thomas m wilson

Pastoral Scenes from the Novels of John Fowles

August 3rd, 2007

Yesterday I visited Skansen, the world’s first outdoor museum, situated on an island next to Stockholm.  The idea of an outdoor museum is here intended to show you what the trappings of life looked like for those people living in the Swedish countryside in centuries past.  As I walked around a couple of the things I saw reminded me of scenes from John Fowles’s books.

The first was from the first chapter of Daniel Martin.  It is harvest time in the south-west of England, and the villagers are stooking the wheat.  This sheaf of wheat below shows how the principal grain to nourish humanity was collected into a bundle.


The next few photos are not directly related to Fowles’s novels, but they are interesting nonetheless.


As you walk around there are people in the farm houses doing various things.  Here a girl was knitting some wrist warmers.  They talk in their strong Swedish accents and you really feel like you’re in the Swedish countryside.


Lactose intolerance is the normal state of humanity.  A few European groups have developed a genetic trait that lets them keep drinking mammalian milk after infancy.  The Swedes as a population have one of the lowest levels of lactose intolerance in the world.  To me that says that these people have been pastoralists for longer than nearly anybody else in the world.  Here is a scene from a northern pasture.  Traditional sheep hang out around a byre.


The earth roof was often seen…


The idea of using whole logs to make a dwelling is so simple and so obvious.  They are cut so that the logs simply sit on top of each other, locking into each other at the corners.


And now another scene from a novel by Fowles.  In The Magus the character of Maurice Conchis recounts the story of his time journeying through the wilds of northern Scandanavia.  He tells of coming upon a small farm in the remote north.  Up the river from the farm lived the blind brother of the farmer.  This brother believed that he communed with God on a nightly basis, and lived a bare and ascetic existence.  When I saw this old Swedish man in this tiny wood cabin, my memory went back to this powerfully narrated tale from The Magus.


The smoke in the cabin sits under the ceiling before leaving through the door, and radiates heat down into the rest of the cabin.

This next picture is of a tradtional bookbinders shop.  I took it for Sam, my brother, as he used to do bookbinding.  Now he’s creating digital books of a kind in cyberspace.  There seems to be some kind of continuity there.