Viktor Rydberg and Race

Dispelling Disinformation
disseminated by internet-based
 pagan cults opposed to
Viktor Rydberg's
mythological theories



Viktor Rydberg's Teutonic Mythology:

Myths and Realities


MYTH: It's difficult to find accurate information
on Viktor Rydberg and his mythological theories in English.
     This statement is easily disproven. Rydberg and his work have been mentioned in numerous scholarly works in the past century. Citations can be found in every decade since he died. A survey of these works can be found here:
The Rydberg article at Wikipedia is also filled with quotes regarding the man and his work, despite repeated attempts to distort it. Information concerning Rydberg and his work is not hard to find in English at all. The only rational reason to make such a claim would be to keep the interested reader from looking. Information on Rydberg in English is plentiful and many of his mythological works are available in English translation. I encourage everyone to read what Rydberg wrote firsthand before judging it.

MYTH: Viktor Rydberg was an Aryan Racist.
Over a century of published scholarship indicate that Viktor Rydberg was a liberal humanist who promoted the rights of all people, regardless of their religion, race or national origin. He was also a proud Swedish patriot. Not one source labels him a racist. If this claim were true, the internet cult pushing it wouldn't be forced to use doctored quotes to support their claim.
 As 'evidence' of Rydberg's supposed Aryan racism, the following quote has been falsely attributed to Rydberg since 2007 on one cult-site to discredit his work. Lately it has spread to sister sites set-up by cult members in an effort to disseminate their views:

"To Aryan blood, the purest and noble
[sic], was I wed by a friendly Norn."
                   — Viktor Rydberg, author of The Future of the White Race

The fact is Rydberg never said that.  The quote is the direct translation of a slogan printed on a banner promoting eugenics more than forty years after Rydberg's death. It is an emended version of two lines of one of Rydberg's most famous poems titled Himlens Blå, 'Sky's Blue' or 'Heaven's Blue'.  It was initially doctored by Harold Ljungberg to conform to his own political views and repeated by the pagan cult-site as if it were an quote by Rydberg. Rydberg, of course, did not write in English. Had the cult site perpetrating this nonsense provided the actual source, their audience would have immediately discovered their deception. So instead, they cite the title of one of Rydberg's prose works, which appears to have racist connotations.

The actual lines, written by Rydberg, in Swedish  read:
  "Till ariskt blod, det renaste och äldsta, 
till svensk jag vigdes av en vänlig norna."     

This translates as:

"To Aryan blood, the  purest and the oldest,
to Swedish was I wed by a friendly norn."
As written, the lines form a poetic conceit, expressing gratitude to Fate for the poet having been born in Sweden, the supposed oldest Indo-European ('Aryan') people in Europe. As outlined in his own work, Rydberg, along with many prominent scholars between 1860 and 1900 believed that the Indo-European or Aryan people had originated in the north of Europe, and from there fanned out over the rest of continent and into Asia, spreading their language and culture. It was a common academic view of the time.

As is immediately evident in the false quote attributed to Rydberg, the words "till svensk" ('to Swedish') have been purposefully omitted,  fundamentally altering the meaning of the lines.  The poet is not speaking of "Aryan blood" as "the "purest and [most] noble" of the entire human  race, but merely of Swedish blood as the oldest of the Indo-European line, and the purest, because it did not wander far from the original Indo-European homeland, according to the poet's belief.  The author of the cult-site, clearly intends to make it seem as though Rydberg were proclaiming Aryan racial superiority.  As evidence of this, he joins the doctored quote with the seemingly provocative title of Rydberg's last published essay Hvita Rasens Framtid, "The Future of the White Race", which appeared as a foreword in the Swedish translation of Thomas Kidd's book Social Evolution after Rydberg's death. 
To understand these lines as Rydberg intended them, one must understand their context. The poem was written at a time when  "Aryan" was the preferred term for what we call Indo-European or Proto-Indo-European (PIE) today, and when Northern Europe was widely seen as the original Indo-European homeland.  At the site in question, quotes from Rydberg's work are conspicuously absent throughout; since from his writings, it is abundantly clear that Rydberg did not view the Indo-Europeans, or Aryans as they were known then, as superior to any other group of human beings, but simply as one branch of the human family. Rydberg himself is widely acknowledged to be a liberal humanist.

1973 Hans O. Granlid
Vår Dröm är Frihet:
['Our Dream of Freedom']

"Till ariskt blod, det renaste och äldsta, till svensk jag vigdes av en vänlig norna.    ... Att Rydbergs 'ariska' idéer icke innebar någon sorts fientlighet mot judarna bör särskilt understrykas. Tvärtom: han verkade för denna minoritets rättigheter, hade flera judiska vänner och sökte också poetiskt gestalta sin sympati (bland hans manuskript finns utkast till en dikt om folket med de mörka ögonen, dvs..."
Translated into English this reads:
 "To Aryan blood the purest and the oldest, to Swedish was I wed by a friendly norn.  ....That Rydberg's 'Aryan' ideal did not contain anything hostile toward Jews should be particularly underscored. Quite the opposite: He worked for this minority's rights, had many Jewish friends, and also sought poetically to shape their sympathy (among his manuscripts is found an outline for a poem about the people with the dark eyes, etc..."

