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Book chapter2023Peer reviewed

Bears in Swedish imagery, AD 1000–2000

Ahrland, Åsa; Magnusson, Gert


The brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) is the single largest predator in Europe. In Sweden, it is mainly found in forest areas in the northern part of the country – from the county of Dalarna in the south to the Lapland region in the north. Occasional bears occur outside the deep forests and can also be found in southern Sweden. The many narratives and wide range of imagery over time testify to the fascination and mixed emotions generations have felt for this animal. In this article, we will provide examples of how the bear has been perceived and depicted in Swedish imagery and the various themes that have arisen over the centuries. Our aim is not to be comprehensive, but to highlight some reoccur-ring and sometimes conflicting perceptions projected onto this animal. Bears have been a very real part of Swedish life throughout history, while at the same time evoking people’s imaginations.


National landscapes; Sweden; bears; hunting; education; folk tales; symbols

Published in

The Archaeology of Northern Europe
2023, number: 3, pages: 991 - 1014 Title: Bear and Human : Facets of a Multi-Layered Relationshipfrom Past to Recent Times, with Emphasison Northern Europe
ISBN: 978-2-503-60611-8, eISBN: 978-2-503-60613-2
Publisher: Brepols Publishers

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Cultural Studies

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