2019/4
Tieto liikkeessä pitkällä 1800-luvulla

Adapting history: Topelius’ The Surgeon’s Stories and cultural memory in Finland and Sweden

Introduction

Albert Edelfelt’s cover design for Zacharias Topelius’ The Surgeon’s Stories (Fig. 1) shows an architectural structure consisting of a niche surrounded by columns with human figures posed on either side. In the centre, we see the novel’s title plate surrounded by a wreath as if it were an epitaph on a monument. This monumental cover forms a paratext that introduces the reader to the novel that itself is a work monumental in both proportion and subject matter. Zacharias Topelius’ (1818‒1898) The Surgeon’s Stories (Fältskärns berättelser, 1851‒1866)includes over 1,500 pages (in the first printed versions) and covers a timespan of 141 years from the victory of Gustav II Adolf in the Battle of Breitenfeld to the era of Gustav III, with an analepsis extending back to the late 16th-century Club War and a frame narrative situated to 1820s or 1830s. The novel follows seven generations of two fictive Finnish families, both tied closely to Swedish political history and together forming a history of Finland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. When Edelfelt drew his illustrations in the 1890s, the novel had become something of a national monument and played a central role in Finnish and Swedish cultural memory.

Fig. 1: Albert Edelfelt, Cover page for The Surgeon’s Stories, 1896. Source: Topelius Z. Välskärin Kertomuksia. Ensimmäinen osa. Transl. Juhani Aho. Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, Porvoo, 1926.

According to Ann Rigney, the role of literature in cultural memory can be described as a dynamic between monumentality and morphing. Like monuments, literary works are stable points of reference that can be printed repeatedly allowing the text to outlast material artefacts. However, building a monument can mark the beginning of forgetting if the monument is not constantly invested with new meaning. According to Rigney, the longevity of texts depends on constantly morphing and adapting; revisions and intertextual references ensure their lasting cultural significance and prevent them from passing into oblivion.[1] My focus in this article is to scratch the monumental surface of The Surgeon’s Stories by studying the functions of adaptation, understood as both remediation and reinterpretation, in the novel and its afterlives. Topelius’ novel swiftly became a household word and remained immensely popular among readers from its publication to the first half of the 20th century. On both sides of the Gulf of Bothnia, its themes and characters were also widely circulated in different media from stage performances, illustrations and pageants to a film and even a board game. I will analyse the role of adaptation in making The Surgeon’s Stories into a lieu de mémoire in nineteenth- and early 20th-century Finland and Sweden. The article is rooted in the tradition of cultural memory studies as defined by Astrid Erll as an interdisciplinary field analysing the different ways in which a society relates to its past or “the interplay of present and past in socio-cultural contexts”.[2] Focusing on a particular memory site, I wish to show how the concept of adaptation can help us understand the particular dynamics of cultural memory and the role of crossing national and media borders in it.

In The Surgeon’s Stories, Topelius created a literary adaptation of history that in turn spawned numerous reinterpretations across media. Both the novel and its reinterpretations from the opera Kung Carls Jakt and the drama Regina von Emmeritz as well as their relationships to Topelius’ life and ruling ideas have been studied widely. However, most previous research has been either biographic or remained within disciplinary borders studying the novel or its operatic or theatrical adaptations in the context their respective mediums and their generic traditions.[3] Drawing on the existing research literature as well as the theories of adaptation in literature and film studies, I wish to shed light on the crossings of genre and media borders within the intermedial network of adaptations in which The Surgeon’s Stories was involved. By charting this transmedial network of reiterations of the story, I wish to highlight the complicated interactions between different representational media in the cultural memories in nineteenth-century Finland and Sweden through analysing a single lieu de mémoire as my case. As scholars have paid little attention to the visual interpretations of The Surgeon’s Stories in illustrations, paintings and dramatic presentations, I will pay particular attention to the visual interpretations of Topelius’ novel.[4] In addition, I wish to draw attention to the crossings of national borders in the layers of adaptation of The Surgeon’s Stories as neither the historical subject matter nor the original contexts of production and reception of the different versions were limited to Finland. In this I follow H.K. Riikonen’s and Pentti Paavolainen’s recent contextualisation of Topelius’ activities in the Scandinavian cultural milieu and Ilona Pikkanen’s example of examining the textual and representational traditions of regions formerly constituting conglomerate states.[5]

Adaptation, remediation and cultural memory

Since its beginnings in the seminal work of Maurice Halbwachs and Pierre Nora’s coining of the term “memory sites” (lieux de mémoire) in the 1980s, cultural memory studies has developed an understanding of memory not as a spontaneous and natural recall of the past but as an ongoing  process of remembrance. Cultural memory is understood as socially constructed and dependent on an active circulation of images of the past in different media.[6] This entails conceiving cultural memory as a performative process that is essentially dynamic: it is in a permanent state of flux whereby memories are constantly created, commented, contested, revised and forgotten.[7]

In this terrain Nora’s memory sites, which were originally defined as condensations or depositories of national memory in the form of actual places, objects or stories, serve according to Ann Rigney as cultural frameworks for active remembrance. They must be constantly reinvested with new meaning or risk becoming obsolete or replaced by other memory sites.[8] Media’s role in this dynamic of recirculating figures, icons and events in cultural memory has been explored by Astrid Erll and Ann Rigney in relation to Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin’s term remediation.[9] Despite the usefulness of Bolter and Grusin’s term in describing the dynamics of mediation and remediation in cultural memory, I find the theoretical scope of adaptation more fruitful in analysing the various processes involved in the acts of remediation.[10] Therefore, in this paper, I rely on the more widely discussed term adaptation in making sense of the modifications and morphing of The Surgeon’s Stories.

The concept of adaptation has originated in literary theory and film studies. It has traditionally referred to theatre and film adaptations of novels including both the process of adapting a novel on screen and the product created thereby.[11] In recent theorization the scope of adaptation has expanded to cover all remediations of earlier works and the emphasis has shifted from discussions of fidelity to the original to analysing the acts of translation or creative reinterpretation involved in adaptation.[12] Adaptation can include intermedial transpositions, migrations of a story to a different geographical or temporal milieu or reinterpretations that highlight figures or points of view repressed in the source material.[13] To borrow Linda Hutcheon’s phrasing, adaptation is “repetition with variation”[14]. Its aims can range from paying homage or translating canonical texts to new mediums and audiences to critically commenting on or subverting them.[15] Furthermore, according to Hutcheon and Julie Sanders, the reception of adaptations is characterised by their double nature: first, they are creations that openly announce their debt to an earlier work or works and second their reception depends on the recipients’ memory of these sources.[16]

As a double, “multilaminated” or “palimpsestuous”[17] text containing traces of previous works in its material an adaptation is akin to a historical novel. According to Mari Hatavara, historical novels are considered historical in that they address a previously known past. Therefore, like adaptations, historical novels point to the existence of previous subtexts.[18] While an adapter has to cut, condense and amplify the source to better suit the new context or medium, the writer of a historical novel can freely intermingle his or her own inventions and materials found from previous accounts.[19] In fact, the affinity between adaptation and historical writing in general is striking. Like adaptation, historical writing has been called a dual construction based on interpreting and quoting historical materials.[20] Following Hayden White’s ideas on the role of figuration in historical writing, it would be possible to consider the historian’s craft as that of adapting traces of past events into narrative representations of that past.[21] However, the historian’s narrative usually refers to actual albeit past events and reconstructs them following epistemological standards, whereas a novelistic adaptation of the past involves a shift from a factual to a fictionalized narrative.[22] Therefore, it may be reasonable to say that all historical fictions are in a sense adaptations of previous historical accounts, folklore and traces of the past in a fictional guise.

Textual and theatrical layers of adaptation

Previous research has shown that in The Surgeon’s Stories Topelius created an adaptation of existing historical knowledge in two senses at least. Firstly, according to Matti Klinge, Topelius described his role as a historian not as that of an erudite or a scientist but as an “applier”.[23] In The Surgeon’s Stories he “applies” historical learning to the creation of a Finnish national identity.[24] Both Mari Hatavara in her narratological analysis and Matti Klinge in his biography of Topelius have emphasized that Topelius’ purpose in writing the novel was to create a national history of Finland from the times of the Club War until his own time and to figure it as a Hegelian teleological development where the originally opposed nobility and peasant classes merge into a Finnish nation.[25] However, the project of creating a national history was complicated by the fact that there was no Finnish state, which for Topelius meant that Finland as a nation did not have a history before 1809.[26] Therefore, writing a history for Finland meant rewriting previous research and extant information on Swedish political and military history to include a Finnish point of view, thereby adapting Swedish kings and generals as suitable national heroes for Finland as well.[27]

