Throughout most of the travel narratives in The Northern Lights Route, we meet travelers who arrive at unfamiliar places, meet occasional residents and then soon depart. What counts are the experiences of the journey itself. But there are also attempts at describing life as it actually is lived in the North. Civil servants often continue living for some time at the places they have moved to. They become acquainted with the people they serve, sympathize with them, and end up wishing to write about them. In this way, they have contributed with valuable sources of information for the historians' understanding of life in the North in ancient times. Other writers may record their thoughts at a distance, or perhaps travel to see things with their own eyes but, for the most part, they have based their descriptions on rumors and second-hand observations. Nonetheless, they too have given us important contributions in our attempts to understand the ways of the North.
Olaus Magnus was a Swedish clergyman and historian. He wrote about the Nordic people in Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus, published in 1555 (Rome). The northern regions were also topics for his writings, but Swedish Lapland alone is what he knew of from personal experience.
Johannes Schefferus was never actually in the North. As a humanist scholar and professor, from Uppsala, the Swedish Schefferus conducted the first substantial study on Sami culture ever written. This was called Lapponia and was printed in 1673. His most important sources of information were the clergy of Lappland.
Petter Dass was the vicar of Alstahaug, in Nordland. He was the greatest Norwegian poet of his times. His most renowned work, the epic The Trumpet of Nordland, was published 33 years after his death, in 1739.
Hans H. Lilienskiold was the district governor of Vardøhus from 1684-1701. He gained enormous confidentiality with the northern inhabitants and wrote, among other things, what is known as Speculum Boreale, a manuscript that is illuminated by beautiful watercolors. It was not printed during his lifetime.
Knud Leem was the vicar of Alta, in Finnmark, for nine years. He collected profuse material on the living conditions of the Sami and their disposition. This documentation was published in the book, Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, in 1767 (Copenhagen).
© University Library of Tromsø - 1999.
The Northern Lights Route is part of The Council of Europe Cultural Routes. The Cultural Routes are an invitation to Europeans to wander the paths and explore the places where the unity and diversity of our European identity were forged.