Malört Förlag’s scholarly & musical resurrection of Swedish werewolf folklore

Malört Förlag (Wormwood Publishing) is a Swedish publishing house “specializing in texts about the fantastic, the numinous and the aberrant”, and as if their area of focus didn’t sufficiently distinguish them from other niche publishers, for every book they publish, they also issue a soundtrack. Writer, editor and Malört Förlag co-founder Per Faxneld recently shared with me the details of a book they published this past summer – on the second full moon in August, to be precise – which scholarly werewolf fans will find interesting: “a definitive and luxurious edition” of Ella Odstedt’s 1943 study of Swedish werewolf folklore Varulven I Svensk Folktradition (The Werewolf in Swedish Folklore).

Varulven book

Odstedt’s book contains accounts of people who fell victim to spells that imprisoned them in wolf form, women who attempted magical remedies for the pain of childbirth and who were then punished with werewolf infants, and of practitioners of witchcraft who could voluntarily assume wolf form. This 416-page edition of “Varulven” is limited to 777 copies and contains two appendices – essays by contemporary scholars, and reviews first published in response to the original edition. It comes with a dust jacket and bookmark ribbon, and contains original illustrations by Timo Ketola.

In keeping with their desire to release a soundtrack for each book they publish, Malört Förlag has also released “Werewolf Songs – Music Inspired by Swedish Folklore“, a digipak album + booklet containing 11 exclusive songs about werewolves. You can listen to a selection of songs from the CD here, courtesy of UK music magazine The Wire. The album is available to purchase by itself (English), or as an accompaniment to the book (Swedish / Google-translated English).

Werewolf Songs

My limited knowledge of Sweden is derived from Stieg Larsson’s books and a week spent with friends in Vetlanda in 1997, none of which gives me the experience (or more practically, the knowledge of Swedish language) to fully appreciate this book. Nevertheless,  as someone who loves literature, werewolf mythology, and finely-crafted objects, I have to acknowledge the fine work that Per Faxneld and his colleagues at Malört Förlag have undertaken to make Ella Odstedt’s work available in this way, particularly with such care and passion that they would commission an entire album of music to accompany it.