It’s an Issue 045 author interview twofer this week! Today we’re treating you to this exclusive chat with Elin Olausson on her story “The Moor“.
LSQ: This story is dense with so many layers: spirituality, family traditions, superstition, sequestered geography, and a rich vibrant voice. How would you describe the layers in your story? Which are the most important to your story as a whole?
Elin: To me, “The Moor” is about the dreams and imagination of childhood versus the harsh reality of adult life. The river that Mei longs for symbolizes life and beauty, and she’s upset when she’s told it doesn’t exist because she desperately wants to believe in something beautiful. Mei loves her family, she’ll do anything to protect their way of life, but she has seen and experienced bad things. She clings to the stories that Grandma told her, because she needs something to believe in.
Family is another important theme in the story. Mei is a child growing up in an isolated environment—she has been taught not to trust anyone except her own kin, and to revere her ancestors. When her sister invites a stranger into their home, Mei’s whole world is shattered.
LSQ: Your story’s characters live in their own way, dedicated to their family. Their spirituality seems comparable to a wild magic. How much did you draw on folk and fairy tales to craft the basis of their beliefs?
Elin: When I wrote about their spirituality, I imagined some sort of blend between Christianity and ancient Scandinavian beliefs and traditions. Mei hides in a cairn close to the cottage when she wants to escape her sisters, since she knows they won’t get too close to it for religious reasons—the cairn is the burial site of the men of the family. Burial cairns were common during the Scandinavian Bronze Age, and the Church Rock that appears in the story was inspired by megalithic monuments. It’s called the Church Rock since they go there to worship instead of going to church—the name is older than the sisters, who have never been to a church and don’t really know what it is. In a way, the family has created its own religion, where the family itself is worshipped and mythologized.
LSQ: When the stranger comes, a man, he brings with him a bit of the modern world, one where superstitions didn’t exist. Is it the disbelief that seals his fate, or more how he treats Mei?
Elin: Mei sees the stranger as a threat to her entire life—his talk about the outside world worries her, and she hates him for getting close to her eldest sister. His disbelief and his lack of respect for the family traditions only make matters worse. Mei doesn’t know anything except her life on the Moor, and she wants it to stay that way.
LSQ: Each sister has such a distinct personality. Mei seems to be the most tied to the land, in hearing the river, and in obeying the call at the end of the story. How does each sister compliment the other?
Elin: Dorte, the eldest, is the adult who keeps things together. She’s also the one with the most realistic worldview—she loves the Moor, but she might be dreaming about other things, too.
Tyra, Mei’s other sister, is violent and unruly. She idolizes Granddad and uses his old tools and weapons, even his boots. Compared to Dorte, Tyra is chaotic and weird, but she still fits within the family because she follows the rules.
Mei, the youngest, is just a child. She understands the world through stories and dreams, a view that clashes with that of her sisters.