Rydberg had no aversion to using Hebrew themes in his poems. Of him, one biographer, Judith Moffett, in To the North! To the North! Five Swedish Poets of the Nineteenth Century, writes:

"[In] one Rydberg masterpiece, 'Cantata' — a public poem composed and read in 1877 on the occassion of the four-hundreth anniversary of the University of Uppsala— ...Rydberg [likens] the task of enlightened men to that of the children of Israel wandering through the desert in search of the Promised Land."
 This view is affirmed by Lars G Warme in A History of Swedish Literature, 1996:
"Though no pioneer and experimenter in terms of poetic form, Rydberg is nevertheless one of the foremost creators of philosophical poetry in Swedish literature and, in his idealistic verse, a worthy descendent of Tegnér. His themes frequently center on metaphysical quests, as in 'Den flygande holländaren' (The Flying Dutchman), 'Grubblaren' (The Brooder) and 'Vaden och vardthän' (Wherefrom and whereto?). Rydberg projects a vision of an enigmatic universe but finds solace in a belief in an idealistic and indestructible human spirit. His philosophical views reach their poetic apogee in the grandiose cantata he wrote for the four-hundreth anniversary of the University of Uppsala in 1977. Sketching the spiritual history of mankind by using the Exodus myth in the Old Testament, Rydberg followed the children of Israel as they are guided by Moses toward the Promised Land, depicted as both a Platonic realm of ideas and an earthly utopia."

Rydberg himself defines the word "Aryan" as "Indo-European." In the second chapter of his Undersökningar i Germanisk Mytologi, Vol. I, published in English as Teutonic Mythology, he writes:
"It is universally known that the Teutonic dialects are related to the Latin, the Greek, the Slavic, and Celtic languages, and that the kinship extends even beyond Europe to the tongues of Armenia, Iran, and India. ... However unlike all these kindred tongues may have grown with the lapse of thousands of years, still they remain as a sharply-defined group of older and younger sisters as compared with all other language groups of the world. Even the Semitic languages are separated therefrom by a chasm so broad and deep that it is hardly possible to bridge it.
This language-group of ours has been named in various ways. It has been called the Indo-Germanic, the Indo-European, and the Aryan family of tongues. I have adopted the last designation."
As a matter of fact, this definition remains the primary definition of the word 'Aryan' today, harking back to a time before World War II and the Nazi atrocities, when the word was used more scientifically than it is today.  According to Webster's 9th Collegiate Dictionary:
Aryan (1839)  1: of or relating to the Indo-European family of languages or their hypothetical prototype. 2: of or relating to speakers of the Indo-European languages.  3 a: of or relating to a hypothetical ethnic type illustrated by or descended from early speakers of Indo-European languages b: Nordic 4: of or relating to Indo-Iranian or its speakers.
Thus, as written, the  lines actually mean:
"To Indo-European blood, the purest and the oldest,
to Swedish was I wed to a friendly Norn"
In regard to Rydberg's belief that Swedish was the "the purest and oldest" of the Indo-European languages, one must understand the scholarly context. In the late 1800s, Northern Europe was widely considered the original homeland of all Indo-European peoples among prominent European scholars.  Rydberg himself was well aware of the historical debate on the Indo-European homeland and summarizes it from the beginning up to his day in the opening chapters of his book Undersökningar i Germanisk Mytologi, Volume 1, no. 2-5:
"In the most ancient historical times Aryan-speaking people were found only in Asia and Europe. In seeking for the centre and the earliest conquests of the ancient Aryan language, the scholar may therefore keep within the limits of these two continents. ...When the question of the original home of the Aryan language and race was first presented, there were no conflicting opinions on the main subject. All who took any interest in the problem referred to Asia as the cradle of the Aryans. Asia had always been regarded as the cradle of the human race. In primeval time, the yellow Mongolian, the black African, the American redskin, and the fair European had there tented side by side. From some common centre in Asia they had spread over the whole surface of the inhabited earth. Traditions found in the literatures of various European peoples in regard to an immigration from the East supported this view. The progenitors of the Romans were said to have come from Troy. The fathers of the Teutons were reported to have immigrated from Asia, led by Odin.
       " ...This view of the origin of the Aryans had scarcely met with any opposition when we entered the second half of our century. ....In the year 1854 was heard for the first time a voice of doubt. The skeptic was an English ethnologist, by name Latham. ....He urged that they who at the outset had treated this question had lost sight of the rules of logic, and that in explaining a fact it is a mistake to assume too many premises. The great fact which presents itself and which is to be explained is this: There are Aryans in Europe and there are Aryans in Asia. The major part of Aryans are in Europe, and here the original language has split itself into the greatest number of idioms. From the main Aryan trunk in Europe only two branches extend into Asia. The northern branch is a new creation, consisting of Russian colonisation from Europe; the southern branch, that is, the Iranian-Hindu, is, on the other hand, pre-historic, but was still growing in the dawn of history, and the branch was then growing from West to East, from Indus toward Ganges. When historical facts to the contrary are wanting, then the root of a great family of languages should naturally be looked for in the ground which supports the trunk and is shaded by the crown, and not underneath the ends of the farthest-reaching branches. ...The gist of Latham's protest is, that the question was decided in favour of Asia without an examination of the other possibility, and that in such an examination, ...the European origin of the Aryans - is more plausible, at least from the standpoint of methodology. ...Since the presentation of this argument, several defenders of the European hypothesis have come forward, among them Geiger, Cuno, Friedr. Müller, Spiegel, Pösche, and more recently Schrader and Penka. Schrader's work, Sprachvergleichung und Urgeschichte, contains an excellent general review of the history of the question, original contributions to its solution, and a critical but cautious opinion in regard to its present position.

