Program 2013 - 2014

Heroes, Legends and Tales: Stories Told by the Scandinavians

Most presentations will be at the Pierce County Library

Peninsula Branch, located at 4424 Point Fosdick Drive, Gig Harbor

7:00 p.m. coffee & socializing; 7:30 p.m. lecture

September 27: Dr. Lars Jenner
Lecturer, Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington

Pagan heritage in Scandinavian storytelling: Competing Worldviews
One of the great driving forces in Scandinavian storytelling is the tension between pagan heritage, including witches, trolls, magical spells, etc. and the Christian tradition, which is convincingly viewed as stronger and more superior ultimately than pre-conversion folk belief. But, as we come to realize, the pagan heritage does not get completely stamped out but persists as a much-loved form. This talk explores examples that illustrate the syncretism of two faith traditions in Nordic myth and folklore.

October 18: Brian B. Magnusson
Docent, Jyväskylä University

Screams, Screeches, and "Skitters": Tall Tales Among Early Scandinavian Immigrants in the Pacific Northwest
Like other ethnic groups that settled in what is sometimes called "Cascadia", Scandinavians brought with them tales and legends from the Old Country, some of which easily took root in a new unfamiliar environment of dark, brooding forests isolated by the Pacific Ocean in the west and to the east by the Cascade Mountains. Here Scandinavian newcomers encountered a regional culture that offered their collection of stories a rich variety of new subject matter, often directly connected to the immigrant experience and related in a way that was distinctively Old Country in both context and interpretation.

November 15: Dr. Kyle Korynta
Visiting Lecturer, University of Washington

The King, the Werewolf, and the Miner; Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman
This lecture will provide an examination of Henrik Ibsen's title character John Gabriel Borkman, in the play of the same name from 1896. How Borkman's the use of folktales, myths, and legends, we will see how Borkman's actions, in an effort to achieve his goals, define him as either a hero/king or as an antihero/scoundrel, as well as provide insight into his impact on the success or ruin of his family, career, and bank members.

January 17: Dr. Brita Butler-Wall

Unsung Heroes - The Women of Bishop Hill Colony
Between 1846 and 1854, over a thousand rural Swedes made a dangerous journey in search of religious freedom in America. Following Eric Jansson, a self-appointed prophet, these Jansonists and their families had been excommunicated and persecuted in Sweden after protesting the power of the state Church. Although historians have focused on the male leaders of the sect, two thirds of the adults in their Bishop Hill Colony on the prairie frontier were women. In this presentation, you will meet a few of these intrepid women whose stories deserve to be told: Maja-Stina Jansdotter, Anna Sophia Pollock, Johanna Lundqvist, Brita Berglund, Charlotte Root, and Brita Olsdotter.

Dr. Brita Butler-Wall, a descendant of the Jansonists, has published articles in the U.S. and Sweden about the sect. Her research is supported by the American-Scandinavian Foundation and the Dagmar and Nils William Olsson Research Fund.

February 21: Aaron Goings
Assistant Professor of History, St. Martins University

Who Killed Laura Law?
In January 1940, the Finnish American labor activist Laura Law was brutally murdered in her home in Aberdeen, Washington. Her murder came at the conclusion of four decades of intense labor struggles, as employers routinely combined to violently suppress labor and radical activities. No one was ever convicted of Law's murder. However, since her death, historians, journalists, and the general public have put forth a variety of theories as to who killed Laura Law and why she was the target of such a brutal act. In this talk, Goings will discuss Law's murder, the long history of anti-labor violence in Grays Harbor that preceded the murder, and the "stories" that have been told about Law's death.

March 21: Dr. Lars Jenner
Lecturer, Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington

Odin and the Shamanistic Figure in Scandinavian Folk Culture
The figure of Odin, all father in Nordic mythology, casts a long shadow in Scandinavian storytelling, coming to us from 12th & 13th century texts from Iceland, and covering creation stories through the destruction of the world. He has a duel role as warrior god and travelling shaman. It is the shamanic role, of Odin and several other figures that I want to discuss in this talk and show how the mysterious, shape-shifting spiritual helper has many functions throughout the Nordic region in a variety of folk cultures.

April 18: Brooke Boulton
Poet, Translator, Instructor in Writing, University of Northern Michigan

Aino and the Kalevala: Finnish Consciousness and Identity in a National Epic
Aino's identity and mission in the Kalevala are critical and unique in that, through her actions, she exemplifies a strong, independent nature that seems to directly reflect Finland's own progressive states of identity, awareness, and independence in the mid-1800s. Because of her nature, Aino could truly be considered "the maiden of Finland," as her character embodies a state of consciousness and conflict that reach far beyond the typical female psyche of her age. This presentation will relate the story of Aino and her independent state of consciousness to Finland's own rising awareness of national consciousness and identity at the time the Kalevala was popularized. This perspective will be paired with and reinforced by a few samples of poetic works that intend to develop further Aino's voice, identity, and independence.

Brooke Boulton holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from Northern Michigan University where she spent most of her energy interpreting themes from Finland's national epic poem Kalevala, in order to write a contemporary collection of poetry that surveys the life and death of Aino. Many of these poems have aired on National Public Radio over the last three years. With origins in the tri-state region of Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, she eventually navigated north to ground her "spiritually northern" roots. She has traveled to Finland many times to write and research, and in 2006 she studied at Oulun Yliopisto, during which time she published six articles for Kaleva newspaper. Recently, she has been translating for Juha Pentikäinen; one article includes translations of poetry from Lassi Nummi, the Finnish poet who has been most influential to her writing. Currently, she is conducting research to write poetry from the perspective of Finnish immigrant miners and families who inhabited Michigan's Copper Country during 1907-1917.