National Founding Story

Today we celebrated the Swedish National Day commemorating when Gustav Vasa was elected king by the Swedish Parliament 6 June 1523. The events prior to the coronation are in par with any modern Hollywood production, including several narrow escapes, imprisonment, skiing chases, assassinations, ice breaking, starvation, horse rides, sailing, betrayals, canons, sieges, decapitations, and so on when Gustav fought the Danish king Christian II who led the crumbling union between Denmark, Norway and Sweden. At least if the scribe Peder Swarts is to be believed. He was hired by Gustav Vasa, who apparently clearly understood the value of storytelling.

I celebrated this day by participating in the sunny welcoming ceremony at Nydala monastery. This monastery is one of the oldest ones in Sweden, and was founded by Cistercians in 1143. The monastery was raided 1520 by Christian II on his way back from decapitating most of the Swedish nobility in Stockholm. According to legend, he also drowned the abbot and at least six of the monks. This made the people in Småland so furious that they threw out the Danes. However, Gustav Vasa was not especially nice towards the monks, since he confiscated the property including 250 farms in 1529.

Apparently the monks of today do not fear the Swedish government or the politicians from Värnamo municipality, despise the historic events. After 479 years in exile, they have returned to Nydala and are now renting the mansion. The monks are mainly from Vietnam, making this a truly international enterprise and reminding us of the important role as innovation centers the monasteries have played through out the centuries.

The monasteries in Nydala and Alvastra was soon followed by one in Varnhem in 1150. This monastery plays an important role in a very popular fiction book series about the knight Arn by Jan Guillou. The books can be seen as a part of the debate concerning how Sweden came to be a nation, where the Western and Eastern parts of Sweden seem to have different interpretations of history. Perhaps I should recommend Stephen Denning to write a sequel to his book “The Leaders’ Guide to Storytelling” focusing on founding stories for nations. By the way, the English entry in Wikipedia on Christian II is disputed and my guess is that most of the current content is written by a Swede.

Never mind what the truth is, the books and the films about Arn are now contributing to the tourism business in Västra Götaland and they have increased public interest in history dramatically.

No comments: