my dream country look like? I found that some places showed up again and again, although the geography, events and people shifted. I ended up ordering the notes according to an imagined compass: north, south, east and west, and finally, a central city. […]

“Vanja, a somewhat reluctant protagonist, agreed to be my guide. But what was the world? Dreams, as I thought of them, are ruled by language. What would Vanja’s life be like? What would a society be like in a world where language ruled over matter? The story of Amatka began to unfold. It broke loose from my dream continent and became a world of its own.”

On the surface it sounds a bit like Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and Emmi Itäranta’s The Weaver. The way Tidbeck talks of language ruling over matter also reminds me of the way mathematics rules over reality in Yoon Ha Lee’s The Ninefox Gambit. As a linguist, I’m doubly intrigued and excited to read Amatka!

This post has been edited to correct a spelling error.

Vikingaliv, a New Viking Museum in Stockholm

A new museum focusing on Vikings opened in Stockholm, Sweden, at the end of April 2017. The Vikingaliv museum is divided into two parts, a static exhibit and a ride, and it highlights details of everyday life besides just the warrior men of bloody repute, including dwellings, farming, cooking, travel, the lives of children and women, slave trade, and religious practices.

Vikingaliv Logo

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the museum is Ragnfrid’s Saga, an 11-minute long ride through dramatized settings with sound and light effects. The ride follows the story of Ragnfrid and her husband Harald, and takes visitors across the Baltic Sea from Sweden to Kiev and Miklagård (Constantinople) and finally back to Scandinavia and the British Isles. It’s currently available in Swedish, English, Finnish, Russian, German, and Chinese.

Vikingaliv Screencap 2 Characters

Privately owned and operated, Vikingaliv sits west of central Stockholm on the island of Djurgården conveniently close to other museums and destinations. Visit the Vikingaliv and Visit Stockholm websites for more.

Images via Vikingaliv

New Kaurismäki Film: The Girl King

The Girl King movie posterI’ve been vaguely aware of the Swedish-Finnish movie production The Girl King (Finnish title Tyttökuningas), which is remarkable for having been largely (according to some sources, almost entirely) filmed in Turku, Finland, including the local castle. It’s one week from opening night now, and reviews and interviews are starting to roll out. Yay!

The movie is about Queen Kristina of Sweden (1626-1689), of the Vasa lineage, directed by Finland’s famous Mika Kaurismäki. In the main roles we’ll see Malin Buska, Sarah Gadon (whom I liked in Belle), and Michael Nyqvist (familiar from the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series). A description from Kaurismäki’s website says:

“Mika Kaurismäki is currently developing a feature film project about the Swedish Queen Kristina, starring Swedish actress Malin Buska. Set in the 17th century, the film paints a portrait of an extravagant and atypical queen, who was the ruler of her country from the age of seven until her startling abdication at 28.

“The film is scripted by Canadian award-winning screenwriter Michel Marc Bouchard and the cinematography will be by renowned Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Hero).”

Queen Kristina and René Decartes

At the time of Kristina’s life, Finland was a part of Sweden, and Turku (Åbo in Swedish) was the oldest and largest city in Finland. The Turku Castle dates from late 13th century, but it was still inhabited and garrisoned at the time; in the modern period, it’s been restored to its Renaissance state, so it’s an appropriate location even though Kristina didn’t actually live there. (Tidbit gleaned from a news article in Yle uutiset: Kristina’s parents visited Turku early in 1626, and it’s said that she was conceived at the Turku Castle.) Also, kuningatar Kristiina has a special place in the Finnish memory because of her efforts to end the 30 years’ war which was hard on Finland, and because she at the suggestion of one of her statesmen (and twice Governor General of Finland), Per Brahe, founded the first Finnish university in 1640.

The official trailer (with Finnish subtitles) is out, and looking gorgeous:

Tyttökuningas (The Girl King) -elokuvan virallinen traileri via LeffatByFSFilm

Frock Flicks has a interview with the costume designer, Marjatta Nissinen, and a review that includes insights into the costuming. There’s also a documentary on the costuming, with background information from Kaurismäki and closeups of some of the outfits in the latter half (Finnish with English subtitles):

Dressing The Girl King -documentary by Film City Turku and Länsi-Suomen elokuvakomissio via Scene Turku

As an early history geek who lived in Turku for a number of years, I’m very curious to see The Girl King – for freaking once I get the native advantage in location spotting! 😀

Historical Turku Mashup
Turku historical mashup, clockwise from top: 1700s-1800s houses at Luostarinmäki; bell tower of the cathedral seen from the river Aura; Vanha Suurtori with empire style and neoclassical houses; closeup of the cathedral bell tower. Center: Turku Castle

But seriously, what I can see of the sets and locations, especially the Renaissance floor of the castle, looks fantastic. Here’s hoping that The Girl King will have a reasonably wide release in the U.S.!

Images: Poster via Lark Theater. Queen Kristina & René Decartes via Frock Flicks. Turku historical mashup by Eppu Jensen

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.