-How horse been manufactured?
-When did the wooden horse become the Dala horse?
long has the wooden
Most of the known wooden horses and Dala horses are neither signed nor dated.
Therefore deciding the age became considerably more difficult.
We know that the horse has been depicted in different ways for many thousands of years.
The wooden horse has been an obvious toy for the common people as well as for the rich.
During the Middle Ages and onwards Sweden was a land characterized by small farm holdings and poverty.
Most of the wooden horses which were carved were given to their own children, but there is written proof that
wooden horses were found on sale at markets nearly 400 years ago.
The oldest written proof is from 1624.
The absolutely oldest written article which mentions horses for sale in a
commercial amount at a market is a preserved manuscript of a sermon of the bishop Johannes Rudbeckius in 1624 in
Västeras cathedral. The Bishop was really angry over all the "frivolity which only leads to pride,
sin and ungodliness, also to cheating the foolish"
As examples of articles of destruction he mentions:
"cards, dice, shell pipes, dolls, wooden horses, love songs, foolish paintings and more of such things".
Västeras was and still is Dalarna's diocese city. This means that the people of Dalarna travelled to the cathedral
city in connection with the more important church services and especially for the markets which were found there.
That is why it's very possible that the wooden horses which annoyed the bishop came from the Siljan district.
From Rudbeckius sermon
"One disappoints his brother in trade when he sells wicked and destructive for goods
and doesn't admit to the non-buyer. Because there are even the honest among the heathens who know it is wrong.
As is seen in Cicero in "De Officis" just as when you sell copper for silver, water for wine, husks for grain,
bran for flour, chalk for sugar, bricks for ginger, . Out of date and tainted whatever the goods are"
He continues in the same tone mentioning the wooden horse as a part of this ruin
|The appearance of the older horses
Many of the older horses have something in common - a long neck with a high mane, something which
even can be found on certain of the Norwegian wooden horses. A good example of this is at the museum at Fagelsjo,
an egg and oil tempera painted wooden horse from the 18 th century.
In the past the toys were sometimes given reins made of leather.
Sometimes in rough games parts were worn away especially the front legs. Some of the horses were given artificial
legs made of nails, like the horse to be found in Grannas collection. It was found in Malung and is probably from
the end of the 18 th century
Grannas A Olsson
Original 18th century
|This fine little horse decorated with yellow and green decor
comes from a so called inn at Kvarntorget in Ostanfors, Falun. Emma Lundstedt who grew up at the beginning of the
century has told her grandchild Ingegerd Palm that the horse has been in her family for as long as she can remember.
It's possible that the wooden horse was the payment for food and lodging at the inn.
The horse is a typical "slice of cake horse".
The painting is a little special and most of all the choice of colouring is of special interest.
The green yellow colour is used because of a love of the Rättvik painters of Dala paintings and even Mora's
Sticko Erik Hansson is considered to be a part of this tradition.
The Inn' horse, Grannas A Olsson
The pack animal with the nail legs was given to a little boy, Halses Bertil Eriksson,
one summer in Gräsbrickans summer pasture in the 1920's. The mother had made the bags from the upper of an old shoe.
It's still tradition to go to the summer pasture with pack horses the Saturday before midsummer even today.
The four Dala horse villages -Risa - Berkarlås - Vattnäs - Nusnäs.
Wooden horses have been manufactured in smaller amounts in different places, but when the Dala horse was born that
is to say when it was decorated in the colourful way from the 19 th century's first half, the manufacturing was centred in
Bergkarlås, Risa, Vattnäs and Nusnäs. The Dalahorses were produced in a sort of primitive series production,
unlike the temporary handcraft, which was more aimed for a smaller amount. Production was often a spare time occupation,
but there were even people who got their main income from the handcraft, Mora's only kurbits painter of class came from Risa, S
ticko Erik Hansson (1823 - 1897). He successfully painted Dala horses and taught among others Vik Olof Hansson (1819 - 1885)
from Bergkarlås the special two colour technique.
Another known Dala horse maker in Bergkarlås was Erik Svensk ( born 1865) he was a soldier
in the Royal Dala regiment but was dismissed because of rheumatism. Svensk made his living from his handcraft until he was 92 years old.
Majt Jerk, Lars Erik Andersson (1884 - 1972) lived in a primitive cabin in the summer pastures Daddbo (Bergkarlås)
where the horse carvers often congregated.
