Monday, December 14, 2009


Scandinavia is a long peninsula in the north of Europe, lying on the Artic ocean, the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Gulf of Bothnia. Geographically it includes Norway and Sweden, and historically Denmark and Iceland, while its literature includes the literary work of the Swedish race in Finland. Norway, the western part of the Scandinavian peninsula, is divided from Sweden by the Keel mountains, which run parallel to the coast from the north to 63 degrees and then divide in two, the main division continuing to mark the boundary by a plateau from 2,000 to 4,000 feet wide. The higher peaks are Gaedhoppigen, Glittertink, 8,379 feet; Snehaetten, 7,566, and Lodalskaupen, 6,790.

Bear, lynx and deer abound in these mountains and the only inhabitants are the men and women who tend the large herds of cattle and sheep. On account of the gulf stream the winter on the west coast is much warmer than in the interior, whereas the summer is much cooler. The largest cities are Christiania, the capital; Bergen, Trondhjem, Stavanger, Drammem, Christiansand and Fredrikstad. The hardiest grains and vegetables flourish, but the occupation of the people is mainly connected with the great fisheries. The mineral wealth of Norway has been practically exhausted since 1870, only a few mines being now worked. Norway is divided into twenty counties; has an area of 124,495 square miles and an estimated population in 1885 of 1,947,000.

It is nominally a limited monarchy, but actually to all intents and purposes almost a free republic. The head of the government is a king, but his acts are limited by an appointed executive council of seven and two ministers. One of the first peoples to settle Europe, their history does not, however, become free from myth until the 9th century, when the Lapps and Finns were found in the country by the Gothic descendants, who then crossed the Baltic and settled there. For a long time it was part of the kingdom of Denmark . Her history is intimately associated with that of the Noresmen, who were part of her people, but from 1130 to 1240 the country suffered in war and commerce, and commenced a rapid retrograde movement which did not end until it was attached to Sweden in 1814. All titles of nobility were abolished in 1821, and in the struggle from 1872 to 1884 the right of veto was taken from the king.

Sweden, the eastern portion of the Scandinavian peninsula, makes with Norway one kingdom. It is over 200 miles long; its greatest width is 200 miles, and it covers 170,629 square miles. In the northern parts the land rises from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Kiolen mountains, which form the boundary line between Sweden and Norway, their highest peaks rising above the snow line. South of this region is the mountainous district made up of great table-lands of Jemtland and the valleys of Herjedal and Ljungan, where there are good pasturage and timber lands. The mountainous region further south, from Lake Siljan to Lake Wener, is the mining part of Sweden, and includes the noted iron mines of Danemora, and the copper works of Fahlun. Lakes Wener, Maelar and Hielmar, almost cut the country from east to west, and with Lake Wetter make up a large lake district, which is, the commencement of the most fertile part of Sweden, forming the lower end of the peninsula between the Cattegat and the Baltic. The lakes cover one-eighth of the surface; the largest is Lake Wener, the outlet of which to the Cattegat is the river Gota, noted for its picturesque rapids. The rivers are small and unimportant, the largest being the Angerman.

Summer and winter succeed each other with almost no spring or fall. Usually not enough grain is grown to supply the home market, though barley does better than oats or rye. Other crops are potatoes, hemp, flax, tobacco and hops. Pine, fir and beech trees are of great value for timber, tar, pitch, charcoal and firewood. These trees mainly make up the great forests which cover more than a fourth of the surface. Bears and beavers are now scarce; but wolves, lynxes, martens, eagles, etc., are still common. Copper iron, alum, vitriol, marble, lead, sulfur and a little a coal, gold and silver, are found; mining is the most important business after farming. Iron and shipbuilding head the list of manufactures. Iron, timber and copper are the chief exports; yarn, wool, leather, coal and cotton, the main imports.

Every Swede between the ages of 20 and 25 must serve in the national guard. There are 133 vessels in the navy. Sweden is a constitutional and hereditary monarchy, the succession being in the male line. The king has a council or cabinet of 10 ministers. The diet meets every year; the upper house has 127 members chosen for nine years, who must have a certain amount of landed property, or income; the lower house has 188 members. All over 21 years old with a small amount of property or income may vote. The state church, to which the king must belong, is the Lutheran; and only Lutherans can hold office. Education is compulsory, and there are free schools. The university of Upsala was founded in 1476.