More significantly, the process of adapting Swedish history to Finnish national purposes in Topelius’ work meant adapting history into fiction, because historical research concerning the everyday experiences of ordinary people in Finland was almost non-existent at the time.[28] The historical novel as pioneered by Walter Scott provided Topelius with a form well suited to the purpose. According to Ann Rigney, the “relatively unregulated character of novel form” allowed it to encompass a wider spectrum of stories than could be incorporated into more institutionalized genres.[29] She also stresses that the shift from factual to fictive narration allows for transformations of the historical material that make possible narrative condensation or amplification, omission and addition of characters and events as well as dislocating certain events from their original contexts to new settings to adapt the past into a memorable story.[30] Topelius made ample use of all these possibilities. Especially in the earlier parts of the novel he relied on previous research into Swedish history by Anders Fryxell and Erik Gustaf Geijer among others as well as records of historical events he had found in archives, museum collections and newspaper articles.[31] These he transformed or condensed at will and combined them with literary influences and his own creations, inventing characters and enlivening the narrative with fictional details. He also added a frame narrative of the old field surgeon Bäck telling his stories to a group of nineteenth century listeners that interpreted the events’ significance to contemporary audiences.[32]

Central to the process of appropriating Swedish political history into a history of Finland was the invention of two fictive Finnish families whose members in successive generations form the protagonists of the novel. The noble Bertelsköld family descends from an illegitimate son of Gustav II Adolf and its members serve as soldiers and statesmen in close proximity to several Swedish kings. Meanwhile, members of the humbler Larsson family include clergymen, bourgeois and peasants, many of whom represent their estates in the Swedish parliament. Together their phases represent Topelius’ version of the history of the Finnish people. Along with the generational structure, the novel is held together by a magic ring motif originating in German folklore.[33] Underneath these overarching storylines, the novel consists of separate stories in which Topelius interweaves material from various heterogeneous sources. In the first cycle of the novel the author treats events of the Thirty Years’ War emphasising the heroic figure of Gustav II Adolf inherited from Friedrich Schiller’s dramas. Other sources and influences include contemporary histories of the Jesuit order and the Thirty Years’ war as well as Fryxell’s and Geijer’s accounts of Swedish history.[34] Similarly, for the story titled Kung Carls Jakt in the second cycle of the novel, Topelius combines information on the strict hunting laws in seventeenth-century Sweden to material found in a newspaper article describing Charles XI’s hunting trip to Åland and to a conspiracy against the king that historically took place on another occasion.[35]

That Topelius succeeded in adapting his material into a memorable story, a “textual monument” that “stuck” in the minds of readers and in cultural memory in Finland and Sweden at the latter half of the 19th century, is beyond doubt: after its initial publication in serial form in the newspaper Helsingfors Tidningar from 1851 to 1866, it appeared in book form in five parts or cycles and became popular in both Finland and Sweden. The novel has been reprinted several times on both sides of the Gulf of Bothnia and translated either fully or in part into Finnish, French, Danish, German, Icelandic, English and Russian.[36] Nevertheless, the role of The Surgeon’s Stories as a “memory site” or a common point of reference within memory communities in Finland and Sweden during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was largely due to its adaptations across media.

While writing the novel, Topelius dramatized parts of its content in the drama Regina von Emmeritz (1853) and used some of the same story elements in the libretto for the opera Kung Carls Jakt (1852). Remembered as Finland’s first opera, Kung Carls Jakt was a result of cooperation between Topelius and the German-born composer Fredrik Pacius (1809-1891). The story is loosely based on historical events and takes place during a hunting trip by the young king Charles XI to Åland in 1661, which is also discussed in The Surgeon’s Stories. As Pentti Paavolainen has noted, the section of the novel covering the hunt was published almost a year after the premier of the opera.[37] It would therefore seem strange to call the opera a dramatization of the novel as there was no previous novel available at the time. In fact, it might be more apt to call this a case of novelizing an opera. [38] After the premiere in Helsinki. the opera was performed by the Kungliga Operan in Stockholm and by Nya Teatern in Helsinki in 1875 and 1880 and as a Finnish translation in Viipurin Maaseututeatteri in 1907. Other early twentieth century performances include Pacius’ and Topelius’ centenary celebrations at the Finnish National Theatre and Svenska Teatern as well as a performance at the Savonlinna opera festival in 1914.[39] In addition to the stage productions, music from the opera was published already in the 1850s and regularly performed in both Finland and Sweden.[40]

The drama Regina von Emmeritz was a mainstay on stages in both countries from its premiere in Helsinki in April 1853 until well into the twentieth century.[41] In it, Topelius dramatizes the events of the first cycle of The Surgeon’s Stories in a tragedy in five acts. In the novel, he narrates the birth of the Bertelsköld and Larsson families in the unions of two Finnish soldiers Gustaf Bertila and Larsson with their respective love interests the princess Regina von Emmeritz and her maid Kätchen. Where the novel follows the adventures of the fictive soldiers in the Thirty Years’ War and centres on the character of Gustaf Bertila, a son of Gustav II Adolf and a Finnish peasant woman, in the play the focus is on Regina von Emmeritz and Gustav II Adolf.[42] The dramatic action concentrates on the title character’s internal strife between her allegiance to the Roman Catholic faith and her love and admiration for the Swedish king. In the end Topelius has Regina die to save the king while the novel sees her transported to Finland and married to Bertila.[43]

Although written by a Finnish playwright and premiered in Helsinki in April 1853, Regina von Emmeritz could in fact be called a joint Nordic production since Topelius originally wrote the play for Edvard Stjernström’s Stockholm-based troupe and the Swedish August Söderman composed the music for it.[44] After the premiere, Stjernström’s troupe performed Regina von Emmeritz in Gothenburg and Stockholm and different cities in Southern Finland. From 1867 onwards other touring groups such as Åhman’s and Novander’s troupes played the tragedy in Sweden and because of its historical subject matter, it was one of the most popular dramas used as an inaugural play for theatre buildings.[45] In Finland Regina von Emmeritz was performed on several occasions most notably by Nya Teatern (later Svenska teatern) and from 1882 onwards as a Finnish translation by Suomalainen Teatteri, where it was staged almost regularly until 1924. By the 1900s, Regina von Emmeritz was performed outside Helsinki in theatres in Viipuri, Turku and Tampere. Suomalainen ooppera also produced an operatic adaptation composed by Oscar Merikanto in 1920.[46] In Sweden the piece was further adapted into the silent film Regina von Emmeritz och konung Gustaf II Adolf directed by Gustaf Linden to AB Svensk Biografteatern in Kristianstad which was disseminated to theatres in Sweden and Denmark.[47]

In Finland both Kung Carls Jakt and Regina von Emmeritz were adopted and adapted further for celebrating events of national importance. Especially the overture and finale of Kung Carls Jakt were routinely played on festive or memorial occasions respecting historical events or national heroes from Gustav II Adolf to Topelius and Pacius themselves. Similarly, festive occasions would often include scenes from Regina von Emmeritz as tableaux vivants or pageants featuring the play’s characters.[48] In the 1890s, it also became a tradition to play Regina von Emmeritz each year on Topelius’ birthday on January 14th. After Finland became independent, performances of Kung Carls Jakt or scenes thereof were centred around Independence Day.[49]

A third early dramatization of The Surgeon’s Stories was August Arppe’s and Julius Hirn’s Konungens ring that was premiered by Svenska Teatern in Helsinki in 1911.[50] Taking place during Charles X’s Polish wars, it is a stage adaptation of events in the novel between Regina von Emmeritz and Kung Carls Jakt. Among its characters Gustaf Bertila, now known as the count Bertelsköld, his son Bernhard Bertelsköld, Bernhard’s friend Greta and Lodoiska, a Polish duchess who falls in love with Bernhard are featured in the novel. The first and second acts follow the novel’s plot showing the idyllic meeting between Bernhard and Greta and the protagonist Bernhard going to war with his father. As Topelius did earlier, Arppe and Hirn introduced some changes in the story to adapt it for the stage. Whereas in the novel Lodoiska helps Bernhard escape from her father’s Polish prison, in the third act of the play the two elope to Finland where they are to marry. They are followed by Lodoiska’s confessor, a new character introduced by Arppe and Hirn, who crosses paths with the elderly count Bertelsköld at the time of his ride over the Great Belt strait, poisons the count and steals the king’s ring. The fifth act takes place in Finland, where the confessor attempts to poison Bernhard to keep his protégé from marrying a Protestant with the result that Lodoiska accidentally swallows the fatal dose of poison herself.[51] The confessor’s religious fanaticism and his penchant for murder by poison are reminiscent of father Hieronymus in Regina von Emmeritz, a likeness further highlighted by both characters’ desire to possess the king’s magic ring. In the contemporary press, the character was even referred to as pater Hieronymus.[52] In addition, the heroine Lodoiska’s tragic death echoes that of Regina von Emmeritz in Topelius’ play to the point of making the play as much a retelling of the plot of Regina von Emmeritz as an adaptation of Gustaf Bertelsköld’s downfall in the story “Rebell mot sin lycka”.

In discussing the reception of adaptations, Linda Hutcheon stresses that it is not only the adaptation that is compared to the source text but the adaptation permanently alters the audiences’ understanding of the adapted text. In the reception of The Surgeon’s Stories, audiences compared the different layers of adaptation to each other and to historical research.

