Wolf Winter – Swedish Lapland -Cecilia Ekbäck

wolf-winter copy

Why a booktrail?

Travel to the chilling and mysterious Blackåsen Mountain in Swedish Lapland where there is a lot more going on than first meets the eye.

Story in a nutshell 

There are six homesteads on Blackåsen Mountain. The mountain is a harsh and difficult place to live and where new settlers must live with old ones. Folklore and superstitions are not too far away and the influence of the Church and its teachings are omnipresent.

From one cottage, two daughters go walking and find a dead man hidden in the snow. His wounds are clean and deliberate – surely not the work of a wolf. Whilst some things can be explained away this cannot and the girl’s mother will not let it rest.

Why is the man’s wife not concerned as she is? Why does the brother almost laugh at the news? And why does the priest not care?

Just what kind of secrets is this mountain hiding? And what will result from their reveal?

Place and setting

The author told us - Blackåsen Mountain doesn’t exist as a physical place, but its nature is something I remember from my childhood: a combination of the places and memories I have from Hudiksvall, where I grew up, Knaften and Vormsele, the two small villages in Lapland where my grandparents lived, and Sånfjället, a mountain close to the Norwegian border, where our family had a cabin. I imagine the mountain to be 70 kilometres inland of Luleå town
The author told us – Blackåsen Mountain doesn’t exist as a physical place, but its nature is something I remember from my childhood: a combination of the places and memories I have from Hudiksvall, where I grew up, Knaften and Vormsele, the two small villages in Lapland where my grandparents lived, and Sånfjället, a mountain close to the Norwegian border, where our family had a cabin.
I imagine the mountain to be 70 kilometres inland of Luleå town

Swedish Lapland is a cold and desolate place to be. The winds are cutting, the mountain not your friend and the wolfs can be seen and not heard in the black spindly woods.

Evil is said to rule this mountain area and there are signs and echoes of it all around. Amongst the Laplanders there is a suspicion and distrust but not so much of each other than the one link which is supposed to unite them – the Church. Having converted to Christianity, it is not the goodness and the clear beliefs that unite them now. Least of all the priest who walks amongst them.

The landscape is a leading character here in every sense of the word -everything the people do, their culture, their way of life is dictated to them by the weather and their surroundings.

Wolf Winter,” she said, her voice small. “I wanted to ask about it. You know, what it is.”

He was silent for a long time. “It’s the kind of winter that will remind us we are mortal,” he said. “Mortal and alone.”

The premise of entering the homes and minds of the Swedish laplanders in 1717 is enthralling and as their lifestyle and belief system is revealed then the whole landscape becomes one of intrigue, folklore and the battle between good and evil.

The shadows on the mountain may not just be those caused by the changing clouds and the rise and fall of the moon. There are shadows in every nook and cranny of that mountain – even at the spot  – the flat boulder on the mountain – they call the Kings Throne –

“This is where out men come to sit and look at the world as if they owned it”

“Lots of things have happened here. It is that kind of place, it  attracts things.”

Thoughts 

A book as evocative as this takes you to that place and immerses you in the landscape so much that you can feel the windchill, the eerie silence, the evil in the air as you linger at the King’s Throne.

The lifestyle and belief system of the people in the settlements helps to draw the bigger picture – from how birds carry the souls of the dead, to the more lighthearted moments of the Midsummer tradition of putting flowers under your bed to make you dream of your husband to be.

The writing does the rest – poetic, visual and well, just read this about snow –

By late afternoon the snowflakes that float in the air above the mountain are as big as Lapp mittens, as soft as the wool closest to the sheep’s heart.

The earth, the soil and the weather are all characters here which makes the world that Cecilia paints so enchanting – eerie and cold at times as lets not forget there has been a man killed on the mountain. And one women’s  determination to prove it was no wolf or bear is admirable and impressive.

I left this book wanting more  – of the characters I’d met – the Lapps/the Sami, of Maija and her family, of the others who live on those homesteads.

It was all so uniquely done. Blackåsen mountain will stay with me for a long while yet.

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