"...Where, then, on our continent was the home of this Aryan European people in the stone age? ...The Greek Aryans have immigrated to Hellas, and the Italian Aryans are immigrants to the Italian peninsula. Spain has even within historical times been inhabited by Iberians and Basques, and Basques dwell there at present. If, as the linguistic monuments seem to prove, the European Aryans lived near an ocean, this cannot have been the Mediterranean Sea. There remain the Black and Caspian Sea on the one hand, the Baltic and the North Sea on the other. But if, as the linguistic monuments likewise seem to prove, the European Aryans for a great part, at least, lived west of a botanical line indicated by the beech in a country producing fir, oak, elm, and elder, then they could not have been limited to the treeless plains which extend along the Black Sea from the mouth of the Danube, through Dobrudscha, Bessarabia, and Cherson, past the Crimea. ...Both prehistoric and historic facts thus tend to establish the theory that the Aryan domain of Europe, within indefinable limits, comprised the central and north part of Europe."
This conclusion led to the belief among scholars that the physical type most common there was thus the original Indo-European physical type. Using the scientific evidence collected by Weckler, Rydberg explains:
"The northern position of the ancient Teutons necessarily had the effect that they, better than all other Aryan people, preserved their original race-type, as they were less exposed to mixing with non-Aryan elements. In the south, west, and east, they had kinsmen, separating them from non-Aryan races. To the north, on the other hand, lay a territory which, by its very nature, could be but sparsely populated, if it was inhabited at all, before it was occupied by the fathers of the Teutons. The Teutonic type, which doubtless also was the Aryan in general before much spreading and consequent mixing with other races had taken place, has, as already indicated, been described in the following manner: Tall, white skin, blue eyes, fair hair. Anthropological science has given them one more mark - they are dolichocephalous, that is, having skulls whose anterior-posterior diameter, or that from the frontal to the occipital bone, exceeds the transverse diameter. This type appears most pure in the modern Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, and to some extent the Dutch, in the inhabitants of those parts of Great Britain that are most densely settled by Saxon and Scandinavian emigrants; and in the people of certain parts of North Germany."
Rydberg is simply summarizing the scholarly debate, as it existed in his day. He agrees with the contemporary scholarly consensus that Europe was the probable home of the earliest Indo-European tribes in Europe, if not the origin of the tribes themselves. The purpose in establishing this fact, was to demonstrate that the Germanic mythology was older than Christian and Latin sources, and therefore did not develop from them. Scholars of his day, such as Sophus Bugge, still argued from the point of Biblical history. Rydberg did not. He took a modern approach to the subject. The Indo-European homeland debate still rages on today undecided. The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (1997) describes the matter this way:
"The consensus of an Asian homeland, although still widely accepted throughout the 19th century, received its first attack in 1851 when the English philologist Roger Latham, argued on linguistic grounds that an Asian homeland was contrary to linguistic evidence. ...Although Latham's arguments were not widely accepted, they were augmented during the 1870s and 1880s by a variety of scholars who confused language and race and argued that the earliest Indo-Europeans, now frequently designated with the Indo-Iranian ethnonym 'Aryans', must have derived from the lightest pigmented Caucasian physical type. Once the concept of the tall, long-headed, blue-eyed blond Aryan was accepted, the homeland was shifted to southern Scandinavia or northern Germany and a new consensus emerged."  
More recently, Benjamin Fortson has summarized the same situation in his book Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction (2009).
"The term 'Aryan' has had a rather complicated history. The Sanskrit word ârya-, the source of the English word, was the self-designation of the Vedic Indic people and has a cognate in the Iranian *arya-, where it is also a self-designation. Both the Indic and the Iranian terms descend from a form *ârya- that was used by the Indo-Iranian tribes to refer to themselves. (It is also the source of the country-name Iran, from a phrase meaning 'kingdom of the Aryans'.) In the west, various translations of Vedic ârya- have been used, most commonly 'nobleman', although we do not really know what its original meaning was. During the nineteenth century, it was proposed that this had been not only the Indo-Iranian tribal self-designation but also the self-designation of the Proto-Indo-Europeans themselves (This theory has since been abandoned). "Aryan" then came to be used in scholarship to refer to Indo-European. Some decades later it was further purposed that the PIE homeland had been located in northern Europe (also a theory no longer accepted), leading to speculations that the Proto-Indo-Europeans had been of a Nordic racial type. In this way 'Aryan' developed yet another, purely racialist meaning, probably the most familiar one today. In Indo-European studies, 'Aryan' (and Arisch in German) and 'Indo-Aryan' have been frequently used in their older senses — 'Aryan' to refer to Indo-Iranian (less commonly Indo-European) and 'Indo-Aryan' to refer to Indic."
Woefully ignorant of this, the author of the cult-site speculates:

"Though the terms 'Indo-Germanic' and 'Indo-European' were commonly employed by scholars of his day, Rydberg expressly rejected this terminology in favor of the more racially charged 'Aryan' to describe his fictive ancient race of superior beings."

There is a good reason that modern dictionaries still list 'Indo-European' as the primary definition of the word Aryan. A survey of 19th century scholarly works on this topic accessible via Google-books demonstrates that the word 'Aryan' was in fact the most common term for what we know today as Indo-European studies, during this period. Some of the many examples include:
1870 George William Cox The Mythology of the Aryan Nations

1871 T. Childe Barker Aryan Civilization: Its Religious Origin and Its Progress

1875 Augustus Henry Keane Handbook of the History of the English Language

1879 Domenico Pezzi Aryan Philology According to the Most Recent Researches

1887 Lorenzo Burge Pre-Glacial Man and the Aryan Race

1888 Charles Morris The Aryan Race: Its Origins and Accomplishments

1889 Gerald Henry Rendall The Cradle of the Aryans

1890 Sarah Elizabeth Titcomb Aryan  Sun-Myths the Origin of Religions

1897 Rudolf von Jhering, Adolphus Drucker The Evolution of the Aryan

1907 Joseph P. Widney The Race Life of the Aryan Peoples

And far from being "racially charged", Rydberg himself rejects the racial arguments attached to the Indo-European theories by some scholars. He considered both Aryans and Jews as part of the White Race. His writings reflect this. To Rydberg, race was unimportant. As linguistic studies had proven the existence of the proto-Indo-European language, Rydberg believed that studies of the earliest religious documents written in Indo-European languages would provide evidence of their ancient beliefs. Today, we call that branch of linguistics, comparative mythology. Today, it's a thriving field. Rydberg is recognized as a pioneer.


