Distant figures run around a bonfire during Eastertime in Älvdalen. The last day of April marks an important date in the Swedish calendar. An old pagan tradition related to the dead has merged with a more recent ‘spring festival’ that celebrates the lighter times that are to come. The original pagan purpose of the event was to light bonfires and to use fireworks and crackers to scare away witches and ghosts who were thought to be more active and closer to the humans during this night. The tradition remains to this day.
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 Älvdalskain 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'.