‘The White-Bear King Valemon’ by Linda Boström Knausgård translated by Martin Aitken

This story comes from a collection of Nordic short stories, The Dark Blue Winter Overcoat, edited by the Icelandic writer Sjón and Ted Hodgkinson. ‘The White-Bear King Valemon’ is written by the Swedish writer Linda Boström Knausgård (who was once married to Karl Ove Knausgård). Her story, which brings to mind the language and landscapes of Angela Carter, is a rewriting of a classic and well-known Nordic fairy tale of the same name – and is a tragic version of the myth of Eros and Psyche. Boström Knausgård’s version begins with a child living at the edge of a forest, which seems to call to her. “My name is Ellinor and I have a wish. The crown of gold I see in my dreams at night. I want it. It’s the only thing I want.” Ellinor leaves her unsettled home, drawn to the mythic and the wild. The child grows up, and falls in love with a majestic bear. Of course, an emotional and physical battle ensues. “My anger at this now being my life, the anger that rose up in me when all else was erased, was what made me go on, though my strength was long gone, had seeped away, shed onto the senseless rock.” ‘The White-Bear King Valemon’ is ultimately a coming-of-age story – one of transformation, and of the pleasure and perils of discovering who you are.

First published in Swedish in 2011, and in English in The Dark Blue Winter Overcoat, edited by Sjón and Ted Hodgkinson, Pushkin Press, 2017

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