Two Swedish high-quality stories


If one wants some high quality reading that keeps one thinking of the importance of trying to understand and accept the human history and human variety I would like to recommend two series of comic books made in Sweden by Swedes and which have influenced me in my own dedication. Since I now am a grown-up man these albums belong to the few I have kept because of their high-quality and mature content. If you would like to get those stories translated into your own languages I would recommend you to get in touch with their creators. I re-read those stories now and again because they are thrilling, well-made, based in part on reality and thought-provocative. Here I will give you a summary of them.

In 1976 an album called Johan Vilde, flyktingen/John Savage, the fugitive won Rabén & Sjögren’s publishing company’s comic book competition.The story was written by Janne Lundström and drawn by Jaime Vallvé. It was the first of four albums published between 1976 and 1982, John Savage, the fugitive, John Savage in the slave fort, John Savage and the messenger, John Savage and the merchant war. Janne Lundström also wrote some books about Johan Vilde/John Savage: John Savage looks for gold (1978), John Savage in the fire (1979), John Savage and the traitors (1980), John Savage in the jungle (1982), John Savage and the poison goblet (1985) and John Savage, the fugitive (1997) after the first album.

The story begins in Stockholm 1648 with a boy scribe, Johan Klasson Tay, who’s working for the merchant mogul Louis de Geer who existed in reality. Johan watches the ships in the harbour and dreams of adventures. Louis de Geer allows the boy to join the crew aboard the merchant ship Christina. Johan can read and write, but his boss Biörn can’t. As ship boy Johan has to work hard and is also beaten and harrassed by his overseer. Finally Johan strikes back and is punished for mutiny. In a storm outside Africa he succeeds to escape. Ashore he’s taken captive by the drunken portuguese Tristão. The old drunkard fools the Swedish sailors and takes the boy on an adventurous journey. Tristão dies and Johan is soon adopted by the Ayoko-clan in Wassaw, today’s Ghana. Johan Klasson Tay is given a new name, Buruni/White man. The white Swede quickly adapts to his new surroundings. In 1650 several European countries were fighting for the merchant controll of western Africa. Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden. But also different local tribes were fighting each other, buying and selling each other, taking captives etc. The Denkiyra kingdom attacked its neighbours. In the second album Johan’s new father Akim Kwami opposes the local king for his war plans. His family is sold as slaves to the white. Johan/Buruni suddenly finds himself as African slave in a Swedish slave fort, Karlsborg, today’s Cape Coast Castle. Here he experiences the foul and cruel treatment. His clan is almost sold twice, but Johan’s resourceful and succeeds in helping many captives to escape. In the third story his clan is forced to help the Denkiyra king transporting a mysterious cargo up river, guarded by Swedish merchants and lieutenant Silverlood. Once more Johan and his new Ayoko relatives find a plan to fool the cruel Denkyira king and the Swedes. In the fourth album Johan/Boroni ends up in the middle of a merchant war. An old enemy from the first story, Huybert van Effen, appears once again and Johan’s life seems forfeit. He is taken captive by van Effen but is saved by his African clan members. Somehow Johan ends up back in Sweden and sits in a cell at Vaxholm Castle in 1677 writing his memoirs. He is accused of treason for having become a white African, and preventing Swedish success on the gold coast 25 years earlier. Now he awaits his execution. Even if the story about Johan Klasson Tay, Johan Vilde/Buruni, is fiction it is based on historic facts and loaded with moral dilemmas.

Another story that keeps me thinking is called Det Nya Folket/The New People made by Jan Åke Winqvist. It is a story that takes place 35 000 years ago somewhere in Europe and describes the meeting between our ancestors the Cro-Magnon and our distant relatives the Neanderthals. Winqvist made five albums in the series: Cro-Magnon (1990), Troll fire (1991), The Vengeance (1992), Wolf Paw (1994) and The Heaven Spear Clan (1996).

Jan Åke Winqvist made lots of research for his adventure that contains drawings in a highly realistic style painted in water colour. Just like the Johan Vilde-series the albums contain facts at the end about the latest research. In a way Winqvist was a little ahead of his time when he let one of the Cro-Magnon characthers form a new family and get children with a Neanderthal woman. In the early 21st century Svante Pääbo and other scientists proved that our modern human species did mix with the Neanderthals and that about 4% of the mitochondrial DNA in all present people but the Africans contain Neanderthal remnants. Another thought-provocative thing is that when our ancestors the Cro-Magnon people meet Neanderthals in Winqvist’s story they call them “trolls”. It’s an intriguing, plausible and fascinating thought that our modern sagas about “trolls” and “goblins” might be a reminscence of the meeting with strange human-like creatures that fought with us about the natural resources long ago. The story that Jan Åke Winqvist has made is full of plausible and thrilling adventures.

It begins one summer when the Cro-Magnon boy Mård/Marten happens to see a “troll” behind a stone spying on him and his clan. He tells his older brother Lo/Lynx who doesn’t really know what to believe. When the different clans gather for mid summer festivities Lynx who’s a young man falls in love with a young woman from another clan. Her name is Ekorre/Squirrel. The boy Mård/Marten gets jealous and strolls away and is then kidnapped by a group of Neanderthals. They who call themselves “The People” have been spying on what they call “The Almost humans”. Now they carry the boy back to their own group. When Lynx and the others discover that Marten is gone Lynx tells his father The Stout and mother Crane that he has to look for his brother. Squirrel who has decided to become his wife decides to follow Lynx on his search.

Many things happen on the way and they finally find the boy who have began to become friends with a Neanderthal girl. Once back with the family more tensions between the Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthals have occured and The Stoat decide to ask another clan, The Goldond, to move closer so that they might defend themselves against “the trolls”. But there will also be rivalry between the two clans, thefts and assasination attempts. Jealousy in love affairs is another component in the story and the female shaman Wolf Paw from the Goldond clan gets interested in Lynx.

On the back of these albums the text says: “Join a journey back in time to 35 000 years ago when the Neanderthals walked the earth. During their at least 60 000 year existence they had seen the glaciers withdraw and anew grow powerful and cover the lands. But now when the ice withdrew they saw something that puzzled them. From the south creatures on two legs, strangely like them selves, had arrived to the lands where they had been sole rulers for so long… Myths are created among both people, and the myths create fear. So the Cro-Magnon man and the Neanderthal meet, and the question is if they can live together and hunt on the same ground…”

I would say that this is a very important story when we consider how we behave in these present times of both fear and xenofobia, hatred, rivalry and strife, but also xenofilia, love, understanding and fellowship. What do we do now?

Anders Moberg, March the 11th 2013


2 thoughts on “Two Swedish high-quality stories

  1. Now available at iBook-store both in Swedish (Himlaspjutets klan) and in French (Le Clan de la Lance Cèleste). Soon there will be an English version (The Clan of the Celestial Spear). Version for android will be available soon.

    A short “trailer” can be seen here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s