Questions of fidelity and authority

According to Linda Hutcheon, adaptations are “inherently ‘palimpsestuous’ works, haunted at all times by their adapted texts”.[53] For audiences aware of the source and knowingly receiving the adaptation as an adaptation, the source sets up expectations against which the adaptation is measured. Especially if the source is seen as authoritative, the audience tends to demand that the adaptation remain true to the source.[54] This demand of fidelity in communicating the essential features of the adapted text is most often understood to mean that the adaptation should successfully interpret the narrative content, style or spirit of the source text.[55] Demands of fidelity to the source were a constant characteristic in the reception of The Surgeon’s Stories and its adaptations in different media from the novel’s initial publication onwards; however, what was seen as the authoritative source and what as a derivation varied from one time and place to another.

On both sides of the Gulf of Bothnia The Surgeon’s Stories were regarded as popularized representations of history.[56] Early criticisms of both The Surgeon’s Stories and Regina von Emmeritz mainly compare the fictive and dramatic renderings of history against historical research and consider their value to be at least partly in their ability to transmit a truthful image of the past.[57] A particularly poignant example of the requirement of historical accuracy is a review of Regina von Emmeritz published in Aftonbladet in 1854 praising Topelius for using Gustav II Adolf’s known utterances and capturing the king’s majesty in a representation of “full historical truth”.[58] However, the critic  then continues to rebuke Topelius for granting the king an ambitiousness that, according to him, historical research had shown to be a myth. He also accuses Topelius of overemphasizing the Finns’ heroism and belittling the Swedes’.[59] Similarly, in the 1870s when Finnish translations of Topelius’ work began to appear, the pseudonym ‘YK’ criticized Topelius for resorting too much to fiction in his representation of Finnish history and filling the lack of pre-existing historical research with “ghosts created by his own imagination”.[60]

The different treatments of the story were not only juxtaposed with scholarly interpretations of history but also with each other. After the appearance of the third cycle of the novel in 1858, a critic for Aftonbladet found the ring motif running through the novel to rob the Swedish warrior kings Gustav II Adolf and Charles XII of their honour by making their victories dependent on the magic ring. Dissatisfied, he compared Topelius’ novel to his treatment of the same story elements in the play Regina von Emmeritz. For him the play served as an example of how the story could be written without the magic ring: “As is known, the contents in the play Regina von Emmeritz consists of the same that is the object for the novel Konungens ring but in the play the ring has disappeared as a motif and the author has attempted to create a tragic conflict rising of a deeper content . . . ”.[61] With time, audiences began to see the novel as the source text and Regina von Emmeritz was referred to as a dramatization of it.[62]

Demands of fidelity towards the novel as an authoritative source were most visible in the criticism of August Arppe’s and Julius Hirn’s play Konungens ring in 1911. As I showed earlier, in addition to dramatizing the events that in the novel take place between Regina von Emmeritz and Kung Carls Jakt, the play can also be seen to rely on motifs and characters from Regina von Emmeritz. In fact, it brings the events of the second cycle of the novel to closure and transforms them to a tragedy relying on a similar plot device that Topelius used to dramatize the events of the first cycle of the novel. Instead of considering the ending as faithful to Topelius’ style of reworking his novel into a play, the pseudonym ‘E’ writing for Åbo Underrättelser judged the ending as having “nothing whatsoever to do with either Topelius or The Surgeon’s Stories” and stated that “it harms the overall impression to a great degree as a result of its ordinariness”.[63]

The negative criticism is at least partly explained by the fact that by the early twentieth century the novel had reached canonical status as a classic of Finnish and Swedish literature. Although Topelius himself had altered the story in his adaptations, greater fidelity to the novel was required of authors of newer adaptations. If at the time of its appearance The Surgeon’s Stories had been compared to existing research and rebuked for any deviations from known facts, by early the twentieth century its wide readership and frequent adaptations had turned it into a classic with an authoritative status in the historical culture of the time. Topelius’ novel was often referred to as a source in newspaper articles on historical themes and according to Anna Ripatti, Topelius’ novel might have even served among the sources of Jac. Ahrenberg’s plans for the restoration of Turku Castle already in 1888.[64]

However, the layers of adaptation are further complicated when considering the visual interpretations of The Surgeon’s Stories and their interconnectedness with the novel and its stage adaptations. According to Linda Hutcheon, especially visual and aural adaptations tend to “colonize” the audience’s imagination so that it is no longer possible to visualize the text differently.[65] A similar formation of a canonized visual imagery around the novel can be seen by juxtaposing the visualisations of The Surgeon’s Stories through the years.

The Surgeon’s Stories and the Visual Imagination

The earliest published interpretations of The Surgeon’s Stories in the visual arts are based on Topelius’ stage versions of the story in the 1850s. The music of Kung Carls Jakt, published by Wasenius & Co. right after the premiere, includes an illustration of a scene in the opera (Fig. 2).[66] Similarly, after the premiere of Regina von Emmeritz, R.W. Ekman painted a scene from it on Topelius’ commission.[67] Other early images memorialising the performances of Kung Carls Jakt are an undated painting by Magnus von Wright of the opera’s finale (Fig. 3) and a portrait by Zélé Agricola showing the composer’s daughter, the singer Maria Margaretha Pacius as one of the ladies-in-waiting in the play.[68] The role of these two paintings is mainly documentary. The portrait of a young singer painted in a role costume for an opera composed by her father and the representation of a scene from the opera complete with realistically depicted backdrops both underline that they are not visualisations of the story itself but of the event of performing the opera.[69]

Fig. 2: Musik, F. Pacius; Text Z. Topelius: Sångstycken ur Kung Carls jagt. Duettino, Kuplett, Duett. Wasenius & Co. Helsingfors 1853. Source: http://s1.doria.fi/helmi/mn/pacius/fem970101/slides/01.html
Fig. 3: Magnus von Wright, Finale from the opera Kung Carls Jagt. Oil on panel. Private collection. Photo: Petra Lehtoruusu

The illustration to the music of Kung Carls Jakt and Ekman’s painting of Regina von Emmeritz (Fig. 4) are less obviously documentary in nature. In the illustration, we see two country girls discussing the king’s appearance, overlooked by the king himself in disguise and the villain Gyllenstjerna. In the background some marketgoers, trees and amidst them a ship on the horizon are faintly visible. To the left we see the hut where Leonora traps the traitorous Gyllenstierna in the third scene. The illustration is, however revealed as a document of the performance by its striking similarity to Wright’s more apparently documentary painting with which the girls’ costumes, the hut and the ship revealed between trees are almost identical.[70] Moreover, in the foreground, the drawing is framed by vegetation that forms a barrier between the viewer and the events like a curtain or a proscenium arch and underneath the image we see the country girls’ lines that render it effortless to imagine the unfurling of the scene. Similarly, at first glance nothing in Ekman’s Regina von Emmeritz marks the painting as a document of a stage drama, despite the theatrical composition and gestures that were typical to history paintings. However, in his biography of Ekman, Bertel Hintze ties the painting intimately to the play by referring to it as a commission by Topelius showing a scene from Regina von Emmertiz.[71] In addition, although there are no visual documents available of the early performances of the drama, the composition of the painting, the castle setting with fallen walls and doors on the right and left as well as the costumes of the characters resemble later images of the stage decorations used in the play.

Fig. 4: Robert Wilhelm Ekman, Regina von Emmeritz, 1855, oil on canvas, 73 x 90 cm. Location unknown. Source: Kansainvälinen keväthuutokauppa. Internationella vårauktionen No. 115 8.-9.5.2004. Bukowski Hörhammer, Helsinki, 2004.

Surviving letters from Ekman to Topelius show that the painter was not merely documenting the dramatic action but rather adapting it into a painting. In his letters Ekman ponders how should Regina hide her dagger and judges that the most suitable scene to paint is the one where “Regina rushes forward to murder the King, and their gazes meet”.[72] He also considers the effect he wishes to create and compares his plans to the performances by Stjernström’s troupe and Horace Vernet’s painting of Judith pulling her sword to kill Holofernes. [73] Topelius also alludes to the biblical narrative in his novel by naming chapter four “Judith and Holofernes”.[74] As the work progressed Ekman proceeded to discuss the scenery and composition more in detail to the point of describing the gestures of the characters’ hands and feet and to suggest adding a veil to Regina’s outfit he had previously only described as a nun’s habit. He also mentions that “soldiers on their way off are visible deeper in the background than would be thinkable in a theatre”.[75] These considerations tell of Ekman’s attempt to translate the drama into a single painted image rather than to merely document the stage play by Stjernström’s troupe that Ekman in fact criticised for diminishing the beauty of Topelius’ text.[76]

Chronologically the next and probably most influential layer of visual adaptations were the illustrations to the novel published during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The first illustrated edition of The Surgeon’s Stories was issued by Albert Bonniers Förlag in Stockholm in 1883‒1884. Carl Larsson’s illustrations, reproduced as xylographic prints have since made it a classic of Swedish book art.[77] When a new Finnish translation of the novel by Juhani Aho was prepared in the 1890s by Söderstörm & Co., Topelius specifically wished to accompany Larsson’s illustrations with drawings by Finnish artists of scenes taking place in Finland.[78] The drawings were initially commissioned from Albert Edelfelt.[79] The subject had clearly been of interest to Edelfelt earlier, as is shown by sketches he prepared for history paintings based on the play Regina von Emmeritz in the mid-1870s.[80] However, towards the end of the century his interest seems to have diminished as he only completed 11 full-page illustrations for the first cycle of the novel. Vignettes and complementary illustrations for the later sections of the novel were drawn by Alex Federley.[81]

