The taiga belt. The coniferous forests stretching all around the planet, right between the arctic regions and the temperate zones. The largest biome on the planet, making up 29% of the world’s forest cover.
Preferred habitat of Bigfoot and its ilk.
All around the world the taiga seems to be teeming with Bigfoot/ Sasquatch. Even the arctic and temperate zones get theirs in the forms of the Yeti of the Himalayas, the Almas of the Kaukasus and Pamir mountains. Heck, even tropical and subtropic areas have their own big hairy hominids! The Yowie of Australia, The Orang Pendek of Malaysia, the Skunkape of Florida and the southern States of America, The Mogollon monster of Arizona.
The list goes on.
Sweden, however, remains Bigfoot-less.
Why? And is it really?
To answer that question one needs to delve deep into the psyche of the Swede.
What is a Swede.
Well, it’s a vegetable. A cross between cabbage and turnip where both the root and the leaves can be eaten.
But it’s also a person living in Sweden. And this is what we’ll be focusing on right now.
Sweden is a country populated by Swedes (again, the people, but the vegetable is pretty common here too).
The summers are fairly short but lovely and the winters are fairly long and sometimes bitter cold with deep snow.
It’s a wild landscape that can be very unforgiving if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Historically speaking, to make a living in Sweden you had to be strong and healthy. So the Swedes grew to be big, blonde giants.
Farming was tough, heavy, time consuming work. Forestry was tough, heavy, time consuming work.
The young men took off on boats heading for distant lands in the hopes of finding a better life than that of their parents. Instead they ended up having to fight and loot villages along their way for food and possibly some monetary gain.
In the end, this life as a viking turned out to be just as tough, heavy, time consuming as the work back home, and the taiga tends to get in your blood and many returned home.
The northern half of Sweden is still, and has always been sparely populated. Neighbors were few and far between. A day in the life consisted of getting up and working all day until the sun set.
Just the Swede and the wild. No chatting with neighbors. Even if there were neighbors around, who would have had the time or the energy to talk to them?
And so the generations passed. The Swede became a recluse. A big, strong, blond quiet giant.
Christianity arrived. The Swede started going to church every Sunday.
Now he met neighbors once a week, neighbors just as hermit-like and quiet as himself.
Conversations started. Short, gruff comments about weather, about the constant struggle for survival.
The Swede had his pride, and not much else. To be a winner in those days was to be a big, strong, blond, quiet giant. The type that could strangle a bear with one hand while cutting down an old spruce and stacking the wood with the other.
Reputation was everything. If you became weird, people would start to talk about you, and not to you, and when you only meet your neighbors once a week, you tend to be pretty darn adamant about having them think of you as an honest, hard-working Swede that in no way has succumbed to the deafening quiet and solitude of the taiga and gone off his rocker.
Even to this day this remains rule #1 in Sweden; Don’t be weird.
It’s more than an unwritten rule, it’s in our genes now.
The vast, deep, cold, quiet, unforgiving taiga is in our souls. We have become like it.
We don’t tolerate weakness. We don’t take kindly to a merry poet frolicking about in our meadow reciting poetry about fair maidens and unicorns. We have no patience for lazy hedonists carpe-ing their diems on our watch.
We pretend to. Like everyone pretends to be civilized in this world. But civilization is only skin-deep.
In the soul of every Swede (the person, not the veggie… Yes, just making sure) lives a primal fear of being ridiculed, laughed at, considered to be weird, crazy, weak, ill-equipped to handle life in this harsh land.
Because should that happen, should we say something wrong or do something weird, then that is it. You don’t get any more chances.
You’re out. On your own. Isolated. Just you and all the horrors of the taiga.
This, I think, is why we don’t have Bigfoot in Sweden. They might very well be here as well, but who is going to say that they saw one?
We have ancient lore and legends about trollls, gnomes, elves, vittra, giants, vättar…..
Where did these stories come from?
Well, to some extent I believe they have their roots in bedtime stories told to children of Sweden.
Many were the dangers for a playing child. Especially in the olden days. In the woods were bears, wolves and other predators. There were also steep cliffs and ravines, caves, lakes and rivers, all of which can pose a danger to a child whose parents are too busy working to constantly keep an eye on it.
So stories were told. Stories about entities inhabiting the woods, the lakes, the rivers, the mountains. Entities that were immensely fond of taking little children and doing unspeakable things to them.
Control through fear.
Completely deplorable today, but an efficient way of making sure the kids didn’t wander off too far.
But some of these entities are somewhat different than others. Trolls used to be a negative synonym for giant before they became an entity of their own. Trolls “dwell in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves, live together in small family units, and are rarely helpful to human beings”.
The giants/jötunns were a race of beings together with the other two races of Norse Gods, the Aesir (Asar and Asynjor in Swedish) and the Vanir.
Odin, Thor and Balder were Aesir.
Freyr, Freyja and their father Njordr were vanir.
From the Jötunns, the most famous one is Loki, the deceitful. With a giant woman he had the children Fenrir, the wolf that will swallow Odin come Ragnarök, Jormungand, the snake whose venom is supposed to kill Thor come Ragnarök and Hel, the mistress of the death realm. Three children anyone would be proud of…
Obviously it seems clear that the giants have always been a deceptive bunch.
Now, with all this folklore, should a Bigfoot be seen by a grumpy, solitary Swede, what would be his thoughts?
I am pretty sure that if he didn’t think “bear”, then his mind would go towards the trolls or giants. This all he knows.
Would he talk about it though?
Well, let’s see. Are grown men supposed to see trolls or giants? Not so much.
If a Swede saw a Bigfoot you can be 99% sure he wouldn’t talk about it. Even the modern day Swede who never believed in trolls or giants wouldn’t say anything because it’s so deeply rooted in his soul that one never subjects oneself to even the slightest risk of being ridiculed.
However, times are a-changing. The heavily controlled Swedish mind is loosening. The gloom and melancholy of the Swedish soul is starting to break up with each generation.
Today I was reading through a thread on a Swedish forum because it was discussing strange sightings people had in the woods. Some felt they had seen a large bipedal creature that moved too fast in relation to its size. Quite a few seem to describe what they saw as a big, hairy ball with long legs.
And some, oh yes, some, say they have seen what they can only describe as a werewolf……
Yay, I say! My favorite cryptid, no contest!
And that will be the topic of my next post!