The original Dala Horse (Dalahäst) has been around for many centuries, and probably was created by Swedish woodcutters. During the long winters, woodcutters would pass the time by carving little toys for their children. These carved wooden toys, made from the scraps of the men's wood were mostly horses. The most enduring of the little creatures remains the Dala Horse.
The bright, happy little animal as we now know the Dala Horse probably originated in the 1700's. The carving of the stocky little tailless horses had become a well-established tradition, but up until this time they had been unpainted. Legend has it that in the winter of 1716, while King Charles XII of Sweden waged war throughout most of Europe, many soldiers were quartered in private homes. Because of the severe winter and the war, all suffered from lack of food and warmth. 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.
Located in Northern Europe, the countries commonly known as the Nordic Countries consist of seven countries and include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Faroe Islands and Aland, with a total combined population of 25 million people. Formation of these countries dates back to the Viking Era.
Even though the Nordic Countries are located in Europe the term was derived from the French words "Pay Nordiques." In English, Scandinavia is also used interchangeably when referring to the region. While the countries do share a common region, and some traditions, each has its own distinct history and heritage!
Around the world, and in the U.S., the Nordic countries are well known for their retail exports, comfy clogs like those from Dansko and Svenclogs, bright textiles by Merimekko, automobiles like Saab and Volvo, and one of the very first warehouse stores...IKEA.
Denmark is the southernmost country within the Nordic region. Despite its small size, Denmark is historically known for participating in major military and humanitarian efforts. After an invasion by Germany, Denmark became one of the founding members of the United Nations and NATO. Denmark may be best known for the wonderful fairy tales written by Hans Christian Anderson in the 1800s.
The Republic of Finland is the eighth largest country in the European Union and also one of the most sparsely populated. The cycle of the year is marked by huge contrasts, such as the polar night in winter, with its dramatic northern lights, and by the midnight sun in summer. Eastern and western cultures have blended together here to produce a distinctive Finnish ambience. Finland is a scientifically, artistically and technologically creative nation. High-quality architecture, innovative design, original music and diverse high-tech industries are all significant attributes of the country.
Iceland is a North Atlantic island with hot springs, geysers and active volcanoes. In fact, lava fields cover much of the land. Iceland is the least densely populated country in Europe, with a pure, unpolluted and truly magical landscape.
Officially known as the Kingdom of Norway and meaning "North Road", Norway, is Europe's northernmost country and enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world. Norway is home to beautiful mountains and spectacular fjords. On July 14th 2005, the West Norwegian Fjords represented by Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord with surrounding country, were included in Unesco's World Heritage list. The landscape, considered to be among the most scenically outstanding fjord areas on the planet, was inscribed in the list due to it's unique natural quality and beauty. Norway has a total of 7 areas in Unesco's World Heritage List.
Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union. About 85% of the population live in urban areas. Sweden emerged as an independent and unified country during the Middle Ages. In the 17th century, the country expanded its territories to form the Swedish Empire. The empire grew to be one of the great powers of Europe in the 17th and early 18th century. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814. Since then, Sweden has been at peace, adopting a non-aligned foreign policy in peacetime and neutrality during wartime.
Sweden is known around the world as the home of the Nobel Prize, awarded since 1901 for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace.
The Faroe Islands are situated in the Gulf Stream northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway. Faroe is composed of 18 islands. Since 1948, the Faroe Islands have been a self governing region of the Kingdom of Denmark. It has its own parliament and its own flag. The fishing industry is the most important source of income for the Faroes. Fish products account for over 97% of the export volume. Tourism is the second largest industry, followed by woolen and other manufactured products.
Positioned between eastern Sweden and southwestern Finland are the Aland Islands. Made up of over 6,500 islands the Alands are an autonomous and unilingually Swedish province of Finland. Alanders are isolated from the other Nordic countries by the sea and have developed an ancestry different than other Scandinavians. However, Alanders are still considered Swedes.