All three artists focus more on the fictive characters than on historical ones much like the story itself (Fig. 5).[82] Edelfelt and Larsson both prefer to visualize moments from the novel’s plot; nevertheless among them, Larsson has a slightly greater penchant for portraitlike images of the characters and includes some landscapes in his illustrations. Among the artists Edelfelt is the one who most often includes historical characters in his scenes and is clearly inclined to depict moments that condense the narrative’s dramatic tensions, whereas Larsson tends to illustrate less relevant events and scenes in pictures that capture the atmosphere of the story rather than its progression. This difference in subject matter is most likely due to the significant difference in the numbers and sizes of the images the artists executed: Edelfelt drew 11 full-page illustrations while Larsson’s work comprises altogether 326 illustrations, including full-page images as well as smaller drawings and vignettes. Federlay’s 14 illustrations on the other hand, include only a few full-page drawings, while he mainly created new, Finnish vignettes based on Larsson’s previous work. Furthermore, in terms of technique and style there is great variety in both Edelfelt’s and Larsson’s illustrations. Larsson’s drawings are characterised by a detailed realism and vivid line that sometimes depicts the figures lightly in outline, sometimes forms intricate surfaces for romantic chiaroscuro effects (Fig. 6). Edelfelt’s illustrations, on the other hand, range from almost realistic line drawings remarkably similar to Larsson’s to a more synthesised style with strong outlines and simplified surfaces creating an effect of grave monumentality that contrasts with Larsson’s lighter tone (Fig. 7).

Fig. 5 A comparison of Larsson’s, Edelfelt’s and Federley’s illustrations by size, subject and whether the people they contain are historical or fictive persons.
Fig. 6. Carl Larsson. Escape from Würtzburg. Illustration to The Surgeon’s Stories (1883).
Fig. 6: Carl Larsson, Escape from Würtzburg. Illustration to The Surgeon’s Stories (1883).
Fig. 7: Albert Edelfelt, The Prodigal Son. Illustration for The Surgeon’s Stories (1896). Source: Topelius Z. Välskärin Kertomuksia. Ensimmäinen osa. Transl. Juhani Aho. Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, Porvoo, 1926, p. 233.

The change from romantic effect to monumentality is most visible in the cover designs by the two artists. Larsson’s cover (Fig. 8) consists of a frame with successive generations of Bertelsköld and Larsson families on the sides, united by Topelius’ name and the work’s title at the top, accompanied by Finland’s and Sweden’s coats of arms. They are connected by a chain of medallions showing the succession of Swedish monarchs from Gustav II Adolf to Gustav III. In the middle there is an image of a rider galloping in full armour and carrying the Swedish flag. This combination of kings, heraldry and battle highlights the novel’s connection to Swedish state and military history and the armoured figure even manages to evoke an idea of medieval chivalry in an era way past its heyday.[83] In this way, Larsson’s image emphasises images of action, splendour and glory instead of everyday reality, represented only by a slouching peasant figure with an axe in the bottom right corner of the battle scene.[84] In his cover for the Finnish translation (Fig. 1), Edelfelt diminishes the role of Swedish national symbols in the design, focusing instead on the grand narrative and the Finnish heroes. His design is contained within a monumental architectural structure consisting of a central text field surrounded by columns and human figures on either side.[85] The architectural setting echoes seventeenth century grave monuments in Turku Cathedral, most notably that of Torsten Stålhandske (Fig. 9), the leader of Finnish cavalry serving under Gustav II Adolf. The resemblance is hardly a coincidence, since Edelfelt was well acquainted with the monument as he had been asked to decorate the Stålhandske chapel on several occasions.[86] In the illustration the artist has however replaced Stålhandske’s epitaph and angels surrounding it with a text field bearing the novel’s title surrounded by the figures of the peasant king Aron Bertila and his knighted grandson Gustaf Bertelsköld. They represent the people and the nobility whose conflict and union the novel traces, while above them hovers the king’s ring that forms the motif tying the work together. Thus, Edelfelt’s cover design focuses on the novel’s Finnish heroes and establishes connections to persons and places considered to be of national importance in Finland instead of the Swedish national symbols highlighted by Larsson.[87]

Fig. 8: Carl Larsson, Cover page for The Surgeon’s Stories, 1883. Source: Z. Topelius. Fältskärns berättelser. Första Cykel. Alb. Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm, 1883.
Fig. 9: Torsten Ståhlhandske’s grave in Turku Cathedral. Source: Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Torsten_St%C3%A5lhandskes_grav_i_%C3%85bo_domkyrka..jpg

Later visualisations of the novel include Valdemar Andersen’s illustrations for a Danish edition in 1906 and Zacharias Topelius’ centenary edition published by Holger Schildt’s Förlag in Finland and Albert Bonniers Förlag in Sweden 1918. The latter was illustrated with reproductions of etchings dating to the time periods represented in the novel.[88] This antiquarian illustration served to further authenticate the version of the past represented by the novel by tying it to indexical traces of that past. Often accompanied by explanatory titles or descriptions that were didactic in tone, the illustrations also underlined the pedagogic role the novel had by then acquired as a means of teaching the people of their history. The latest illustration, created for an abridged version of the novel in 1967, combines the two different approaches into a mixture of period etchings and new drawings by Stig Södersten whose compositions hark back to Larsson’s and Edelfelt’s earlier versions and even their vivid, sketch-like style seems to echo the liveliness of Larsson’s drawings.[89]

The impact of Edelfelt’s and Larsson’s illustrations on subsequent visualisations of the novel is incontestable. They have been reprinted in several editions of the novel in both Finland and Sweden and could be seen to have developed into an authoritative visual interpretation of The Surgeon’s Stories that either informs or eclipses all other visual renderings in film, graphic novels, illustrations and the theatre.[90] In this sense, the illustrations, like all adaptations according to Sanders, “perform in dialogue with other adaptations as well as their informing source” and engage in reinterpreting both previous visualisations and Topelius’ novel.[91]

The remediation of previous illustrations in subsequent visual interpretations is particularly visible in the different incarnations of the character Regina von Emmeritz across the media. The earliest extant visualisations of her are Ekman’s painting and its preparatory sketches that show Regina wearing a nun’s habit. In early photographic portraits of actors in costume, Regina was often portrayed as a similar nun-like figure, eyes burning with religious fervour and clad in either a dark or a white gown with a veil and a large cross (Fig. 10).

Fig. 10 a) Daniel Nyblin. Maiju Rängmann as Regina von Emmeritz in The Finnish National Theatre. Photo bears the date 1899, but probably is related to performances in 1892 or 1900. Photo: Theatre Museum, Helsinki. b) E. M. Andersen, Hilja Jorma as Regina von Emmeritz in Viipurin maaseututeatteri, 1905. Photo: Theatre Museum, Helsinki.

Carl Larsson’s illustrations introduced a different appearance for the heroine that stressed her noble birth and rank rather than her fanaticism (Fig. 11). In his interpretation she is shown standing upright in front of a window from which she has been observing the battle outside. Leaning her hand on the armrest of a thronelike chair, she has turned her back to the window to face the beholder, as if surprised by an intruder. With her regal posture and freely flowing dark locks, Regina is now introduced as a princess rather than a nun, her religiosity only signalled by a statue of the Virgin by the window. Edelfelt’s version (Fig. 12) further downplays Regina’s religious fervour by removing the Virgin from its prominent place on the windowsill to a shadowy corner where it is barely visible and onto the surface of a tapestry one of Regina’s attendants is creating. The introduction of the attendant figures also highlights Regina’s status as it shows her as a courageous leader observing the battle with the other women covering behind her. This difference in status is further emphasized by the contrast of Regina’s bare head and dark, flowing dress decorated with ample lace with the covered heads and more modest gowns of the other women. On stages in the early twentieth century, the nun-like Regina alternates with this ornately clad, more regal version of her sometimes even within the same production but with time a certain “fidelity” to Larsson’s and Edelfelt’s image of her can be seen to develop (Fig. 13). This is most visible in still images, illustrations and graphic adaptations whose composition retains Edelfelt’s positioning of Regina from Gustav Linden’s film to Stig Södersten’s illustrations. In some cases, as in Kari Suomalainen’s mid twentieth-century adaptation of the novel as a graphic narrative the nun-like Regina was even entirely replaced by a proud femme fatale version.[92]

Fig. 11: Carl Larsson. Fröken Regina. Illustration for The Surgeon’s Stories (1883). Source: Z. Topelius. Fältskärns berättelser. Första Cykel. Alb. Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm, 1883, p. 49.
Fig. 12: Albert Edelfelt Neiti Regina. Illustration for The Surgeon’s Stories (1896). Source: Topelius Z. Välskärin Kertomuksia. Ensimmäinen osa. Suom. Juhani Aho. Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, Porvoo, 1926, p. 57.
Fig. 13. a) Still image from Gustaf Linden, Regina von Emmeritz och Konunung Gustaf II Adolf, AB Svensk Filmindustri, Stockholm, 1910. Source: http://www.svenskfilmdatabas.se/sv/item/?type=film&itemid=3230
Fig. 13. b) Kari Suomalainen. A detail from Välskärin kertomuksia vapaasti Z. Topeliuksen romaanin mukaan (1943). Source: Suomalainen, Kari. Välskärin kertomuksia vapaasti Z. Topeliuksen romaanin mukaan. Otava 1987.
Fig. 13. c) Stig Södersten, Illustration for Fältskärns berättelser fron Breitenfeld till Armfelts återtåg. Source: Z. Topelius, Fältskärns berättelser från Breitenfeld till Armfelts återtåg. Red. Per Kellberg. Albert Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm, 1967.

