Olle the star gazer


Long, long ago there lived a little boy called Olle. He lived in the dirtiest, coldest, noisiest part of Stockholm’s Old Town. He shared his squalid shack with his mum and dad, grandparents and five sisters and brothers, all of them squeezed into one simple room. From inside the room, you could hear the noise of the horses hooves on the cobblestones and the bustle of people outside.

Olle was always hungry but he was also a dreamer. Whenever he didn’t have to work, he could be found standing outside gazing up at the stars.  He loved the way they blinked in the night sky and how the moon lit up the dark alley ways of the Old Town.

One cold winter night, he was outside as usual looking up at the sky when he heard a whisper of voices. Looking around, he noticed that the voices came from inside a cellar, and the door was slightly open. It was so cold outside and the yellow light from the cellar stairs seemed warm and cosy, so he decided to go in. Once inside, he walked slowly down the stairs until he came to a little room with an open fire. The ceiling was very low in this room and it was lovely and warm. By the fire place, he saw a rocking chair and a side table laden down with thick pies. He looked around cautiously. The whispers had stopped, and the room was empty. He felt the hunger in his stomach and stared at the pies. Gradually, he moved closer to them, mouth watering, and in a mad moment, he grabbed a pie and shoved it into his mouth.

The door to the room slammed shut and in the shadows behind he saw a shape. He heard the whispers beginning again and from the shadows emerged an ugly old woman.

‘Oh Child,‘ she whispered ‘Are you hungry?’

Olle nodded, scared. He could hear the noise from the street above and the crackling of the fire.

‘Take Another one then. Go on. Eat’

Olle turned to the pies and took another. He was so hungry. And he stuffed it into his mouth.

‘You like my pies?’ said the old woman

Olle nodded but he started to feel a little strange. The room starting spinning slowly and he felt a odd feeling in his body. The floor seemed to be getting closer, and the ceiling further away. His clothes felt too big for him. What was happening? Was he shrinking??

A few minutes later, Olle opened his eyes. The old woman was towering over him and laughing. Everything in the room was huge, he had shrunk to the size of a tin soldier.

Bending over, the old woman grabbed him in her hand and lifted him up to her face. He could see the milky colour of her eyes and smell the foul odour of her breath.

‘So you liked my pies! You know what’s in them?

Olle shook his head.

‘Curious little boys!’ screamed the old woman.  

Olle never made it home that day. No one really knows what happened to him. But you can still visit him if you like. Just behind the Finnish Church in the Old Town, there’s a little statue in his honour. There he sits, little Olle, and gazes up at the stars that he loved so much.

Riddusola the Gorgon and the stone statues



Long, long ago, in Stockholm there was a very grand building which stood alone on its own private island.

This grand building was the place where all the decisions were made. The King, the Prime Minister, the Mayor and the other dignitaries used to meet there to discuss the problems of their times. To get to the building, they had to take a small boat from the town and cross the choppy waters of lake Mälaren. 

Around the same time, slightly to the North of the town, there was a deep grotto and inside lived a gorgon that went by the name of Riddusola. Riddusola was a terrible, terrible gorgon. She had the head of a black goat and the slimy body of a snake. Attached to her back, she had huge wings which were covered in sharp spikes. Riddusola could travel fast over land and water, and she had a terrifying stare. With one look into her eyes, a person would be immediately turned to stone.

Now and again Riddusola would appear from her grotto and descend upon the town. She would slither down streets and across squares, she would glide through the canals and lakes and she would hunt her prey. She wasn’t so fussy. She would eat anything as long as it was alive. But what she liked best was the taste of human flesh. On regular occasions, pigs would go missing, or even children, and their dull cries would be heard from the deepest depths of the gorgon’s grotto.

Early one autumn evening, Riddusola was out in the town hunting for pray when she saw the little boat carrying passengers across to the grand buidling which stood on its own island. Quickly, she jumped into the water and eeled her way towards the boat. As she neared, she saw the boat arrive at the island and the passengers disembarked. There were some lovely, juicy fat people in that boat she thought as she ploughed closer. Suddenly a soldier looked into the water and saw the gorgon approaching. He urgently ushered the dignitaries into the building and slammed the door. But that pathetic door was nothing for a gorgon and Riddusola crashed into the building sending its occupants fleeing in all directions. Oh how she feasted that day! And those she didn’t eat had looked her in the eyes and were immediately turned to stone.

Then Riddusola had an idea. The grand building was rather comfortable she thought – the perfect place for her to live. It was close to the town and also on the edge of the lake. But how could she live here undisturbed? She knew if she was so close then the townspeople would try to kill her in her sleep. So she had another idea – she would have to terrify them!

The next morning, the townspeople of Stockholm awoke and went about their daily business. Down by the waterside, they were doing their laundry when they noticed something strange about the grand building on the ísland. They approached it and looked from the other side of the water. No! Could it be true? They witnessed a horrific sight and they ran as fast as they could back to the safety of their homes. There, on the grand building, Riddusola had made a change. Stone figures now ordaned the roof. The stone figures were facing different directions and were clearly the putrified remains of the King, the Prime Minister, the Mayor and other dignitaries,

The grand building is still there, although no longer on an island. It is surrounded by roads and is today called Riddarhuset, Thankfully, the gorgon is long gone. But if you look to the roof, you will see them. The stone remains of the people who looked Riddusola in the eyes.

Alid’s Lightening Catcher

Long, long ago on a remote southern island in Stockholm, there lived a small group of people. These people supported themselves on fishing and foraging in the woods.

And they were a nasty bunch.

Whenever they got the chance, they would steal from other villages, or they would shout abuse from the hill tops or urinate in the lake water. For years this went on until one day Thor, from his heavenly position, got tired of listening to their behaviour and profane language. Now Thor, being the God of Thunder, had resources at his fingertips. With one swift movement of his hammer, he shot a bolt of lightning down at the villagers and blew them straight off the hillside. 

But this didn’t stop the villagers. Laughing at Thor, they shook their fists and shouted abuse up into the sky. This made Thor more angry and for every time they laughed, he continued to bombard them with lightning. The years went by and with new generations, the behavior of the villagers changed. Tired of being blasted from above, they began to speak more kindly, to stop their stealing and to use appropriate methods of hygiene. But Thor was an unforgiving God and lividly continued to shoot his burning bolts down onto them. 

More time went by and the villagers realized that Thor would not cease. Instead they would have to combat his attacks. They dug a fire pit to engulf the lightning, but it did not work. They built a fountain to extinguish the lightning but this didn’t work either. They sacrificed goats and pigs. But nothing worked and Thor’s wrath continued to rain down. 

In despair, they turned to the wisest woman in the village – Ancient Alid. Alid was somewhat of a witch and the villagers were rather scared of her. But she had an idea. She told them to build a lightning catcher. So the villagers set to work. 

For years they built, until one day their masterpiece was finished. Upon the highest point of the hill, they had constructed a lightning catcher. The structure had two mighty towers reaching high up into the sky. And it worked! Every time Thor threw a lightning bolt, it was dissolved into one of the towers first and did not hit the village. The people of the village rejoiced! They were saved and slowly they could start to grow their community in the safe shadow of their construction. In honour of the wise lady, they gave the structure a name.  Hög Alid – High Alid.

You can still see it there today, high on the hilltop of Södermalm.  Today Stockholmers use it as a church but long ago it was built to protect the people from a very different god.