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Literature and Writing

Swedish Literature

Frithiofs Saga, Erik Gustaf Geijer, Esaias Tegner, runic alphabet, Amorina

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Swedish Literature, literature written in the Swedish language. Inscriptions in the runic alphabet and a few poetic fragments suggest that pre-Christian Sweden possessed a poetic tradition similar to that of Iceland. A native literature developed after Sweden converted to Christianity in the 11th century and later adopted the Latin alphabet. The earliest Swedish writings were provincial laws called landskapslagar, written down in the 13th century, and the 14th-century Landslag, the king’s common law for all the Swedish provinces.

The literature of chivalry from the European continent was introduced at the beginning of the 14th century in Swedish translation. A historical romance, Erikskronikan (Chronicle of Erik), dates to this period. In addition to secular (nonreligious) writing in Swedish there was a substantial body of religious writing in Latin. Best known are the visions of the nun and mystic Saint Birgitta, collected and recorded by her confessors in Revelationes celestes (Revelations from Heaven, 1492). Although most of the best Swedish folk songs and ballads were also composed in the 13th and 14th centuries, surviving collections date from only the 16th and 17th centuries.


In the 19th century the spirit of romanticism sweeping through Europe soon became evident also in Swedish writings. Among early romantics was Per Daniel Amadeus Atterbom, whose play Lycksalighetens o (Isle of Bliss, 1824) is representative of the romantic movement. The accompanying renaissance of national feeling brought into prominence such writers as Erik Gustaf Geijer, who was also a historian, and Esaias Tegner, who was especially famous for his Frithiofs Saga (1825; translated as Frithiof’s Saga, 1833) about love and honor among the Vikings. Novelist C. J. L. Almqvist started as a romantic with Amorina (1822), which attacked the church, conventional morals, and marriage. He turned realist in the 1830s and wrote short stories about the virtuous qualities in the common folk. In his novel Det gar an (1838; Sara Videbeck, 1919) he advocated feminist ideas.

Article key phrases:

Frithiofs Saga, Erik Gustaf Geijer, Esaias Tegner, runic alphabet, Amorina, Swedish translation, romantic movement, Latin alphabet, Romanticism, historical romance, Swedish language, provincial laws, European continent, common folk, Almqvist, realist, common law, prominence, ballads, Inscriptions, Revelations, nun, Novelist, short stories, Vikings, Iceland, visions, historian, Christianity, king, love, Europe, Heaven, marriage, centuries, century, church, representative, beginning, period, addition, writers

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