The fall of a lieu de mémoire: The Surgeon’s Stories in the 20th century


At the turn of the century, The Surgeon’s Stories had become canonical to the point of being referred to as a source on historical matters, while its characters were featured in historical pageants and street names. A good example of the novel’s status as a household word is a board game issued in 1910 by Turun Pussi & Kirjekuoritehdas. [93] It is based on the novel as well as Edelfelt’s and Larsson’s illustrations to it. The game does not follow the narrative very closely and replaces Topelius’ text with rhymed directions to the player that only allude to the novel’s characters and events. As an adaptation it therefore strongly relies on the illustrations and the player’s familiarity with the novel for its comprehensibility. This may have worked with audiences at the time but during the twentieth century The Surgeon’s Stories and its stage versions waned in importance and popularity to the point of becoming historical relics.

Artistically Topelius’ novel and its dramatizations were seen as somewhat outmoded already during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when a Swedish critic called Regina von Emmeritz a “typical historical drama of the 40s and 50s”.[94] Another critic found its performances likely to be a success “among the greater public that does not worry about whether dramatic requirements are so carefully considered”.[95] Topelius’ novel was recommended as suitable reading especially for adolescents and folk libraries already at the time of its appearance but by the beginning of the twentieth century it was seen primarily as adolescent fiction.[96] In addition, reports of its diminishing popularity among readers can be seen already in the early decades of the twentieth century.[97] Similarly, stage adaptations of the work have slowly waned in amount and significance. Productions of Kung Carls Jakt in the 1920s were followed by an amnesia of several decades, while Regina von Emmeritz was last performed in Helsinki in 1936. It has since been performed for schoolchildren and by local groups in smaller towns. [98] Similarly, in Sweden Regina von Emmeritz fell out of popularity in the 1920s and has since been performed only by open-air theatre Skansen in 1936. Music from Kung Carls Jakt was also occasionally performed in concerts in the first decades of the twentieth century but the entire opera has not been staged in Sweden since the 1860s.

After the Second World War, several attempts were made to reinterpret The Surgeon’s Stories for contemporary audiences accustomed to new media and a different tempo of narration than Topelius’ contemporaries. The novel was adapted into a radio drama and condensed by Turku City Theatre into a performance narrating the entire family saga in a single evening.[99] In 1967 Bonnier also published an abridged version of The Surgeon’s Stories edited by Per Kellberg with the aim of reaching young readers not attracted by the embellished language of Topelius’ day.[100] The novel also underwent another round of visual adaptations in the form graphic narratives. In Sweden Knut “Kåbesson” Bengtsson’s and Bo “Bovil” Vilson’s graphic adaptation appeared in the weekly magazine Levande Livet from 1942 until 1944 and graphic novels Kungens ring (1963), Kungens Karolin (1965) and Riddaren och häxan (1969) were published in the series Illustrerade Klassiker.[101]

According to Camilla Storskog, the graphic narratives aimed to make the work accessible to new generations by narrating the amusing adventure in a modern medium.[102] She also notes that the adaptation of The Surgeon’s Stories in Levande Livet was affected by a need for heroic national memories in Sweden at the time of the Second World War. As a result, there was a surge in remembering the Viking era and the 16th and 17th centuries when Sweden was counted among the great powers of Europe. According to Storskog, this is reflected in the narrative focus on parts of the story that emphasise Swedish history during the reigns of Gustav II Adolf and Charles XII.[103] She also draws attention to the graphic narratives’ intertextual references to canonised Swedish history paintings along with Larsson’s illustrations which she interprets as a way of highlighting the Swedishness of the story.[104] Similarly, Kellberg’s abridged version of the novel shortened the timespan of the novel to last from the Thirty Years’ War to the end of Sweden’s days as a Great Power in 1721 and reduced the role of the Larsson family and events taking place in Finland.[105] Although Topelius had originally adapted Swedish history for the purposes of Finnish nation building, his work was now readapted to suit the needs of Swedish national identity.[106]

A comparable example in Finland is Kari Suomalainen’s adaptation of The Surgeon’s Stories as the graphic narrative Välskärin kertomuksia vapaasti Z. Topeliuksen mukaan (The Surgeon’s Stories freely followingZ. Topelius) that appeared in the magazine Lukemisia kaikille in 1949. Like Bengtsson and Vilson, Suomalainen also presents the story in the adventure genre focusing on the heroes’ feats in the Thirty Years’ War and their military prowess but includes in the speech bubbles several references to their Finnish nationality. Suomalainen’s interest in military exploits and the battle between the Finnish protagonists and the evil Jesuit Hieronymus is partly explained by the fact that he drew most of the narrative as a pastime while serving in the Second World War as a military propaganda artist.[107] However, he focuses on battle and intrigue to fill in gaps in Topelius’ narrative by showing in detail the Jesuit Hieronymus’ escape from prison that Topelius leaves unexplained (Fig. 14).[108] The images, drawn with tightly interwoven black lines like Larsson’s illustrations are similarly concentrated on action, and often only contain the characters against a black or white background. Suomalainen’s detailed focus on the action scenes and the effects of war-time reality on his creative work also explain why the narrative only covers a short section of the first cycle of the novel, abruptly ending after the Finns’ escape from an ambush by Hieronymus. 

Fig. 14: Kari Suomalainen. A page from Välskärin kertomuksia vapaasti Z. Topeliuksen romaanin mukaan. Source: Suomalainen, Kari. Välskärin kertomuksia vapaasti Z. Topeliuksen romaanin mukaan. Otava 1987.

None of the new interpretations became as widespread as the adaptations of Topelius’ work in the nineteenth century had been or “stuck” in the minds of audiences as the earlier versions had done. There are several possible explanations for the growing obsolescence of The Surgeon’s Stories as a cultural product and a lieu de mémoire. Neither Topelius’ romantic idealism nor the style of his novel and stage pieces is in tune with the artistic pursuits of twentieth century modernism and its disdain for the genres of historical novels and history painting. In Sweden, Topelius’ dramas were possibly eclipsed by August Strindberg’s biographic dramas of Swedish kings.[109] Most importantly, however, with the growing professionalization of history, Topelius’ novel was no longer seen as an authoritative interpretation of history but rather as an adventure narrative suitable for adolescents. As adolescent fiction it remained popular in both Finland and Sweden through the first half of the twentieth century, but has since lost its popularity among the reading public. Political developments may also have affected the growing obsolescence of Topelius’ work. In Finland, more recent events leading to Finnish independence and the experiences of the Second World War also began to dominate cultural memory. From the point of view of a teleological development towards independence, the events discussed by Topelius seemed rather prehistoric, although they had been a significant part of cultural memory in Topelius’ day. After the Second World War, memories of the Thirty Years’ War were also rendered less appealing by having been associated with the White Army in the Finnish Civil war of 1918.[110]

On the other hand, research on the novel has steadily increased throughout the twentieth centuryWith a general upsurge of interest in cultural memory at the end of the twentieth century  The Surgeon’s Stories has begun to solicit public interest in Finland. The amnesia around Kung Carls Jakt was overcome with a published recording of the music in 1990 and several stage productions in the first decades of the new millennium. The same time period also saw the creation of a new round of theatrical adaptations of the novel.[111] During the last couple of decades Pacius and Topelius have also been objects of several monographs and research publications.[112] However, this renewed interest is mainly fed by the historical value of the novel and its early stage adaptations that have also been noted in the new productions. On the other hand, it is also partly due to the actualization of the memories of Friedrich Pacius and Zacharias Topelius as Finnish nation builders in relation to anniversaries of the births and deaths of both figures.[113] The novel and its early adaptations now seem to serve Finnish cultural memory as archival curiosities and relics from the early days of Finnish nation building rather than as the culturally relevant iterations of memories of a more distant past that they were at the time of their creation. This altered role is made evident by the fact that no similar renewal of interest has occurred in Sweden, where Pacius and Topelius do not have a similar status as nation builders.

