During the period 1850-1950 the inner and southern parts of the Northern
coniferous region of Sweden was marked by population increase and processes
of social stratification and integration into a modern, industrial society.
Practices and symbolic constructions of the landscape are studied through
the concept of appropriation. The empirical sources are mainly "folk-memories"
concerning poachers and other persons who "stroll the forests," collected
by folklorists, mainly during the 1930s. These narratives are used
to interpret the differing and competing norms and views of both landowning
and non-landowning groups with regard to legitimate practices and usage
of both the forest and agricultural land. The valleys around the
rivers were thoroughly marked by agricultural activities. The value
system of their inhabitants was dominated by a strict work ethic, and this
was displayed in the conspicuous ordering and tidying activities which
characterized life in the river valleys. It was here where the old and
wealthy family farms were located. The view of these prosperous landowners
about sources and creation of wealth can be expressed as a belief in the
force of constant struggle to maintain order and to create tidy surroundings.
The poorer small-farmers, crofters, and cottagers lived on the fringes of the forested areas which were situated up in the mountains surrounding the river valleys. According to the farmers' value system, men who were hunters were considered to be spellbound by their activity, unable to discipline themselves for the performance of strenuous and repetitive everyday work. Although the timber industry in the late 19th century gave the wealthy peasants a good income from the forests they owned, their cultural identification with agricultural land and the valley landscape increased during the same period. The less propertied forest dwellers on the other hand, although celebrating many of the same ideals of orderliness and strenuous work, were more inclined to heroize the poacher. Significantly, none of these groups viewed the forest as private property in a strict sense. For all, wealth derived from the forest related directly to luck and to the struggle involved in bringing home prey, be it game, timber, charcoal, or tar.