Photo: Majt Jerk
|The above mentioned Vik Olof Hansson was the grandfather of
Karin Nisser (1883 - 1972) who got married and settled in Vattnäs. Karin was the best painter of her time.
In Nissergarden there was a lot of production from the turn of the century until 1968 when it stopped.
While renovating a house in Nusnäs, Sven Wittgren found an order sheet from the 19 th century for wooden horses and cockerels.
The document was in the wall and it was Sven's grandfather, Barbos Erik Ersson (1827 - 1895), who had received the order.
Photo: Karin Nisser, Vattnäs
Nisser Rooster 1950-ies
||The story of "Gambel-Damben" belongs to the legends of Nusnäs,
Tysk-Anders Gunnarsson (1863-19441). He carved and painted horses which later were sold while wandering from place to place.
In the winter he walked over the ice to Sollerön.
Tysk-Anders´ horses were called "The Nojsnäs horses" (The Nusnäs horses) and apple-grey,
brick -red, and blue were the basic colours.
Risa and Berkarlås were the very first to produce the parish handcraft the Dala horse.
Stickå Erik Hansson was said to be the first to use one paint brush with two colours and very soon he
had many followers in Vattnäs and Nusnäs. Today, of the four villages, only Nusnäs has any manufacturing left.
For a long time the handcraft of the parish was the second most important industry next to farming.
In a report about care of the poor from 1832 the Mora priest J.P. Svedelius describes the importance of local handcrafts.
"----which are transported to other places and sold or more often exchanged for grain"
The wooden horse production is also connected to the increasing furniture and Mora clock production.
The waste bits were often used for making the horses. (Today the horses are made from the left over material from The Siljan sawmill)
Some other products which were made: hair work from Våmhus, barrels from Venjan, grindstones from Orsa, chip baskets,
weaving reeds, spinning wheels etc. Even craftsmen from neighbouring parishes bought dozens of wooden horses,
which they later used as payment along the way when they were out selling. The toy had become hard currency and
used in exchange for food and accommodation.
Material poverty, the poor earth and the decreasing land area because of the dividing up of the homesteads along with an
unwillingness to move, simply forced the men and women of Dalarna out onto the roads to sell their goods or to work in large houses.
Even children after confirmation were to accompany their parents on their trips.
Passport for crossing county borders.
The oldest written sources tell us that there were wandering salesmen,
whose most important goods were textiles, pottery and wooden goods.
The first trade embargo in the rural areas came during the second half of the 13 th century, when following the German model
the privileges of the cities were to be protected. Special consideration was taken to the peasantry house to house peddling,
which can be seen in the issuing of special trade passes. In the 18 th century you also needed a travel pass from the county
governor for travelling outside the borders of your own county. The rules were made even stricter during the 19 th century
but done away with round about 1860. At the same time the trade guilds ceased which meant that anybody could carry on a
business in the town or country.
Shops arrived around the middle of the 19 th century.
These didn't affect the house to house peddling for decades which was at its peak during the years
1880 to 1900 but then started to decline considerably and eventually disappeared altogether.
The shops meant a central delivery possibility for the wooden horse manufacturers.
It was at one of the local shopkeepers that the wooden horse maker Vik Olof Hansson (1819 - 1885) uttered the famous words,
(he used Orsamål but I have translated from Swedish)
"Don't be sorry, Weisenburg, wooden horses will go on as long as the cradle rocks!"
These words were said in order to comfort the sceptical shopkeeper who didn't want to take Vik Olof's 20 dozen horses.
The special relic area Siljan
The high quality of the handcraft and the more or less well preserved original method of production is
something which still is particular for the handcraft from Ovansiljan. Born of necessity combined with a very rich creativity and
with a "conservative brake as protection" the traditional parish handcraft has avoided disappearance through the centuries.
Rosander emphasizes that the men and women of the area around and in Mora took on a special position regarding the scope and
extent of the handcraft. The people from Dalarna were, because of their journeys probably the most widely travelled people of
Sweden at that time, but paradoxically at the same time in the Mora area the costumes, language, customs etc are the best
preserved in the country.
Perhaps it is so that people who value work highly and are willing to do things know how much effort is involved and are
therefore less willing to let go of them. These people can sometimes be regarded as conservative.
Sven Wittgren, 1940-ies
The opposite of this are those people who get things too easily, without making a great effort.
They have a weaker relationship to things which are produced and are more open to change.
For such people it is easier to let go of things like traditions.
The fact remains, the area round Mora and further North is regarded as a relic area and it has never let go of the
parish handcrafts- the Dala horse being one of them