2007  Farīdūn Vahman, Claus V. Pedersen

Religious Texts in Iranian Languages: Symposium held in Copenhagen, May 2002‎

"Priority for Sweden should be given to the writer and poet Viktor Rydberg who,  although an amateur, was a forerunner of comparative Indo-European studies, see Rydberg 1886- 1889."

 Rydberg's interest was in the Indo-European religion, not the Indo-European ethic type. He once mentions the published scientific evidence for a specific Indo-European racial type in a review of contemporary scholarship that serves as an introduction for his mythological investigations, and never discusses it again. Following his concise definition of the term Aryan in chapter 2 of Undersökningar i Germanisk Mytologi, Volume 1, Rydberg, fully conscious of the on-going debate about racial type within Indo-European studies, writes:

"It may not be necessary to remind the reader that the question of the original home of the ancient Aryan tongue is not the same as the question in regard to the cradle of the Caucasian race. The white race may have existed, and may have been spread over a considerable portion of the old world, before a language possessing the peculiarities belonging to the Aryan had appeared; and it is a known fact that southern portions of Europe, such as the Greek and Italian peninsulas, were inhabited by white people before they were conquered by Aryans."
Rydberg consistently defines the Aryans as one branch of the  'white race' (hvita ras), in which he also includes Semites (Jews) and Egyptians (Arab Muslims). o:p>In the second volume of Undersökningar i Germanisk Mytologi, p. 150 he states:
"The concept of doppelgangers already existed in the Proto-Aryan era. It probably even existed before then, since it is common to many branches of the white human stem: one rediscovers it among the Semites and the Egyptians. Thus, this concept is either a common inheritance of the white race from a primeval community, or it had already arisen independently in a far remote prehistoric period among each and every one of them."
From his own writings, it's clear that Rydberg did not view the Aryan 'race' as superior to any other, but considered all races to be an equal part of the human family. In Undersökningar i Germanisk Mytologi, Volume II: 'Overview of the Mythic Epic', he writes:
"The material which animism and polydemonism create and which arises through the impression that the phenomena of nature make on mankind cannot remain in a scattered and chaotic condition forever. To the degree of the development of mental life, the power of order enters and works in this chaos to unite these elements into a coherent picture in time and space. As such, this natural process cannot be limited solely to the Aryan race. Humanity in its entirety has been and is its area of activity, so long as the people progress out of the animistic and polydemonic period. The Semites as well as the Aryans have their great mythic epic, whose scattered links Oriental research is now on the verge of uniting. Already in the period before the pyramids, the Egyptians, like the Semites and Aryans, had their mythic epic in a largely finished form as Maspero shows. It does not require a developed civilization for the epic-building instinct to appear: the need for order and coherence in the world of ideas asserts itself in all of polytheism's earliest phases. Among the Finns and the Bulgarians, as well as among the Egyptians, the Semites, and the Aryans, the inherited sagas have been linked together into an epic chain."
Introduction to Fädernas Gudasaga, 'Our Fathers' Godsaga', 1877:

"Wherever a people is in possession of sacred stories passed down from generation to generation, these stories begin to unite by degrees and, so to speak, by themselves, because the imagination and the world of ideas require order and coherence. It does not demand a high level of culture for this to take place. Among the Finns and the Bulgarians, as well as among the Aryans [Indo-Europeans], the inherited sagas became united into an epic chain. It does not demand a developed culture, in the modern meaning of this word, for religious and moral concepts of surprising sublimity to appear in a people's mythic sagas alongside concepts that may seem childish to us. It is an ethnological experience among different races of people, among Mincopies and Indians, as well as among Rigveda-Aryans and Teutons, and we should not be surprised in the least at the latter, whose heathen culture was a poetic one. It goes without saying that the highest and the best concepts that the Teutons could conceive, especially the religious ones, would find expression in their poetic art. It scarcely needs to be added that a people's religion, when it is not obsolete, rises above many of the religion's devotees, because it reflects the ideal side of the people's lives."
Despite these clear statements to the contrary the same cult-site claims:

"Rydberg’s modern-day apologists are simply engaging in historical revisionism when they claim he was ignorant of the racial implications of his choice of terminology."

