It has been historically documented that the famous witch trials that began to take place in Sweden in the 1600s started in Älvdalen. A great number of people were interrogated and tortured and 18 girls and women were accused of witchcraft and later executed. The first girl to be beheaded and burned at the stake was Märit Jonsdotter. These events that took place from 1668 to 1676, triggered what has been called 'The big Swedish witch hunt', also known as the 'The big noise'. This movement continued to spread and influenced similar events in Germany as well as in the US.
Children played an important role in the witch trials. They were often the key witnesses and since it was a sin to mistrust a child when it came to tales about the devil, the stories about how the locals socialized with witches in hell spread quickly. Some children even accused their own parents. During Easter in Sweden, it has become tradition for children to dress up as witches and walk from door to door, collecting sweets and money from neighbours who seek to 'remain friendly with the children'.
The isolated valley of Älvdalen ('River Valley'), in Dalarna, central Sweden, is by no means stereotypically Scandinavian. Both landscape and lifestyle seem to have more in common with a nostalgic 1950s vision of the United States, where hillbilly meets rock-and-roll.
This project focuses on the relationship between generations in a changing social climate. Some 3,000 people in Älvdalen speak Älvdalska (Elfdalian) - an ancient language with strong links to Old Norse, the language once spoken by the Vikings - but only about 45 of these are teenagers. The community is dealing with the threat of the extinction of Älvdalska in an unusual way. Knowing that the key to revitalization is to encourage a new generation of speakers, local authorities in Älvdalen give grants of 6,000 kronor (about €730) to young school-leavers who sign a contract obliging them to 'actively try to use the language at all times possible'.