In one of her books, “The Wonderful Adventures of Nils,” Miss Lagerloef has sketched the national character of mart Swedish people in reference to the various landscapes visited by the wild goose in its flight. In another romance, “Goesta Berling,” she has interpreted the life of the province at Vermland, where she herself was born on a farmstead in 1858. A love of starlight, violins, and dancing, a temperament easily provoked to a laughing abandon of life’s tragedy characterizes the folk of Vermland and the impecunious gentry who live in its modest manor halls. It is a different folk to whom one is introduced in “Jerusalem,” the people of Dalecarlia, the province of Miss Lagerloef’s adopted home. They, too, have their dancing festivals at Midsummer Eve, and their dress is the most gorgeous in Sweden, but one thinks of them rather as a serious and solid community given to the plow and conservative habits of thought. They were good Catholics once; now they are stalwart defenders of Lutheranism, a community not easily persuaded but, once aroused, resolute to act and carry through to the uttermost. One thinks of them as the people who at first gave a deaf ear to Gustaf Vasa’s appeal to drive out the Danes, but who eventually followed him shoulder to shoulder through the very gates of Stockholm, to help him lay the foundations of modern Sweden. Titles of nobility have never prospered in Dalecarlia; these stalwart landed peasants are a nobility unto themselves. The Swedish people regard their Dalecarlians as a reserve upon whom to draw in times of crisis.
“Jerusalem” begins with the history of a wealthy and powerful farmer family, the Ingmarssons of Ingmar Farm, and develops to include the whole parish life with its varied farmer types, its pastor, schoolmaster, shopkeeper, and innkeeper. The romance portrays the religious revival introduced by a practical mystic from Chicago which leads many families to sell their ancestral homesteads and—in the last chapter of this volume—to emigrate in a body to the Holy Land.
Truth is stranger than fiction. “Jerusalem” is founded upon the historic event of a religious pilgrimage from Dalecarlia in the last century. The writer of this introduction had opportunity to confirm this fact some years ago when he visited the parish in question, and saw the abandoned farmsteads as well as homes to which some of the Jerusalem-farers had returned. And more than this, I had an experience of my own which seemed to reflect this spirit of religious ecstasy. On my way to the inn toward midnight I met a cyclist wearing a blue jersey, and on the breast, instead of a college letter, was woven a yellow cross. On meeting me the cyclist dismounted and insisted on shouting me the way. When we came to the inn I offered him a krona. My guide smiled as though he was possessed by a beatific vision. “No! I will not take the money, but the gentleman will buy my bicycle!” As I expressed my astonishment at this request, he smiled again confidently and replied. “In a vision last night the Lord appeared unto me and said that I should meet at midnight a stranger at the cross-roads speaking an unknown tongue and ’the stranger will buy thy bicycle!’”