Far from being ignorant of the racial implications of the Indo-European theory, Rydberg openly denounced them, recognizing in them the misapplication of Charles Darwin's recently proposed theories concerning evolution and the origin of species. Darwin's theory of the 'Survival of the Fittest' suggested to some that man had rapidly evolved in the historic era, producing 'superior' human specimens, determined by various physical and cultural markers.  As the most scientifically and culturally advanced people in the world (in their opinion), some Europeans thought themselves to be those superior specimens.  Rydberg was not one of them; he flatly rejects that conclusion. He writes, in Undersökningar i Germanisk Mytologi, Volume II: 'Overview of the Mythic Epic':

 "I have purposely avoided any kind of appraisal of the value of the Germanic epic-myth, which would place it either high or low. Everyone is free to find deep ideas in it or to place it on a level with a children's story. For my own part, all I can say about it is that the epic itself indicates that the race that created it is a spiritually gifted part of the human family, which does not prevent their creation from bearing many marks that its creation took place in their spiritual childhood.  But the talented child will also have orderliness in his concepts; thus, every children's tale is a small epic. The inheritance of the Germanic tribes from Aryan antiquity is also a great children's story. That this tale is a world-epic as well, which tells of the origin of the world, the end of the world, and naturally of the legendary progress of events between them, admittedly gives it a majestic character; but I have known children, who have already begun to ponder Creation and the world in the nursery. People of all races and from much more primitive cultural viewpoints have asked themselves the same questions and sought to answer them. I point this out, because since the Darwinistic theory began to assert itself, one unscientific attempt after another has been made to apply it to the human race's historic era and show an enormous expanse of physiological and psychological results of evolution within this relatively short space of time."
Without a shred of supporting evidence, the cult-site then takes this giant-leap: 

"Rydberg's obsession with the cultural superiority of a fictive 'Aryan race,' which was the underlying motif of his mythological fantasies, was picked up and developed by Lundborg, Wagner, Himmler, and Hitler."

The evidence simply does not support such a conclusion. Wagner, Himmler, and Hitler never mention Rydberg or his theories in their written works and Undersökningar i Germanisk Mytologi was never translated into German. There is no evidence that any of them knew his work at all. Lundborg, on the other hand, was forced to edit two lines from one of Rydberg's most famous poems to make them appear to conform to his own view. Having died a few decades before Lundborg did this, Rydberg could not refute them.  There is no verifiable connection between the two men or their ideologies, and the cult-site offers none. As a liberal humanist and advocate for children's and minority rights, Viktor Rydberg, no doubt, would have been horrified to learn his work would be misused in this fashion long after his death. 
To  illustrate the willful deception of the cult-site, the author includes the title of Rydberg last essay, published posthumously: Hvita Rasens Framtid or "The Future of the White Race" as if to prove their preconceived conclusion. The essay was never translated into English, so the author of the cult-site could not have read it.  By the title alone, one might be left with the impression that it is a racist tract. No doubt that was the cult's intent, since they go on to string together this and other snippets in a vain effort to support its claim that Rydberg's racial attitudes, not only foreshadowed but stoked the atrocities of the eugenics movement in the 1930s and Hitler's Third Reich in the 1940s.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The essay in question, The Future of the White Race, is a actually warning to Europeans to clean up their act. It decries the unhealthy living conditions and low birthrate in Europe's largest cities at the dawn of the Industrial Age.  It warns of the influx of healthier, morally superior, and more prolific peoples into Europe if they don't.  In the essay, Rydberg advocates a return to clean, moral living. In life, he advocated children's rights, the rights of religious minorities including Jews, Muslims and Buddhists; and the rights of workers to fair wages and safe working conditions. He saw modern factories as slave mills. If anything, Rydberg's anti-capitalist ideology foreshadowed the environmentalist movement! He was a classical liberal, a radical in his day.

2005 Gunnar Broberg, Nils Roll-Hansen

Eugenics and the Welfare State, p. 79-80


"The foremost cultural figure in Sweden at the end of the nineteenth century was Viktor Rydberg, writer and cultural historian. As it happened, his last publication a long introduction to an 1895 Swedish edition of Benjamin Kidd's Social Evolution entitled "The Downfall of the White Race" [Den Hvita Rasens Framtid]. Dissenting from Kidd's Darwinian optimism, Rydberg European culture being overthrown by the Chinese. He predicted that the downfall would come in the very near future and would come about because of moral degeneration, demographic conditions and the ensuing defects in the population. Rydberg's belief  in a swift, negative transformation has clear Lamarckian features, but the cure that he suggests is not initially eugenic or biological; instead he advocates moral rearmament. With the pathos of a prophet he really sees no other possible outcome than his own death and that of his own race."
Speaking of this same essay, Swedish scholar Anna Lindén writes in: 
 En europeisk apokalyps? Om Viktor Rydbergs 'Den hvita rasens framtid'
[A European Apokalypse? About Viktor Rydberg's 'The Future of the White Race']
Centrum för Europaforskning, 2005
"Rydberg’s conception of race is not equivalent with the modern term; the meaning he gives the word is in fact more cultural than biological. When he speaks of 'the white race' Rydberg does not simply mean (Christian) Europeans, he includes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists living in Asia, America and to some extent Africa in this expression; but what he actually criticizes is a phenomenon within Europe, not on other continents. That is the reason why I am treating his essay as an example of internal European cultural criticism. Rydberg’s essay was originally published as introduction to the Swedish translation of Benjamin Kidd’s international bestseller Social evolution (1894), but it was written independently of Kidd’s book. The Swedish author is, unlike Kidd, not a Social Darwinist and far more pessimistic about the European future than the Irishman. A common feature is however that both of them view religion and ethics as most important for the survival of a 'race'.
"Evolution is rightly said to be one of the most typical theme in 19th century Europe, but parallel to this optimism in the second half of the century there was a widespread, nearly apocalyptic, anxiety for the degeneration of the population caused by exceptional fast development. Rydberg shared this anxiety: he was very critical to industrialism and unhealthy milieu of the big European metropolises, like London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Petersburg and Moscow. According to what he says in his essay, death rates were much higher in these towns than on the countryside, the surviving people living in the former also suffered from bad health. In combination with low nativity this was a dangerous threat to Europe, especially compared to the steadily growing, physically as well as morally sound population in China and the Far East. If nothing is done about it, Rydberg fears that East Asia in the future will conquer Europe in “the struggle for existence”. The biggest threat to the western world, according to Rydberg, is however the atomistic, egoistic individualism among Europeans themselves, especially among some of the industrialists and businessmen, only interested in money. This lack of morals will in the long run ruin the ecological system as well as the poor people on our continent."

