Tuvstarr's New Crown
One day I stumbled upon a little silver heart inscribed with my initials, given to me by my mother when I was a newborn. The next day, strolling around at the local library, I caught sight of large, thick book of Swedish fairy tales. I opened the book and the first story that caught my eye was the tale of little princess Tuvstarr. What caught my eye about Tuvstarr was the beautiful, mystical paintings of her by the artist John Bauer, and the little golden heart hanging from a golden chain around her neck. The heart necklace was a gift from her mother, just like the silver heart given to me by my mother.
Many recognize the famous painting of Princess Tuvstarr sitting by a dark lake in the woods, painted by John Bauer. However, not many know the story behind the painting. The story of Skutt the Moose and Princess Tuvstarr is about a young girl’s journey into the dark woods, as written by Helge Kjellin in the early 1900’s.
Little Princess Tuvstarr took me on a journey into my heart and back to the dark ghosts of my past. Like any story, this one has become a good friend, and during the time we have journeyed together, the story has changed and transformed with time. So here follows my own version of the story of Princess Tuvstarr.
Little princess Tuvstarr was a sweet, young girl with long golden hair, dressed in her finest white dress and with a golden crown on her head. She grew up at Dream Castle together with her mother and father, the queen and king of the land. One day, when Tuvstarr was out on the flower meadow, enjoying the fresh air and the freedom of being alone, she suddenly caught sight of a great male moose walking by.
The little princess called after the moose and he stopped in his tracks, looking down in surprise at the little girl with the lovely golden hair. The moose was a male in his prime, called Long-Legged Skutt, and he came from the wild woods.
The woods! Just hearing about the wild woods made the little princess jump with delight and longing. “Take me with you!” she begged. “Oh please! Let me ride on your back and take me to the woods! I am full of light and I wish to share my light with the world!”
Well, Long-Legged Skutt did not think this to be a very good idea. The woods are a dangerous place, he warned Tuvstarr. But the little princess was stubborn and she would not listen to him. “Take me with you!” she pleaded. Finally the moose yielded and let her climb up onto his back.
So began the journey. The moose Long-Legged Skutt let Tuvstarr follow with him into the wild. The time had come for little princess to discover the world beyond Dream Castle and come face to face with Life – in all its different shades, friends and foes.
The princess is still only a child, and like all younglings, she must go out into the world to discover her own wild instincts. In the beginning of the journey, she is like a little puppy, all soft and sweet, naïve and trusting – like we all are as children.
The wild spirits were drawn to little Tuvstarr, like moths drawn to light. The fairies swarmed around her, dancing and flying around in circles, asking questions, pulling at her hair and at her dress, until they finally snatched her golden crown and flew away with it laughing. The green-eyed skogsrå, guardian of the woods, was also drawn to little Tuvstarr, and she ran after her, snatching her fine white dress and running away with it, cackling and howling.
The forest spirits take the princess’s fine things – her crown and white dress. The wild strips her of her old identity in the world. She is no longer a princess. Now she is naked, left with nothing but her golden heart necklace. The woods are taking her deeper, and deeper, into the wild.
Have you ever lived outdoors for some time? Have you slept in the woods at night?
The life outdoors shakes you up and changes you inside and out. Mother Earth licks your face with her sticky black earth and Brother Wind blows the bejeezus out of you. Nature sticks its cold wet nose into everything and the Cold carves you into a new shape as though you were a piece of wood. The Fire warms you, smokes you, and smears your face with soot. You are never the same afterwards.
Just like you might prepare a dish for the oven, the wild prepares you for the life outdoors. It toughens you up. Your skin grows thicker, your eyes grow sharper and your natural instincts come to life. The cold doesn't bother you so much anymore and your appetite changes.
The wild is preparing Tuvstarr and initiating her into a new woman – a woman with all her wild and natural instincts intact. However, for the initiation process to be completed, Tuvstarr must journey into the darkest part of the woods and come out alive.
