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The Blended Saw and the Ancient Law of Value

Blenda urging the Värend women to avenge the Danish ravages by August Malmström, 1860. Belongs to Smålands museum , Växjö.
Blenda urging the Värend women to avenge the Danish ravages by August Malmström, 1860. Belongs to Smålands museum , Växjö.

The Blenda legend tells the story of Blenda the woman in the countryside Värend, virdarnas land in the former Småland, where she and the women of the village are said to have defeated an enemy Danish army.

According to the Blendasägnen, the men of Värend were on a campaign in Västergötland when the Danes attacked. The women of Värend invited the Danes to a feast at Bråvalla heath and when they were drunk they were stabbed and killed. About this you can read in the book Notes on Swedish women from 1864:

There lived in the Konga district a young and very distinguished maiden, named Blenda, who, when she heard of the misery which had overtaken a part of Småland and threatened all the rest of the country, resolved with manly courage to put a limit to the destruction. And in doing so, though young, she proceeded with all the wisdom and prudence which one would have expected from years and experience. So she sent out messengers round all the parishes and villages, and summoned all the women to a place called Gemla. All, she said, who would be of service to her in driving out the enemy, should come there, bringing all manner of food and drink, as much as their houses could afford. This was done: the women from Konga, Albo, Kindevalds, Norrvidinge and Uppvidinge districts appeared at the meeting-place, bringing with them large loads of beer and food.

P. G. Berg and Wilhelmina Stålberg, Notes on Swedish women, 1864

In recognition of this, the women of Värend are said to have been given equal inheritance rights with men and the right to travel to church on their wedding day dressed in full battle gear, accompanied by pipes and drums. As early as 1637, the Värendsrätten - women's equal inheritance rights - is referred to as ancient and based on older legal quotations, which were no longer understood 1.

Illustration: the girls of Småland by Hugo Hamilton (1830)
Illustration: "Smålands flickor" by Hugo Hamilton (1830)

The probable origin of the saw has been investigated by Carl Johan Schlyter (1795-1888) and he believes that the story was invented to explain the creation of the equal right of inheritance in Värend. The legend is said to have been found in the late 17th century by regimental quartermaster Petter Rudebeck, but several attempts have been made to prove the historical probability of this legend. Others are more convinced that Blenda actually existed:

If this Swedish heroine has been much spoken and written of, and though no writer is able to give the time when she lived and performed the great feat for which she has been celebrated from age to age, it is certain that she really did perform it. This is attested to by all the customs, manners, and ordinances, distinct from others, which have continued to this day in the locality where the racy Blenda lived.

P. G. Berg and Wilhelmina Stålberg, Notes on Swedish women, 1864

Sources

  1. Carlquist, Gunnar, ed, 1938 (new edition of the 1930 edition. Swedish encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Malmö: Svensk Uppslagsbok AB. Page. 292)

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