Michelle Facos: Picturing the Nordic Forest in Scandinavian Schoolbooks

This is a short presentation of one of the participating projects in the nordic project Cultural Processes in Nordic Woodland Communities

Herbert Tingsten in Sweden and Sonja Hagemann in Norway have written about the tremendous influence of schools on the cultural and social landscape of  Scandinavia. This study focusses on the forest and the way it was portrayed in words and pictures in Norwegian and Swedish elementary school readers from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.  What emerges is a coherent image of the forest as a prevalent element of the Scandinavian landscape, which has provided shelter and sustinence for Norwegians and Swedes since time immemorial.  The attitude promoted in both Norwegian and Swedish readers is one of, what Naess refers to as, ecospheric democracy, recognizing the interconnectedness of life and landscape. The stories and pictures in the readers show several important things:  1) that knoweldge about the forest and its ways was considered an essential prerequisite to sensible stewardship, which in turn would lead to a healthy, happy way of life, 2) the forest was used to model an ideal [social democratic/bourgeois] society beginning in the 1890s, and 3) adult editors of the readers evidenced through their selections a markedly nostalgic attitude toward earlier times, beginning with readers from the 1890s. The matieral in this study is drawn most heavily from two sources:  Nordahl Rolfsen's Reader for the Folk Schools (Läsebog for Folkeskolen) published in Norway, and Reading Book for the Folk School (Läsebok för Folkskolan) published in Sweden.  Rolfsen's Reader was the most widely used reader in Norway, from its initial publication in 1894 until the last revised edition of 1939, and was in use through the 1940s.

Michelle Facos
E-mail: mfacos@indiana.edu
Address: History of Art Department Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA

This page was updated on July 11, 2000