In early times the Swedes lived in the north of Sweden and the Goths in the south. Eric Edmunson is said to have first conquered the whole of Sweden near the end of the 9th century. At this time Swedish history begins, and we find the Swedes generally at, war with Norwegian and Danish neighbors, and busily engaged in ravaging the eastern shores of the Baltic. In 1000 A.D. Olaf Schooszkonig was baptized a Christian, and the burning of the national temple at Upsala, in the reign of Ingiald (1080-1112) finished the overthrow of the old Pagan religion. The murder of king Eric in 1161 was the beginning of a disastrous period of civil wars, lasting 200 years. At length the nobles offered the throne to Margaret, Queen of Denmark and Norway, thus uniting the three Scandinavian countries in 1347.

In 1523 Gustaf Vasa made Sweden again independent of Denmark, founded a long line of Swedish kings, of he himself was one of the greatest, and raised half barbarous Sweden to an honorable place among civilized nations. In Vasa's reign Protestantism was made the state religion. Gustavus Adolphus (1611-'32), one of the greatest generals of his age, spent the greater part of his reign in wars with with Poland and Russia, for the possession of Ingria, Livonia and other Baltic districts, and in defending Protestantism in Germany. His affairs at home were ably managed by the wise Oxenstien, who, after the death of Gustavus at the battle of Lutzen, carried on the government during the minority of Christina. This strange queen's most popular act was her abdication.

Charles XI. (1660-'97) so greatly increased the kingly power that the diet acknowledged it to be absolute. The warlike career of the gifted but reckless king, Charles XII. (1697-1718), who humbled Frederick IV. of Denmark, and Peter the Great of Russia, and dethroned Augustus II. of Poland, nearly ruined his country. His sister Ulrica was chosen queen on condition of giving up absolute power wielded by the last two kings. In the reign of Ulrica, the last of the Vasas, and her husband, Frederick of Hesse-Cassel, the country was divided into two factions of nobles - the "Hats," or French party, and the "Caps," or Russian party. Gustavus III. (1771-'72), who recovered the lost power of the crown and put down these factions, was murdered. Charles XIII. (1809-'18) was forced to cede Finland to Russia. Charles was childless, and chose Napoleon's general, Bernadotte, prince of Pontecorvo, as crown prince. Bernadotte's success in getting possession of Norway endeared him to the people, and he ascended the throne, in 1818, as Charles XIV. He ruled ably, and has been succeeded by his son Oscar I., and his grandsons Charles XV., and OscarII.

Thor or Thorr contracted from Thonar, and sometimes known as Donar. He ruled winds, seasons and agriculture. This deity presided over the mischievous spirits in the elements, and was the oldest son of Odin and Freyia. These three were known in mythology as the triune deity or three in one - the Father which is Neanderthaler, the Son which is the New Slave, and Spirit which is the Medulla which effects the whole thinking process. Thor's great weapon of destruction or force was the Miolner, the hammer or mallet, which had the marvelous property of invariably returning to its owner after being launched upon its mission, and having performed its work of destruction. The Eddas speak of him as the champion of gods and men, hurling his thunderbolts at his enemies, the monsters and giants. He never grew weary , for no matter how much strength he spent in battle, it was renewed by a magic belt which he wore around his waist. Thursday is named from Thor. Odin, the chief god of the Scandinavian mythology and father of Balder. He is not the creator of the world, but its ruler, and the ruler of heaven. His home is in Asgard, whence he sends forth daily his two black ravens, Hugin and Munin (Thought and Memory), to bring him news of all that is happening in the world. He is the counterpart of Hermes and Mercury in the Egyptian and Roman mythologies. Odin and his brothers Vili and Ve, the sons of Boer, or the first born, slew Ymir or chaos, and from his body created the world. As god of war he holds his court in Valhala, where all brave warriors gather after death. He became the wisest of gods by drinking from Mimur's fountain, but at the price of an eye(HAL). Frigga is his queen, though he had other wives. His Saxon name, Woden, is perpetuated in our Wednesday, or Woden's Day.