 In 2008, scholar Jan Sjåvik in Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater

, writes:

"Rydberg's poems from the 1880s are distinguished by their concern for social justice and his abhorrence of narrow-mindedness and bigotry of all kinds."
MYTH: Rydberg was an Anti-Semite whose racist ideology
fueled the Nazi movement 40 years later.
 The claim is absurd on the face of it, primarily because Rydberg's mythological studies were never translated into German. There is no evidence that the Nazis even knew of his work. If so, they never mentioned it. More telling, those who accuse Rydberg of being racist, do not cite passages of his work, because doing so would undermine their argument. The sole scholarly source for this claim is a book on Aryan ideology, which  relegates its discussion of Rydberg to a footnote concerning the literary folk-figure of the Wandering Jew. Rydberg is named as a poet who used the Wandering Jew Ahasverus in his work. But the author doesn't accuse Rydberg of racism. His evaluation of the poem is complex, thus best read in its entirety. It reads:
2006 Stefan Arvidsson, Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science, p. 114: 
       "About the anti-Semitic view of the Jew as nomad, see Mosse 1997, xix 49f., 60-69, 115f., 121, 128-36, and Poliakov, 1974, 274, 284-90. In Sweden, Prometheus was contrasted to the Jew Ahasverus by the country's foremost representative of the Aryanist progressives, Victor Rydberg. In Rydberg's poem “Prometheus och Ahasverus” (Rydberg 1889), the Titan Prometheus is presented as an unconquerable freedom fighter chained in the Caucasus, is tortured by a vulture. This is the punishment for having stolen the gods' fire and given it to the enslaved people, which made them aware of their divine origin." If Prometheus begs the god of Olympus, Zeus ("the god of time; who for the Platonist Rydberg personifies egotism, hedonism, and materialism), for forgiveness for his transgression, he will turn into the Antichrist. Ahasverus, son of a rabbi and shoemaker, tries to convince him to do this, since it breaks his own curse. Rydberg presents Ahasverus as a cynic who has made himself subject to worldly power and who hates Jesus, the god of eternity, since the latter fights to create a better world for the oppressed. At the end of the poem, Jesus appears to Prometheus and says that his suffering will cease on the day when he learns to love fully and completely. However, Prometheus's pathos of justice gives rise to a wrath that makes this liberation impossible. In Undersökningar i germanisk mytologi, which should be mentioned somewhere in this book since it had quite a great impact, Rydberg criticizes the nature mythologists ("weather mythologists"). Unlike them, he believes that Indo-European mythology can be traced back to a great epic-"the mythological epopee of the ancient Aryan"-which was about the creation and destruction of the world and of religion and where the gods were personalities 'in whose existence one believed' (Rydberg 1886-89, 2:174f.. 431). See also Siegert 1941-42, 75. p. 103-4.  
If anything, Arvidsson suggests that Rydberg is guilty of perpetuating racial stereotypes by using this stock character in a philosophical-poetic allegory. His statement that Rydberg's work "had quite a great impact" contradicts the cult-site's primary thesis that Rydberg's work had little or no influence at all. It was used as a textbook in Swedish schools for some time thereafter.

1990 Eric J. Sharpe
Nathan Söderblom and the Study of Religion 

   "By the generation of students to which Söderblom belonged, Rydberg was read assiduously and regarded with great reverence; one of his most celebrated books did much to help provide Söderblom with the subject on which this doctoral dissertation was eventually to be written."
 Moreover, Arvidsson's assessment of the work is not common among scholars. The figure of the Wandering Jew, doomed to walk the earth forever,  is a well-known staple of Romantic literature.

1954 Werner Paul Friederich in Outline of Comparative Literature, remarks:

"…Also Scandinavians seem to have had a marked interest in this tale, as indicated by the cycle of poems called Ahasverus by the Dane Ingemann (1833) and  'Prometheus and Ahasverus' by the Swede Rydberg around 1890. The weird and tragic medieval tale of Ahasverus damned to eternal restlessness for having abused Christ on His way to Golgatha could well compare with other homeless wanderers of the Romantic Age such as Faust, Don Juan or the Flying Dutchman."  

As a romantic author, Rydberg composed poems concerning not only the Wandering Jew,  but The Flying Dutchman too, and made an acclaimed Swedish translation of Goethe's Faust.  The poem in question  'Prometheus and Ahasverus'  has long been understood as political satire, commenting on international politics of the day. Rydberg was a journalist, used to commenting on local and world affairs in his work. [Some if his more biting political-satire has been collected in a recent volume titled "Den Politisk-Satiriske Viktor Rydberg" by Birthe Sjöberg 2009.] As early as 1927, Rydberg's poem “Prometheus och Ahasverus” has been explained in this manner:
1927 Eino Railo, in Haunted Castle: A Study of the Elements of English Romanticism says:
        "In a poem Prometheus och Ahasverus the Swedish poet Viktor Rydberg conceives the Wandering Jew as the representative of power, egoism and pitiless Imperialism with Prometheus as an emblem of justice, humanity and liberalism. Anton Blanck (Handelstidningen Christmas Number 1924, article “Ahasverus—Disreali”) has shown that Rydberg depicts the struggle between Gladstone and Disraeli as to whether England was to obey the dictates of humanity and in spite of all selfish considerations of profit declare war as the ally of Russia on Turkey. The views of Disraeli prevailed. Features from his life and opinions of Disraeli are apparent in the picture of Ahasverus."

