Restless Spirit

Queen Silvia of Sweden believes that her palace is haunted …. and she’s right…

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Night fell, and proper night at that, not the brief darkness of the middle latitudes, but the deep, fathomless blackness of the Arctic Circle, as winter again descended, cold, bitter and snow-laden, upon Sweden.

Through the Royal Palace came a long, low moan, as if the wind was whispering, taunting the residents with warnings of the months-long night ahead.

It was the ghost of Beowulf, sighing in deep, soul-withered boredom, and in despair at what his country had become.

Over fifteen hundred years had passed since he had defeated and killed the monster Grendel and then, well, the monster’s mother, because women back then were warriors too, magnificent helmeted creatures with breastplates the shape of hearts and voices that could shatter ice. He had then ruled as King for fifty years until he’d been mortally wounded whilst fighting a dragon.

Whilst. Fighting. A. Dragon. Small wonder that his spirit had refused to pass on.

So he had watched proudly as his legacy had been carried on by the Vikings, sweeping their way across both Europe and the Atlantic with their longboats, long swords and long, long poems, standing proudly on North American soil centuries before Columbus. Men like Ingvar the Far-travelled, who had travelled far, Eric the Victorious, who had been victorious, and Magnus the Three-balled, about whom we know very little.

By the sixteenth century Sweden had had its own Empire, and then it had all come to an end. Some blamed the Black Death, some blamed the increase in the power of neighbouring Russia, but Beowulf knew the real cause.

It was the Swede.

Once you have named after you a vegetable with the shape, consistency and taste of a bowling ball then it’s impossible to be taken seriously. Other nations stopped fearing Sweden, and over time its influence waned.

Once, very briefly, it did take over the world again, as Abba swept the globe, gathering riches beyond the Vikings’ wildest dreams from places that they’d never even heard of. But in time they, too, faded. Their leader, Agnetha the Pert-bottomed, went into exile, as all great heroines do (see the Irish princess, Enya the Baffling), living out her days high in a tower staring out over a great lake, and again Sweden fell into mediocrity.

Occasionally a great warrior will rise, like Zlatan the Arrogant, with Viking blood in his veins, Viking spirit in his soul and Viking hair in a bun, but in general Sweden is now best known for gloomy films, great healthcare (Beowulf wanted to turn in his grave at this, if only he’d been in it) and a jolly good record in the Eurovision Song Contest.

So Beowulf wanders the palace at night, dreaming of the old days, when the building itself didn’t look like a stock-broker’s house, when it had slits to fire arrows through and ramparts to pour boiling oil from, and when warriors like himself could look forward to a flaming boat burial, as Valkyries bore their proud souls off to Valhalla.

 

 

 

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