In a corner of my studio stands an old easy chair that I have inherited. It is threadbare but has a wonderful patina. It has a soul. When I was little it stood in my grandma’s house. It was magical to sit in it, with its soft, inviting shape and arm rests that folded out like wings. It was like a magical vessel.
Once when I was sleeping over at grandma’s house she told me that the chair had belonged to the Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. Selma was born in 1858 and at an early age started listening to her grandmother’s stories sitting in this easy chair. Later, as a teacher at a girl’s school, she became passionately interested in girl’s education rights and she taught by herself telling engaging stories. When she was a student, Selma’s family fell on hard times and they were forced to sell the family estate Mårbacka and all the furniture it contained. Selma became deeply distressed by the loss.
As an author, Selma Lagerlöf used myths and legends and wrote to entertain and to teach. While working on the novel Körkarlen (Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness), which in 1921 was turned into a silent movie that received a cult following, she felt that she was in direct contact with the spirit world and that she delivered messages from the dead.
Selma Lagerlöf was a like an old, wise Nordic shaman, a wanderer and a messenger between myth and reality. She believed that the power of stories can give us new insights and ideas about ourselves and the world around us.
When Selma Lagerlöf won the Nobel Prize for literature – the first woman to do so – she could finally afford to buy back her beloved ancestral home of Mårbacka. With determination and a sense of entrepreneurship, she ran the farm. She tracked down and bought back all the furniture from the house that had once been distributed at auction.
That time when I was little and staying the night with her, Grandma claimed that that particular easy chair was one of the few pieces of furniture that Selma had never managed to find.
I don’t know whether the chair really belonged to Selma Lagerlöf. Grandma wandered on a long time ago. Maybe the story of it was just another story. A myth. But one thing is sure. Every time I sit down in my grandmother’s old threadbare reading chair and close my eyes, stories start to appear before my eyes.