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luni, 9 ianuarie 2012

The Mystery of the Dalecarlian Horse (Dalahästen), the Symbol of Sweden

   Small, carved red wooden horse brightly painted with flowers, the Dalarna (Dalecarlian) Horse is the national icon of Sweden. 

   The earliest references to wooden horses are from 1623. Many years ago, men worked in the woods,
away from their families, for long periods. In the evening, they carved toys for children, which reproduce various animals. The sculptures that has survived over almost 400 years has been the Dala horse, because the horse was a powerful animal very useful to humans. Another apocryphal legend of the Dala horse is that they became the national toy in 1716. According to the legend soldiers loyal to King Charles XII were quartered in the Dalarna region and carved the toys as gifts for their hosts. It was a terrible winter. Many soldierswere suffering from hunger and cold. Tradition has it that one such soldier carved a Dala Horse from some scrap wood in the home where he was staying. Before presenting it to the child of the home as a gift, he painted it a bright red, a color readily available from the copper mine at the nearby community of Falun. He also decorated the horse with kurbit painting for the harness and saddle. In return for this bright toy, the woman of the house gave the soldier a bowl of soup. He made another horse and received another bowl of soup. When word o his success in bartering for food reached the other soldiers, they too began carving and painting horses in exchange for food. Thus the Dala Horse is credited in part with the army's surviving the cruel winter. Tradition has been preserved and beautiful horses continued to be carved by villagers in the long dark Swedish winters. TheVillage Nusnäs of Dalarna Province (Dalecarlia) is considered the founder of this tradition. Horse carving art flourished in the nineteenth century, when it became a very popular product fortrade. In the 1930s, especially after the World's Fair in New York 1939 in which Dala horses where shown, mass production of Dala horses started. This marks the beginning of a new era for the Dala horse, transitioning from toy to a national symbol and popular souvenir. More than 250,000 horses are produced annually. The world's largest Dalecarlian Horse is located in Avesta Municipality, Sweden, is 13 meters heigh and was built in 1989.

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