Swedish for Beginners – “Smultronställe”

2013 September 7
by mackan

For your convenience and clarity we want to give you a lingual and cultural introduction to the Swedish concept of “Smuuhl-trohn-stell-eh”, an idiomatic expression with so much meaning on several levels.

Swedes have a pronounced and, frankly, rather unexplainable sad love story with Nature. No Swede is happier than one bent over, bum in the air, looking for rare, hard to find mushrooms or wild berries, exposed to every danger that the Wild has to offer.

(Which, frankly, is not much in terms of danger at all. Moose and badgers included.)

But no berry is harder to find, or can offer fiercer and more dangerous expeditions, than the “Smuuhl-trohn” (Wild Strawberry, Truculentus Fragaria) and hence, no other treasure of the Wild is more attractive to the Swede.

The word “Smuuhl-trohn-stell-eh” literally means “small, uncultivated patch where one has found Tructulentus Fragaria”. Yes. It is silly, but it is true.

But the word has deeper meanings for a Swede – the small uncultivated patch where one has found Tructulentus Fragaria is, in a Swede’s mind a place of eternal summer, a symbol for both the beauty in the Wild and of something fragile and rare. It is a place where unicorns graze cupcakes and fart rainbows.

And it is a place you keep quiet about.

As a foreigner, someone would expect that Swedes would keep quiet about a “Smuuhl-trohn-stell-eh”, to keep the rare treat for themselves, but actually, it’s mostly because the Swede keep quiet. Period. About everything.

The Concept of a “Smuuhl-trohn-stell-eh”  is transferable beyond the literal “uncultivated patch with cupcakes and rainbows and a very small, very hard to find silly excuse of a strawberry”. When Swedes talk about their summer-houses, of a special site worthy of a visit or rare moments of peaceful tranquillity, they use the word as well.

And think about grazing unicorns and small, red, hard to find berries.

Yeah… .. .

I hope that clears everything up.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. 2018 May 14
    Alex Larson permalink

    Many thanks! I assumed that smultronställe meant your own special place or respite from the world, such as Point Lobos State Reserve (for me) and I guess I was right. But dictionaries do not tell you this stuff and I am not a Swede, only a third-generation Swedish-American. Thank you for the explanation. It’s a neat word, idiom, and concept.

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