In a remote part of Sweden surrounded by mountains, valleys and thick forests, the community of Älvdalen is desperately attempting to preserve its unique heritage.
Up until the mid-20th century, the town of some 1,800 inhabitants spoke a language called Elfdalian, believed to be the closest descendant of Old Norse, the language of the Vikings. The beautiful and complex tongue, likened to the fictional languages of “The Lord of the Rings” or “Game of Thrones,” remained preserved throughout the centuries because of the area’s natural isolation.
“Älvdalen lies extremely deep within the Swedish forests and mountains,” Michael Lerche Nielsen, an assistant professor at the Department of Nordic Research at the University of Copenhagen, told ScienceNordic. “You can get there by boat up the river, Dalälven — a journey of more than 100 kilometers — and getting there and back used to be quite an expedition. So people in the area weren’t particularly mobile and were able to preserve this very special culture, considered in Sweden to be extremely traditional and old fashioned.”
Even the practice of using runic script, another vestige of Old Norse that otherwise died out during the Middle Ages, was still in use in Älvdalen as recently as 100 years ago.
Read more: Mother Nature Network