“I will give you another picture of Sweden,” said the Moon. “Among dark pine woods, near the melancholy banks of the Stoxen, lies the old convent church of Wreta. My rays glided through the grating into the roomy vaults, where kings sleep tranquilly in great stone coffins. On the wall, above the grave of each, is placed the emblem of earthly grandeur, a kingly crown; but it is made only of wood, painted and gilt, and is hung on a wooden peg driven into the wall. The worms have gnawed the gilded wood, the spider has spun her web from the crown down to the sand, like a mourning banner, frail and transient as the grief of mortals. How quietly they sleep! I can remember them quite plainly. I still see the bold smile on their lips, that so strongly and plainly expressed joy or grief. When the steamboat winds along like a magic snail over the lakes, a stranger often comes to the church, and visits the burial vault; he asks the names of the kings, and they have a dead and forgotten sound. He glances with a smile at the worm-eaten crowns, and if he happens to be a pious, thoughtful man, something of melancholy mingles with the smile. Slumber on, ye dead ones! The Moon thinks of you, the Moon at night sends down his rays into your silent kingdom, over which hangs the crown of pine wood.”
That was the twenty-eighth evening.
As far as the places mentioned in this story, Wreta, or Vreta, is real and Stoxen is debatable. It may be that Stoxen is simply called something else these days, or perhaps it doesn’t exist anymore. If you know what modern-day Stoxen is called, please comment. I’m leaning toward Stockon, but I could be wrong.
Vreta is a church in Sweden. It is currently owned by the Church of Sweden but has changed hands quite a few times. The site has housed a church for a very long time, even though it once burnt down. It was a burial place for several kinds and princes. It was also a convent where nuns stayed for quite some time. In folklore and legend, Vreta was a place where abducted young women were taken to be forced into marriages not approved of by families. I couldn’t find anything about Vreta speaking of the wooden crowns this story spoke of, but perhaps they were there.
Vreta fell into major disrepair. The only original remaining building is the main church. The rest was left to rot. Some of it has been excavated and pieces of it are on display. During the time of Hans, the building would have been in something of a rotted state. It was probably still there but lacked a little of the grandeur it has today in its current semi-restored state. Hans may have made a trip to see Vreta, which seems likely, but I don’t know how much Hans traveled.
The names of these kings are remembered because someone bothered to write them down, but the church and the burial place of the kings were almost forgotten. The church fell into disrepair. The monument to these men who once ruled became rotten and worm-eaten. They were most likely great men in their day, but that didn’t stop their monument from withering away.
Even the greatest among us will die. It doesn’t matter how famous or how wealthy any of us are, we all die. Maybe our names will live on and maybe they won’t. No matter how we are remembered, what we left behind will decay whether it’s our bodies, our monuments or our Earthly belongings. In time perhaps our remembrance will become faded and no one will know that we left our final mark on the world in a particular location.
If you ever seen an old graveyard with tombstones so faded and eaten away that you cannot read the names, this is what this story is about. Someone was memorialized there. Someone was remembered, but who was it?
Your mark on the world will fade to some degree whether you want it to or not.
Do you think it a noble cause to remember who is buried where?
Is it better to leave physical traces behind when you die or ideological traces?