Sweden's position, politically and geographically between England and Russia, made the matter a concern to all Swedes. Sweden had alliances and interests with both of these world powers.

Throughout his career, Rydberg stood firm against religious orthodoxy, especially Christian orthodoxy. His popular Biblical criticism and social commentary in his novels and his work as a journalist is widely credited as loosening the hold of the Lutheran Church on Swedish government and society. As a liberal humanist and social reformer, Rydberg advocated minority rights successfully during his term in parliament, giving the keynote address when legislation was passed allowing all Swedes the right of citizenship regardless of creed, color or religion. Several Jewish organizations wrote letters thanking him.  
Rydberg was no anti-Semite. Nor were his friends and colleagues. In fact, his long-time publisher Albert Bonnier was Jewish.

2004  Walter Rüegg

Universities in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (1800-1945)‎,  p. 126


“The University of Stockholm, founded in 1878, was as different as possible to the Uppsala-Lund state university tradition, since in the beginning there was no examination, the professors represented only the natural sciences with one exception, and the famous writer and liberal journalist Viktor Rydberg (1828-95) was given a chair in History of Culture (later History and Theory of Art) The institution did not like being called a university, but was named Stockholms Högskola. From 1904, the Högskola gained the right to set examinations, and with a new faculty of law and social sciences and semi-municipal status from 1907, became de facto a university, finally attaining the status of a state university in 1960, at which time is name changed to Stockholms Universitet. The number of professors of Jewish origin was remarkably higher in Stockholms Hogskola than in the state universities, and one of the world’s first female professors taught there.”

So what exactly did Rydberg mean by these words?

"To Aryan blood, the  purest and the oldest,
to Swedish was I wed by a friendly norn."
To discover the meaning, we must consider the words in their original context. Here's the full poem in Swedish. A partial translation of the poem by Ernst W. Nelson appeared in the journal Poet Lore, Volume XXVII, Number III, Summer 1916.  The remainder of the poem, containing the lines in question, appeared in English translation a decade after Rydberg's death in a series of articles titled "The Fundamental Characteristics of the Swedish People" published in 1905 in The Theosophical Review, Vol. 35, p. 393.



Du underbara
dunkla klarhet,
du himmelska blå,
som leende
sänker dig till mig
och lyfter min själ
till svala rymder
och helig stillhet!
Du ljuva Nirvana,
där, badad i renhet,
jag andar mig ut
i oändligheten,
men, samlad igen
i en återandning,
döpt i trånad
sjunker tillbaka
i jordens stoft!

* * *



Unfathomed clearness,
O Heavenly azure,

That, smiling,
Descends to me,
Lifting my soul
To cool spaces
And holy serenity!
Enchanting Nirvana,
Where, bathed in purity,
I exhale myself
In the infinite,
And reborn
In the next breath,
Baptized in longing,
Sink back
To the dust of Earth.

Jag känner mig din frände, himlaborna!
Till ariskt blod, det renaste och äldsta,
till svensk jag vigdes av en vänlig norna.
Mitt folk har till symbol av sina anor
fått himmelsblått i väna barnaögon
och himmelsblått i ärekrönta fanor.

I know myself your kinsman, sons of heaven
With Aryan blood, the purest and the oldest,
Ordained a Swede, by some kind Norna given.

My race, for symbol of their fathers' story,
Have heaven's blue in the fair eyes of childhood,
And heaven's blue in standards crowned with glory.

 The author of "The Fundamental Characteristics of the Swedish People" was Oswald Kuylenstierna, a fellow Swede, understood Rydberg's words in this manner:
"With these words, among the proudest and most beautiful ever penned by Swedish hand, has Viktor Rydberg—he, who during the latter half of last century has been, of all others, the one to point our people to the road that leads to the Jordan of the ideal—told us, what we ought never to forget: that every race, in its desert wanderings, has its own road to travel; that the ideal striving must also be the national striving; ...No parting words of more deep and significant meaning have ever been uttered to the people of Sweden by any seer. For we had half forgotten that a people, like an individual, must learn to listen to the inward voices, if it is ever to reach that lofty goal which for the nation, as well as for the individual, glitters on far-off golden pinnacles.
The inward cohesion of a nation, the significance of blood, lineage, and mutual ideals, has been long enough relegated to the category of those truths which the strife of the hour, and the material hubbub of the day, have caused us to forget. It is time that we should listen to the words of the seer, that we should seek to make the truths he has taught us bear fruit. For Viktor Rydberg is a seer, a prophet, an educator, for his people; he is the Armourer who has forged for us weapons against materialism, the Bard who has for us seen heavenly visions. We are still too near him to be able rightly to appreciate him; the visual angle is still too great. But when comes that day in which we are able to survey the mighty work he has wrought, in which we shall fully comprehend the war he waged, and the victories he won, then it will be clear to us all that he was, in veriest truth, a real educator."
As written, the final lines of the poem are only applicable to Swedes, not to 'Aryans' in general. Only they are the "oldest and the purest" of the "Aryan blood".  The poet addresses the sky, poetically calling himself its "kinsman." As evidence of this, he cites the blue eyes of Swedish children and the blue color of the Swedish flag. At the time the poem was written, some debate raged over the design of the Norwegian and the Swedish flags. As always, Rydberg's mind was on the political pulse of the people.
Clearly, Rydberg is not speaking of the Aryan race in general but specifically of the Swedes, one branch of the Aryan or Indo-European people. Along with several prominent scholars of his day, Rydberg accepted a Scandinavian homeland for the "European Aryans", the ancestors of the later inhabitants of northern and central Europe. He believed that they migrated southward from the Scandinavian peninsula, based on the testimony of Germanic historical texts such as Jordanes' Deeds and Origins of the Goths, and archaeological evidence provided by the Corded Ware culture, as well as scientific data supporting a continuous inhabitation of the Scandinavian peninsula by the same physical type common in Sweden in the late 19th century back to Neolithic times. This was supported by data gathered by anthropologists such as hair color distribution, and other physical traits like height and skull size, provided by anthropologists of the time. These were considered legitimate scientific techniques, in the years before criminologists took fingerprints, and decades before anthropologists had the ability to analyze DNA.
Since Rydberg considered southern Sweden to be the original homeland of the Indo-Europeans, he naturally considered the Swedes the 'oldest' and 'purist' of them all, not having left their native land since before the Neolithic era. Extending the poetic conceit, he finds 'evidence' of this in the blue eyes of Swedish youth and the blue folds of the Swedish flag. The poem is no more than a heart-felt patriotic flourish by one of Sweden's most beloved lyricists.
 For a more detailed analysis of the poem 'Heaven's Blue,' in its true historical context please refer to:

Örjan Lindberger's "Himlens blå" published in Veritas 5:2 (1991)
After vainly trying to make their case that Rydberg's use of the word Aryan was racially motivated, by distorting or falsifying the evidence, the internet cult-site then boldly proclaims:
"Anderson and Rydberg jointly dedicated the translated volume to Oscar II, then king of both Sweden and Norway, as the 'Ruler of the Aryan People of the Scandinavian Peninsula.' The monarch’s reaction to this 'honor' is not recorded. Presumably he considered himself the ruler of
all the citizens of his realm, Aryans and non-Aryans alike. (Indeed, since Jews had been granted full civil rights in Sweden only two decades earlier, UGM’s dedication would have carried an unmistakable implication by exclusion.)"

This speculation is fanciful to say the least. The matter of the book's dedication is, in fact, well recorded. Letters exchanged between Viktor Rydberg and his good friend Danish-American Ambassador Rasmus Anderson illuminate the dedication of the English translation of Rydberg's text. These were published as Viktor Rydbergs Brev ('Viktor Rydberg's Letters') 1923-1926 by Emil Haverman in three volumes.  they make it clear that Rydberg had no intention of excluding any Swedish citizen, including religious minorities, in his dedication. In line with his patriotism, Rydberg suggested dedicating the book to:
  "His Majesty Oscar II, Ruler of the Scandinavian Peninsula’s glorious [ärorvka] people, the promoter of sciences, the crown poet, this work is devoted with deepest reverence."
The king's reaction was also recorded. Rydberg had met with him personally, and the Swedish monarch was delighted by Rydberg's suggested dedication. In the same series of letters, Rydberg wrote to Rasmus Anderson on January 11th, 1888, stating:
"During a congratulatory call on King Oscar, he received in an extremely obliging manner my wish, and yours, that your translation of 'Undersökningar i Germanisk Mythologi' be dedicated to him and during the course of conversation seemed to have good knowledge of its main contents."
In a subsequent letter, when asked if he wished to proofread a draft of the English edition before its publication, Rydberg responds that he trusted Anderson's judgment and saw no need to further delay its publication by approving the manuscript. When the book saw print the following year, it was instead dedicated to "The Ruler of the Aryan People of the Scandinavian Peninsula” as the cult-site notes. The published letters, however, make it plain that Andersen himself altered this dedication, causing it to read the "Aryan people" [Ariska folk] where Rydberg had written  "glorious people", ["ärorvka folk."]. The wording was Anderson's, and Rydberg did not approve the English draft.
The letters published by Emil Haverman incidentally also disprove another far more petty accusation lodged against Viktor Rydberg by the same cult-site, which stoops to say:

"Upon receiving his honorary diploma Rydberg began designating himself 'Dr. Viktor Rydberg, Ph.D.'  This had the understandable effect of misleading some of his contemporaries outside Sweden, who mistakenly assumed 'Dr. Rydberg' must be an actual scholar with an advanced degree."

This too is easy to disprove by simply doing some basic research. Numerous examples of Rydberg's signature exist. Every letter in the volume of Rydberg's collected missives, covering the period after Rydberg received this academic honor,  is signed simply "Viktor Rydberg." Both volumes of
Undersökningar i Germanisk Mytologi are signed the same. In fact, the only place Rydberg's name is printed with such titles attached to it is in Anderson's translation of the first volume of Rydberg's mythological studies, published as Teutonic Mythology, first in 1889 and again in 1906, as well as in subsequent English-language reviews of the work. The choice to do so was obviously Rasmus Anderson's, not Rydberg's. Anderson himself was concerned with such things, as is evident from his own life story and subsequent scholarship on him.

In contrast, Rydberg did not use his honorary titles, and none of his published works bear them. This is not difficult to demonstrate — a quick search on Googlebooks yields several examples.  It's really that easy. Thus there is no excuse for the kind of shoddy research, which unfortunately is characteristic of the pagan website in question, unless of course, the intent is to deceive the reader!
The Mythological Works The Viktor Rydberg Society
Over a Century of Scholarship Dispelling Disinformation
For Biographical Information, Please Visit: Viktor's Site by Tore Lund