Conclusion

The Surgeon’s Stories and its afterlives form an interesting example of the transtemporal and transnational dynamics of cultural memory and the role of constant remediations in the rise and fall of a lieu de mémoire in a Scandinavian context. The concept of adaptation offers tools for analysing the production and reception of the dramatic, visual and fictional works as a mutually entangled intermedial network in which each new adaptation is compared to the previous versions but also alters how they are seen. In the process some versions slowly become canonized authoritative interpretations against which future adaptations are juxtaposed whereas other versions become obsolete. Unlike adaptation theory often supposes, the authoritative version is not always chronologically the first one. This is apparent in the visual interpretations of the novel where the early image of Regina von Emmeritz as a nun was slowly replaced by the more regal version introduced in Larsson’s and Edelfelt’s illustrations.

In its reception, historical fiction is not only measured against other fictive source texts. Instead it can be seen as an adaptation of history into a fictional guise and is considered in conjunction with previous understandings of the past. On its appearance The Surgeon’s Stories was judged against existing historical research of the time periods described. By the end of the nineteenth century through its numerous reinterpretations and popularity in Finland and Sweden it had become an authoritative interpretation of history that could be referred to as a source on customs and events of bygone eras. During the twentieth century the novel’s significance slowly waned to the point of complete obsolescence in Sweden and in Finland to being reduced to a relic of nineteenth century nation building. Although several explanations for this loss of importance can be conjured, the specific reasons for the failure of twentieth century adaptations in appealing to the public would merit further study.

MA Petra Lehtoruusu works as a doctoral candidate at the University of Helsinki. She is preparing a PhD thesis in art history on intermedial encounters and emotional engagement in cultural memory in 19th and early 20th century Finland.

Sources and literature

Archival sources

The National Library of Finland

                      Manuscript collection
                                            R.W. Ekman’s letters to Z. Topelius

Svenska Filminstitutet

                      Filmarkivet

Gardar Sahlberg, Kristianstad: Filmstaden. AB Svensk Filmindustri, 1964.

Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finlands arkiv

                      SLSA 1270 Svenska Teaterns arkiv

Newspapers and periodicals

Aftonbladet 20 Apr 1853, 19 Dec 1854, 4 Dec 1858

Björneborgs Tidning 31 Nov 1911

Hufvudstadsbladet 6 Dec 1911, 27 Nov 1920

Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning 26 Apr, 1854.

Kirjallinen kuukausilehti 1/1875

Litteraturbladet 4/1853.

Nya Dagligt Allehanda 23 Nov 1887

Nya Pressen 23.1.1898, 10 Sept 1907

Stockholms Dagblad 23 Nov 1887

Vasabladet 30 Nov 1911, 22 Sept 1914, 2 Aug 1918

Åbo Underrättelser 22 Mar 1911, 27 Aug 1911, 3 Sept 1911

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Topelius, Zacharias. Äger det Finska Folket en Historie? In Joukkahainen. Läsning i vexlande ämnen, utgifven af Österbottningar. Andra Häftet. Waseniuska Boktryckeriet, Helsingfors, 1845, 189–217. Available in: https://books.google.fi/books?id=wvANAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA191&lpg=RA1-PA191&dq=ager+finska+folket+en+historia&source=bl&ots=fOq2b-ywLU&sig=ACfU3U3SM9uGP2ammEqCd20W1nVICHKHlg&hl=fi&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjjkuvzkZThAhUK2aYKHRf3BIMQ6AEwDHoECAUQAQ#v=onepage&q=%C3%A4ger%20finska%20folket%20en%20historie&f=false

Vest, E. Sakari Topelius. Elämäkerrallinen kuvaus. Transl. O. A. Joutsen. WSOY, Porvoo, 1906.

White, Hayden. Metahistory. The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore & London, 1975 (1973).

Webpages

»Illustrationer. Fältskärns berättelser», Zacharias Topelius Skrifter, http://www.topelius.fi/index.php?docid=35 (accessed 13/12 2019)

Topelius, Zacharias, Korrespondens med förlag och översättare, Carola Herberts (utg.), ZTS XX:1, Helsingfors: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland 2015, URN:NBN:fi:sls-6014-1432660576477 (accessed 30/09 2019)

”Seurapeli Välskärin kertomukset”, Doria-database, https://www.doria.fi/handle/10024/123559?show=full (accessed 13/12 2019)



[1] Rigney 2008, 345, 349.

[2] Erll 2008, 2.

[3] For The Surgeon’s Stories as a historical novel, see for example, Hatavara 2007; Hatavara 2015a; Hatavara 2015b; Köhler 2018a and Riikonen 2019. For the stage adaptations, see Paavolainen 2015 and Paavolainen 2019; for the operas Koivisto 2007 and Hautsalo 2012. For biographic information on Topelius, see for example, Vest 1906; Lagerlöf 1920; Nyberg 1950 and Klinge 1998. For an overview of previous research on the novel see Köhler 2018b.

[4] Studies into visual interpretations of The Surgeon’s Stories include Marja Laukka’s and Camilla Storskog’s articles on Carl Larsson’s illustrations (Laukka 2015; Storskog 2011), Storskog’s analysis of Swedish graphic narratives based on the novel (Storskog 2019) and a brief discussion of Edelfelt’s illustrations in Petja Hovinheimo’s unpublished MA thesis on history in Edelfelt’s art (Hovinheimo 2006).

[5] See Riikonen 2019; Paavolainen 2019; Pikkanen 2018, 515. I thank Professor Ville Lukkarinen and Dr Ilona Pikkanen as well as the anonymous referees for valuable comments and revisions throughout the article.

[6] Rigney 2004, 366; Rigney 2008, 345–346.

[7] Rigney 2008, 345–346; See also, Rigney 2005.

[8] Rigney 2008, 346. On Pierre Nora’s concept, see den Boer 2008, 20–24.

[9] See Mediation, Remediation and the Dynamics of Cultural Memory (2009), especially Erll & Rigney 2009, 3–4.

[10] In their book Remediation: Understanding New Media (1999) Bolter and Grusin suggest that media themselves are caught in a cycle of commenting, reproducing and replacing each other in which they oscillate between a quest for immediacy or transparency – beating all previous media as a privileged access to the “real” – and hypermediacy or the multiplication of media that enhances the experience of mediatedness as real (Bolter & Grusin 1999, 55, 70–71).

[11] Leitch 2017, 2–3; Corrigan 2017 23, 28–29.

[12] Hutcheon 2013 6–8, 20–21; Leitch 2017, 3–5; Corrigan 2017, 31–33; Sanders 2006, 12, 24.

[13] Sanders 2006, 18–19, 98–99; Hutcheon 2013, 8.

[14] Hutcheon 2013, 4.

[15] Sanders 2006, 9, 18–19, 98–99. Hutcheon even suggests that adaptations can aim to erase or replace the memory of the adapted text, whereas, according to Sanders: ”it is the very endurance and survival of the source text that enables the ongoing process of juxtaposed readings that are crucial to the cultural operations of adaptation” (Hutcheon 2013, 7; Sanders 2006, 25).

[16] Sanders 2006, 2, 25; Hutcheon 2013, 3, 6–7, 20–21.

[17] Hutcheon 2013, 21. Hutcheon uses Genette’s chosen metaphor for intertextual intermingling, the palimpsest or a piece of parchment written, wiped clean and reused to contain traces of earlier, erased texts in its makeup.

[18] Hatavara 2007, 18, 24. See also Rigney 2001, 19.

[19] On the adapters’ alterations to source material, see Hutcheon 2013, 19; Sanders 2006, 18–19. On the transformations performed to their source material by historical novelists, see Rigney 2001, 21–23. Also adaptation theorists have cited the “compositional blend of historical and fictive elements in a novel” as an example of adaptive practice (Corrigan 2017, 23; Hutcheon 2013, 8).

[20] See Hatavara 2007, 24.

[21] See White 1975, 5–7

[22] The question of referentiality of historical fiction is an issue that cannot be sufficiently discussed within the scope of this article. It suffices to say that according to Mari Hatavara most theorists distinguish fiction from other texts based on whether they refer to an external reality. In this model historical novels are seen as dual texts referring to an external reality but ultimately submitting these references to a poetic function. See, for example, Hatavara 2007, 34–37.

[23]Lärdom i detta ords stränga och omfattande betydelse lyckades jag aldrig tillägna mig, varken då eller senare. Det var med alla mina studier som med arbetet I vårt kemiska laboratorium: tillämpningen förblev huvudsaken, och jag uppfattade mig aldrig historien såsom bokläxa, utan som levande liv”. (Learning in the word’s strict and broad sense I never succeeded to acquire, not then or later. It was with all my studies as with the work in our chemical laboratory: application remained the main issue, and I never understood history as rote learning but as living life). Quoted in Klinge 2000, 223.

[24] In writing a history of origin for the Finnish nation, he was applying ideas on the nature of history from Guizot, Michelet and Hegel . (See Klinge 1998, 112–115, 186–190, 196–206, 279–289).

[25] Hatavara 2007, 236–239; Hatavara 2015a, 94; Hatavara 2015b, 19–23; Klinge 1998, 279-281. See also Köhler 2018a, XXXII–XXXVIII.

[26] Topelius came to this conclusion in his presentation “Äger Finska Folket en Historie?” given in 1843 (Topelius 1845, passim.). See also Hatavara 2007, 71; Hatavara 2015a, 81; Klinge 1998, 244, 286.

