I’m a member of the society Runica et Mediævalia (link in Swedish). The Society was formed in 1990 and aims to promote research on runes and medieval languages (mainly Scandinavian), culture and society, primarily through the issuance of the publication series Runic et Mediævalia etc. As a member I get the publications every now and then as they are beeing published, last week two books arrived; The first is; Den medeltida skriftkulturen i Sverige (The medieval writing culture in Sweden) – Inger Larsson [ed.], This is a book I’ll come back to in future post. The second one is Kung Magnus och hans smädesnamn Smek (King Magnus and his libel nick name Smek = caress, stroke, fondle or…) by Olle Ferm.
The last is the one I currently read, it concerns a factoid regarding king Magnus Eriksson libel nick name Smek, where the nick name has been interpret as proof king Magnus was homosexual. Magnus Eriksson was the Swedish king between 1319-1363. Among other things he got conned by the Danish king Valdemar Attedag and by being so lost the province Scania to Denmark and he was accused of being homosexual by Saint Birgitta of Vadstena and others. Due to the accusations an interpretation of the nick name Smek was made as meaning fondle, caress, stroke was made, in the meaning that he liked to fondle other men. Olle Ferm brings forth another interpretation where Smek rather has the meaning “someone who has been conned by flattery”, i.e. King Valdemar conned him out of Scania with flattery.
Olle Ferm has produced a kind of historic detective book that is a pleasant and interesting read, giving a background to the word Smek and how it’s been interpreted through the ages, but also on the political situation of the time as well as on history scholars and their work. Wheatear or not king Magnus was gay or not is not something the author studies in this work, at least not yet – I haven’t finished it yet. Evan though I haven’t finished it I can recommend this to those who are interested in the history and politics of medieval Sweden as well as to those who like the study of words and language.