While the Nordic countries are among Britain’s nearest neighbours, the closest many people come to the culture of Denmark, Norway and Sweden is in an Ikea canteen or when watching television series such as The Killing. Given the extent to which Nordic people have shaped British history, its modern culture surely demands a closer look. From the glaciers of Greenland to the spires of Copenhagen, join Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough as she searches for True Norse, as part of BBC Radio 3’s Northern Lights season.
In Copenhagen she visits the Little Mermaid – a modest tourist attraction – and discovers that behind it lies guilt about the Danes’ war-mongering past. In these highly secular countries she finds the Lutheran church living on in Scandinavian design. And with Lars Mytting – wood fanatic – she takes tentative steps into the Taiga, the vast forest which starts in Norway and encircles much of the world; a perfect place to explore the Nordic ideas of nature and solitude.
In Oslo, Asle Toje from the the Norwegian Nobel Institute explains the power struggles which have riven the Nordic countries for centuries. These live on today: the smell of whale-blubber drifts over the Copenhagen docks as Eleanor discusses Greenlandic independence from Denmark with one of its greatest proponents – former Greenland PM Aleqa Hammond. Immigration, the big news story in Sweden and Denmark, is discussed with provocative journalist Mikael Jalving from Jyllands-Posten – the paper which printed the Prophet Mohammad cartoons.
And she talks to the man who, five years ago, was asked to re-brand Finland. Apparently being ‘a bit like Sweden’ is not enough.
If you want to get a fresh perspective beyond the stereotypical idea of Norsemen as brutal Vikings with pointy hats, check out Thomas Spray on how we should reimagine the Vikings today.