[27] On Topelius’ sources, see Klinge 1998, 244, 279–280, 301–301; Hatavara 2015a, 81–82; Köhler 2018c, passim.

[28] According to Matti Klinge, one rare example in which Topelius was very interested was the Genealogia Sursilliana published in 1850 by Elias Alcenius. This text traced the family history of the Sursill family that descended from a sixteenth-century peasant Erik Ångerman and in Topelius’ time was related to most of Ostrobothnia’s bourgeois and clergymen (Klinge 1998, 281–282, 286). According to Klinge, Topelius’ intention to write a history for the ordinary people Topelius was following in the footsteps of French historians such as Adolphe Grenier de Cassagnac’ and Guizot (Klinge 1998, 283–286).

[29] Rigney 2004, 375.

[30] Rigney 2004, 378–380. Elsewhere she describes the process of interweaving fictive and factual elements in historical novels to contain three textual strategies in particular: selection to include some details and characters mentioned historical evidence and omit others;  transformation of evidence by ascribing actions to other historical characters than the ones known to have performed them and supplementation of historical record by fictive characters and events (Rigney 2001, 21–23).

[31] Hatavara 2007, 214, 228; Hatavara 2015a, 82; Klinge 1998, 226, 303–307, 320. For a detailed list of Topelius’ sources see Köhler 2018c, passim.

[32] For a thorough analysis of the frame narrative and its functions see Hatavara 2007, 216–225.

[33] On the ring motif and its sources, see Estlander 1918, 134; Klinge 1998, 307–308.

[34] Estlander 1918, 132–134; Klinge 1998, 191–193, 302–306. See also Köhler 2018c, XLVIII–XLIX.

[35] Klinge 1998, 226; Koivisto 2007, 13–17.

[36] According to Hufvudstadsbladet, by 1911 the novel had become the second bestselling book in Swedish literary history (Hufvudstadsbladet 6 Dec 1911). In Finnish alone there have been some 23 editions of the novel (Koistinen 1998, 1). For a detailed description of the novel’s publishing history see also Forssell 2009 and Forssell 2018.

[37] Paavolainen 2015, 131–132. In fact Topelius had completed the first version of the libretto already in 1850 reworking it until the summer of 1851, while the events were first narrated in the novel in 1853. (Klinge 1998, 233; Koivisto 2007, 17–23; Paavolainen 2015, 131; Paavolainen 2019, 196–197).

[38] Hutcheon underlines that the specific defining quality of adaptations is its multilaminated character in which the adaptation and the source are simultaneously present (Hutcheon 2013, 6). For the first audiences of Kung Carls Jakt, no single source text was available but the readers of The Surgeon’s Stories could compare the novel to the opera.

[39] Performances in Stockholm took place in 1856, 1859 and as part of Charles XV’s coronation in 1860. Koivisto 2007, 34–41; Paavolainen 2015, 133.

[40] Koivisto 2007, 33; Paavolainen 2015, 133.

[41] Paavolainen 2015, 136–142.

[42] Naturally, the spectators could identify Bertila as the hero of the novel. His role was often played by leading young male actors, which highlighted its importance. I thank the anonymous referee for pointing this out.

[43] For further comparison between the novel and the drama, see Paavolainen 2015, 133–136.

[44] Paavolainen 2015, 133, 136; Paavolainen 2019, 198.

[45] Rosenqvist2017, 292.

[46] For details on the times and places of performances, see Paavolainen 2015, 137–142.

[47] See: http://www.svenskfilmdatabas.se/en/item/?type=film&itemid=3230# .

Sadly, the film itself has been lost but excerpts have been preserved in the documentary film Kristianstad: Filmstaden (1964) by Gardar Sahlberg for AB Svensk Filmindustri narrating the story of AB Svensk Biografteatern. The document is in the Swedish Film Institute’s archive.

[48] Reports or advertisements of festivities with tableaux containing characters from The Surgeon’s Stories can be seen for example in Nya Pressen 23 Jan 1898 and 10 Sept 1907 as well as Björneborgs Tidning 31 Oct 1911.

[49]Koivisto 2007, 41–43; Paavolainen 2015, 140.

[50] Paavolainen 2015, 143.

[51] As no script for the play is available in the archives, my knowledge of the plot relies on discussions of it in contemporary newspapers, most notably the description in Åbo Underrättelser 22 Mar 1911 by pseudonym ‘T’.

[52] Åbo Underrättelser 27 Aug 1911.

[53] Hutcheon 2013, 6.

[54] Hutcheon 2013, 29, 121–123.

[55] Hutcheon 2013, 6–7, 10.

[56] The critic Sven Elmgren writes in Litteraturbladet: ”Berättelsernä få genom allt detta ett högt värde, såsom populariserande fäderneslandets historie vid vissa skiftesrika tidpunkter …” (Through all this the stories gain a higher value as popularising the fatherland’s history in certain eventful times …), Litteraturbladet, 4/1853.

[57] Topelius himself was involved in creating this paradigm of criticism in an article he published on Regina von Emmeritz’ historical backround just before the play’s premier, emphasizing that despite the fictivity of the title character, the play is based on historical facts. See Aftonbladet 20 Apr 1853.

[58]Ganska ofta har han begagnat konungens kända uttryck, sådana historien bevarat dem, och hans teckning eger verkligen höghet och majestät, i många delar full historisk sanning.” (Quite often he has used the king’s known utterances, as history has preserved them, and his rendering has indeed elevation and majesty, in many parts full historical truth.) Aftonbladet 19 Dec 1854.

[59]Ogilla måste man likväl att han tilldelar Gustaf Adolf med vidtsväfvande äregirighet, från hvilken den nyare historieforskningen just frikallat honom … Man anmärker endast en benägenhet hos författaren att åt finnarne mera uteslutande tilldela allt det ädla, sannt ridderliga, medan de lätta skuggorna af ett fritt och något öfverdådigt fältlif, en något käck stortalighet, komma på svenskarnes del ensamt” (One has to equally dislike that he bestows the king with a widely questioned ambitiousness, of which the newer historical research has just freed him … One only points out the writer’s tendency to bestow the Finns more exclusively with everything noble, truly chivalrous while the light shadows of a free and somewhat foolhardy field life, a somewhat perky prodigiousness, become the Swedes’ lot alone). Aftonbladet 19 Dec 1854.

[60]Ne henkilöt, jotka edustavat omaa kansaa, ovat epäilemättä kertomusten lempilapsia, niin että kirjailijan omasta kansallisesta harrastuksesta ei voi olla epäilemisen sijaa. Mutta nämä henkilöt, loistavasta Bertelsköld suvusta alkaen, ovat kokonaan mielikuvituksen, eikä todellisten olojen synnyttämiä …. Historiallisen novellin tarkoitus on pukea eläviin muotoihin nuo aikoja sitten hautaan vaipuneet olot ja henkilöt, eikä mielivaltaisesti asettaa niiden sijaan oman kuvituksen luomia haahmuja. Sen vuoksi historiallisen novellin tekijän täytyy välttämättömästi olla myöskin historian tutkijana”. (Those persons that represent his own people are undoubtedly the favourite offspring of the stories so that there can be no doubt of the author’s own national interest. But these persons, beginning with the splendid family Bertelsköld, are entirely produced by the imagination and not real circumstances …). The purpose of a historical novel is to dress in living forms the persons and conditions long since buried and not to arbitrarily pose ghosts created by one’s own imagination in their place. For this reason, the author of a historical novel must necessarily also be a historical scholar). Kirjallinen Kuukausilehti 1/1875. The pseudonym ‘YK’. probably stands for Yrjö Koskinen, the pen name of the historian and Fennoman Georg Zacharias Forsman (since 1882 Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen).

[61]Såsom bekant är, utgöras innehållet i skådespelet ”Regina von Emmeritz” af det, som utgör föremål för novellen ”Konungens ring”, men i skådespelet har ringen bortfallit såsom motiv, och förf. har försökt att bilda en på djupare halt hivande tragisk konflikt . . . “, Aftonbladet 4 Dec 1858.

[62] See, for example Nya Dagligt Allehanda 23 Nov 1887.

[63]Femte akten, fritt konstruerad, har emellertid absolut intet att göra med vare sig Topelius eller Fältskärens berättelser; den är svagast och skadar till följd av sina vanskapligheter i hög grad totalintrycket”. (The fifth act, freely constructed, has however nothing whatsoever to do with either Topelius or The Surgeon’s Stories; it is the weakest and harms the overall impression to a great degree as a result of its ordinariness). Åbo Underrättelser, 3 Sept 1911.

[64] Ripatti 2011, 191. For use of The Surgeon’s Stories as a source for articles, see for example Vasabladet 30 Nov 1911 and 2 Aug 1918.

[65] Hutcheon 2013, 29, 121–122.

[66] The copy preserved in the National Library of Finland bears a later hand-written inscription attributing the image to R.W. Ekman but according to Juhani Koivisto the illustration is more likely to be the work of August Mannerheim (Koivisto 2007, 80). However, it is not possible to further discuss the attribution within the limits of this paper.