The moose took Tuvstarr deep into the heart of the woods, where the great old trees grew so close together so not even the tiniest speck of sunlight could reach down to the mossy floor below. In the darkest part of the forest was a small black lake, skogstjärnen. The moose warned Tuvstarr not to go close to the lake, and to be careful of her golden heart, but she felt drawn toward the dark waters, and as she bent down to look closer, her golden heart necklace slid over her head and fell down into the murky depths below.
The lake cast a spell on Tuvstarr, and she jumped down from the moose’s back and ran down to the edge of the lake. The moose called out to her but she could not hear him. She was blind and deaf to the world beyond the lake… she had to find her golden heart…
During my teenage years, I journeyed into the dark.
Like little Tuvstarr, I sat by that dark lake in the woods, obsessed with trying to find my golden heart. My eyes, once so bright and full of light, turned dark and dull – they were the eyes of one cast under a spell. I was blind and deaf to everything around me.
The mind can be both a wonderful and a terrible thing. Sometimes, the shadows of my mind would torture me by screaming. It was as if my mind was a house and deep down in the basement there was a secret room. Sometimes the door to that room opened, revealing the hell within. Thousands of screaming voices, mad with agony, erupted from within that secret room in my mind. I could not do anything to stop them or ignore them. Helpless, I would lie on the floor, trembling and crying, convinced I was going mad and that I was doomed to madness forever.
Several suicide attempts landed me in a mental institution. The doctors often asked me about voices, but I lied. I was afraid that if I told the truth then they would lock me up forever. Sometimes, I was afraid that the door would never close and I would be doomed to hear those screams for all eternity.
For a long time I thought I would never find my heart again. It felt like the little girl I once was, so innocent and pure, was lost forever. The darkness of the world had stripped her of all goodness, innocence and light.
The darkness has claimed many lives and it almost claimed mine. The journey down into hell changes you forever.
Slowly, I learnt to live again. Step by step. I had to begin with little things. Small specks of sunlight. Walks in nature. Cuddling with my dogs and cats. Laughing at silly things. Easter eggs. All the simple things of life that we often take for granted but can mean the world to someone recovering from a trauma.
Today I am proud to say that I made it. I am a survivor. I am the woman who rose out from the darkness and my eyes are shining brighter than ever before.
The original story of Tuvstarr ends in darkness. They say that the princess sat by the lake for many years, until she finally turned into a tiny, white starflower.
This ending felt incomplete to me. In my own experience, and in light of my own journey into and out of the darkness, I felt as though Tuvstarr was calling me to help her finish her story, and complete her transformation…
So, I took a deep breath and I breathed new life into the story…
|"Förtrollningen" by Jonna Jinton|
They say that princess Tuvstarr sat by the lake for many years, until she finally turned into a tiny, white starflower.
However, some say that Tuvstarr sat by the lake for seven days, and on the seventh day she begin to feel something stirring and bubbling deep within her belly. She stood up and looked down into the murky depths of the lake. She took a deep breath and dived down into the darkness…
It was dark as the darkest of nights down there, and the depths of the lake were endless.
Deeper, and deeper, she swam down into the darkness, until finally, the water became clearer, and she reached the surface of the lake. Up she rose out of the darkness and into the light, breathing in the fresh forest air.
A new woman stepped out from the lake and she felt the goodness of Life flowing through her veins, and she sang out at the top of her lungs the song of her awakened, stirring soul.
They say the woman lived in the woods for many years and she learned many crafts from the creatures and spirits of the forest. They say she became a wild woman, a woodswoman. She never did find her golden crown or her white dress, but she made a new crown with autumn leaves and twigs, and she made a new dress out of fur and skin.
She never found her little golden heart, but she found her way home to her own heart – and this was the greatest gift of all.
I recently took part in a women’s retreat at Mundekulla Retreat Centre in the woods of Småland, Sweden. One day when I was out walking over the meadow my gaze fell upon an odd, crooked branch lying on the ground in front of me. I picked it up and had a feeling that it wanted to follow with me. I turned to the juniper tree from which the branch came and said, “thank you.”
First I thought it looked like a wild hand, but my friend Anne saw that it looked like a crown, and laughing we realised that we had found Tuvstarr’s new crown!