A Runic Farewell

i-bf86e66eed5b22f0ecd68f9a5bbd0c61-farvael.jpgFrom about 1845 to 1930, Sweden saw massive emigration to the United States. According to one estimate, about a third of the country’s population left. In 1900, more Swedes lived in Chicago than in Gothenburg. Many factors conspired to send people on their way: population expansion, a lack of agricultural land, failed crops, economic recession, and the simple pull of the virtual population vacuum beyond the American frontier, the pull of enormous opportunity, as industrialised Europeans encountered the Stone Age societies of the native Americans.

The emigration left its share of archaeological sites, mainly abandoned torp buildings in poor districts. But by Fullersta mill pond in Huddinge parish south of Stockholm is an unusual kind of emigration site. On a flat ice-polished rock outcrop (registered site Raä Huddinge 176:1) is an inscription in longhand and runes (and I translate).

Farewell
thou beloved
Fatherland
1872
August

The inscription was made by the miller’s hand Johan August Andersson, who left for the U.S. in 1872. I don’t know what became of him there.

Thanks to Roger Wikell for telling me about the inscription.

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11 thoughts on “A Runic Farewell

  1. I’d like to add one more item to the list of reasons why people emigrated: better ships. Even if there had been no change in living conditions, safer and cheaper travel would have lured more people to America.

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  2. Cool! That’s like in the 90s, when a retired guy found three Viking Period cemeteries a click or two from my childhood home. Amazing that they’d been sitting there all the time.

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  3. Something gives me the impression that August was not too thrilled to leave. I get the feeling he is moving “to” something, rather than “from” something, as in moving by necessity rather than by choice. It’s kind of a bitter-sweet inscription.

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  4. Cool that you write about this inscription, Martin! Some years ago I produced an information board for G?ren’s nature reserve, which lies a stone’s throw west of Fullersta mill. I made historical research work in the communal library in Huddinge and found a notice about the inscription. I recall that I wrote something about the inscription in the board text. Later, Roger Wikell and I visited the location. I agree about the bitter-sweet impression the inscription gives. Especially when one sees the text in original with it’s careful handwriting-style carving. There’s a lot of felling in it, and it leaves no reader untouched, I guess.

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  5. I was touched by this post, as my maternal ancestors were poor Swedish peasants. They emigrated to North Dakota and some of them eventually migrated to west-central Iowa, where the topsoil is six feet deep.

    My 95-year-old grandfather thinks that our branch of the family is descended from Queen Christiana somehow … though I’ve seen no evidence.

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  6. Most members of the Vasa dynasty were very fecund indeed, within and without wedlock. But Queen Kristina frequently expressed distaste on the verge of horror when it came to sex and childbirth. She (famously) never married and is unlikely to be anybody’s ancestor.

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