[67] On Topelius’ commission, see Hintze 1926, 127; R.W. Ekman to Z. Topelius 9.2.1855, the National Library of Finland, Manuscript Collection. Ekman’s painting on Regina von Emmeritz was auctioned in 2004 at Bukowskis and I have not been able to trace its current location. However, a picture published in the auction catalogue as well as preliminary sketches by pencil and in oil in the Finnish National Gallery’s collections (catalogue numbers A I 457:281, A I 457:282 and A II 990:12) give a fairly good idea of Ekman’s composition.  

[68] I have not been able to locate Agricola’s painting but a photograph of it is preserved in the archive of Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland (SLS arkiv, SLSA 1270 Svenska Teaterns arkiv).

[69] Agricola’s painting has been dated to 1861; therefore, it is not likely to be based on the premiere in Helsinki. She is not listed among the cast of the performances in Stockholm in 1856, 1859 and 1860 either so the portrait is most probably related to a concert performance.

[70] The same elements are also identifiable in a sketch of the performance by Gustav Philip Armfelt, a photo of which is held in the SLS archive (SLSA 1270 Svenska Teaterns arkiv).

[71] Hintze 1926, 266.

[72]I allo instämmer jag med Herr Professorn i den tron att sidan 44., då Regina störtas Fram för att mörda Kungen, och deras blickar mötas, blir det bästa momentet att måla” (In all I agree with Professor in the belief that the page 44, when Regina rushes forward to murder the King and their eyes meet, will be the best moment to paint). R.W. Ekman to Z. Topelius 27 Dec 1845, The National Library of Finland, The Manuscript Collection.

[73] R.W. Ekman to Z. Topelius 27 Dec 1845, The National Library of Finland, The Manuscript Collection. The letter bears the rather perplexing date 27 December 1845 in Ekman’s handwriting but contains references to Stjernström’s troupe’s performance of Regina von Emmeritz as well as to the printed version of the play which appeared in 1854.

[74] “Judith och Holofernes” (Topelius 2018, 42).

[75] “. . . bortgående krigemän synes i fonden som är djupare anwisas kan på en theater”. R.W. Ekman to Z. Topelius 9 Feb 1855, The National Library of Finland, The Manuscript Collection.

[76] R.W. Ekman to Z. Topelius 27 Dec 1845, The National Library of Finland, The Manuscript Collection.

[77] Laukka 2015, 160–162. See also http://www.topelius.fi/index.php?docid=35 and Storskog 2011, 130.

[78] Zacharias Topelius’ letter to Werner Söderstörm 26 Jun 1894 (URN:NBN:fi:sls-6014-1432660576477).

[79]Werner Söderström’s letter to Z. Topelius 21 Jul 1894 (URN:NBN:fi:sls-5928-1432660576391;)

Koistinen 1998, II.

[80] Hintze mentions, that Edelfelt had been interested in the novel since his childhood (Hintze 1953, 32). Based on the existing sketches from the 1870s, it seems that as a painter Edelfelt was mainly interested in the tableau-like musical numbers within the play rather than key events or turning points in the narrative. The Finnish National Gallery has watercolour sketches for a painting based on the drinking scene and for another on Bertel and Kätchen’s duet in front of Regina’s prison cell (catalogue numbers A III 2022:72, A III 2028:30) In addition to these Hintze’s biography of Edelfelt reproduces a sketch for the latter scene in oil that I have not been able to locate (Hintze 1953, 93). Edelfelt is not known to have created a finished painting on the subject.

[81] Hovinheimo 2006, 72; Koistinen 1998, II. The Finnish National Gallery has five originals by Alex Federley in its collections. Edelfelt’s originals are no longer found in WSOY’s archive.

[82] According to Mari Hatavara, the tempo of the narrative is slower when narrating fictional and faster when reciting factual events. See Hatavara 2007, 215‒216; Hatavara 2015a, 86. About the illustrations, see also Storskog 2011, 130. 

[83] The association of the Thirty Years’ War and medieval chivalry was not entirely new, as a critic wrote of Regina von Emmeritz already in 1854: ”Det var Svenska folkets riddartid, deri riddarne ej voro vissa harneskklädda ryttare, hvilkas ”ridderlighet” företrädesvis bestod i öfvermod och den svages förtrampande, utan der riddare var hvarje Svensk krigare, från den simpla soldaten till det högsta befälet . . . ” (It was the Swedish folk’s time of chivalry, where knights were not certain armoured riders, whose ‘chivalrousness’ mainly consisted in haughtiness and trodding down the weak but where every Swedish warrior was a knight, from the simple soldier to the highest chiefs). Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning 26 Apr 1854.

[84] Pia Forsell identifies the rider and the peasant figure as the founding fathers of Bertelsköld and Larsson families. (Forssell 2009, 134).

[85] The architectural composition can perhaps also be seen to echo Walter Crane’s ideas of book illustration as an architectural structure where the cover page forms the front door to the edifice. According to Ville Lukkarinen, Crane’s ideas on illustration served as an important inspiration to Edelfelt’s illustration for J.L. Runeberg’s Kung Fjalar executed almost simultaneously with illustrations for The Surgeon’s Stories. (Lukkarinen 2017, 87-88).

[86] Ripatti 2011, 137, footnote 683.

[87] On the national role of Turku Cathedral and the graves within it in 19th century Finland, see Ripatti 2011, 46‒50.

[88] Koistinen 1998, III.

[89] On the later illustrations see also Forssell 2009, 134‒137.

[90] On the printing histories of the different illustrations, see Koistinen 1998, II‒IV.

[91] Sanders 2006, 24. See also, Hutcheon 2013, 20‒30.

[92] It is entirely possible that the proud Regina in Larsson’s and Edelfelt’s illustrations echo performances the drama stage performances by leading actresses. Visual comparison is virtually impossible as role portraits of actresses are not available from the time. I thank the referee for noting the possibility.

[93]See: https://www.doria.fi/handle/10024/123559?show=full

[94]  ”Stycket … är ganska typiskt för ett historiskt skådespel från 40-50:talen med dess effektscener, myckna lyrik och outförda grunda karaktersteckning.” (The piece is a quite typical historical drama from the 1840s to 1850s with its effect scenes, plentiful lyrics and incompletely grounded character drawings). Stockholms Dagblad 23 Nov 1887.

[95] ” … det fosterländska innehållet skall nog fortfarande, såsom fallet var i går, ej förfela att göra intryck åtminstone på den storapubliken, som ej bekymmer sig om, huruvida de dramatiska fordringarna så noga iakttagas.”( … the patriotic contents shall still continue, as was the case yesterday, to not fail to impress at least the greater public that does not worry about whether dramatic requirements are so carefully considered.) Nya Dagligt Allehanda 23 Nov 1887, cursives in the original.

[96] According to Pia Forssell Topelius himself set in motion the novel’s transformation from reading suitable for all to a youth book (Forssell 2018, LVIII).

[97] See, for example Vasabladet 22 Sept 1914.

[98] Koivisto 2007, 41–45; Paavolainen 2015, 133, 142; Paavolainen 2019, 216, 218.

[99] Paavolainen 2015, 143–145.

[100] Kellberg 1967, 364–365. According to Forssell abridged publications were common since the 1930s (Forssell 2018, LVIII).

[101] Storskog 2019, 71–73.

[102] Storskog 2019, 76–77, 79–81.

[103] Storskog 2019, 73, 81, 86–90.

[104] Storskog 2019, 73, 90–94.

[105] Kellberg 1967, 364–365.

[106] Storskog explicitly makes this claim about the graphic adaptations but I find it equally suits Kellberg’s project. (Storskog 2019, 89).

[107] For Suomalainen’s memories of drawing the series, see Suomalainen 1987, 1. This also makes his narrative almost contemporary with Bengtsson and Vilson’s graphic narrative.

[108] Topelius only writes of it: ”Samma natt som jesuiten pater Hieronymus af Bertel fördes till stadsfängelset, för att dagen derpå blifva hängd, undkom denne farlige munk, man visste icke huru” (The same night that the Jesuit pater Hieronymus was taken by Bertel to the city prison to be hanged the following day, escaped the dangerous monk, how one knew not). Topelius 2018, 57.

[109] I thank the referee for pointing out the rise of Strindberg’s dramas as a possible reason for Topelius’ diminished popularity.

[110] Paavolainen 2015, 141. According to Pentti Paavolainen, Regina von Emmeritz was seen as a patriotic representation of Finnish military glory until the 1950s when it was replaced by more realistic interpretations of more recent wars. (Paavolainen 2019, 200).

[111] Koivisto 2007, 46–47; Paavolainen 2015, 145–147. To Koivisto’s and Paavolainen’s listings I would like to add the most recent production of Kung Carls Jakt that was performed by Metropolia Univeristy of Applied Sciences in Helsinki in the spring of 2019.

[112] For a list of biographies on both, see Hautsalo 2012, 51.

[113] The 100th anniversaries of the deaths of Pacius and Topelius were celebrated in 1991 and 1998, while 2009 and 2018 were the 200th anniversaries of their births.

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