Legends from a barren island
Johan Theorin, horror writer, has chosen to set several of his books on the oblong, barren island of Öland off the Swedish cost. “Echoes of the Dead” and “The Darkest Room” are two of them.
As a child, Johan Theorin arrived to the island on the first day of every summer holiday. He stayed the whole summers with his grandparents in their cottage in the northern parts of the island, and went back to the mainland only a few days before school started again.
- These long periods, which were very long but still limited, with friends you only met at the summers and with no homework or any other kind of pressure, they were pure magic. It never turned into every-day life, instead it became a kind of fairytale world to me, he says.
Even though he has moved a lot in his life, both as a child and as a grown-up, Öland is the place he always returns to. He still visits the cottage every summer.
- It’s “home” to me, he says.
A book that has a major focus on Öland is his new collection of short stories, "På stort alvar" (not yet translated), which was published in Swedish in the spring of 2012. He calls it “The Book of Öland”.
- Landscapes influence humans and humans’ influence landscapes, he says.
The summers with his grandparents were also characterized by all the folk tales that were told just as if they were true and experienced first-hand. Often they were creepy and contained some form of supernatural beings and omens.
- It’s a way of socializing, at least in my family. Not that seldom it was pure gossip, Johan Theorin says.
The folk tales and legends from Öland have inspired him a lot, which is evident in his books.
- Apparently, I have that filter that catches it, he says.
The stories were often told at tea-time outside in the bright summer light, but when the sun set, the fear of the darkness came creeping.
- It’s scary on Öland in the evenings. All the shades make you lose directions. It’s often so dry that it crackles under your feet when you walk. The juniper bushes looks like shapes of humans in the darkness and you never know what’s hiding behind them, says Johan.
This fear has come to good use in his books. However, his most important reason to write about Öland is his own nostalgic feeling for all the things that are already lost. People, places, the ferry service that has been replaced with a bridge...
- I feel a great loss for everything that is not there anymore. A whole world disappeared. Everybody in my grandparents’ generation is gone. I wish they were still alive, so I could continue to talk to them and ask them all these questions which I still have, says Johan Theorin.
Translation from Swedish: Emma Kreü