Saturday, 5 September 2009

Trolls, Magic and Lake Monsters...

I am currently staying in Sweden for a few weeks in a city called Ostersund. The city is built along the side of lake Storsjön, the 5th largest lake in Sweden. The lake is purportedly the home of a huge monster by the name of Storsjöodjuret (litterally the Great Lake Monster).

On researching the folklore of the region I found that the monster was, infact, created by two Trolls called Jata and Kata in the distant mythological past. The story of these two Trolls, and the monster they created, was first written down in 1635 by Mogens Pedersen, a vicar from the region. The legend is, then, very old: at least 400 years.

Jata and Kata, two trolls, were brewing a potion in their cauldron on the shore of the lake. They didn't know what the potion would do and so were surprised, after years of brewing it, when they heard a wailing, a groaning and a crying followed by a big bang emanating from within their pot. A black serpent leapt from the cauldron into the lake where it grew to an enormous size; entirely surrounding the island of Frösön.

By now there have been over 200 reported sightings of the creature, and a group has been established to investigate reports from witnesses and to collate information on the monster (official website).

What interests me, however, is the monster's creation myth: the story of the two Trolls Jata and Kata.

What are these mysterious beings? A quick perusal of the dictionary reveals a fascinating linguistic connection between the word "troll" and notions of magic, sorcery and conjuring. How far does our modern idea of trolls, e.g. as portrayed in fairytales, literature, and art, accord with traditional nordic conceptions? Do trolls still play a part in contemporary life?

Over the course of the next few weeks I hope to try to find out a little more about these enigmatic creatures.

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