Into the Mystic by Susanne Jansson
Susanne Jansson explores the mysterious atmosphere of the mire and explains why it was the perfect setting for her novel The Forbidden Place
Posted on October 5, 2018 in Guest Author, Uncategorized
Tags: Mystery and Suspense, Nordic Noir
It wasn’t me, as a writer, going to the mire to do research. It was me, as a being, letting the mire in.
The atmosphere of a location has always been intriguing to me. Sensing the essence of a place, or the stories that once unfolded there. When I decided to write about the hidden secrets of a mysterious mire, I made the place up. I called it Mossmarken, placed it in the woods of my Swedish childhood, and weaved a story around the historical phenomena of bog bodies – humans sacrificed to the gods during the Iron ages, buried and preserved through time due to the unique biology of the wetlands.
Occasionally during the writing process, I’d visit a mire. I’d just sit there, or try to walk (it usually wasn’t easy), listen to the few sounds. A distant cracking. An owl flying by. I went there in the daytime, at dusk and dawn, until darkness closed around it.
I fell in love with the landscape, I really did. Its vastness, stillness and timelessness opened me up more and more every time. It wasn’t me, as a writer, going there to do research. It was me, as a being, letting the mire in. And it wasn’t until the book was finished that I realized how much it had permeated the story, become the underlying theme.
The people around Mossmarken have long lived with the folklore that says that those buried in the bogs are not only physically preserved, but won’t come to rest. They even hunger for the living, some say. An iron age bog body was found there some fifteen years ago, and a teenage girl disappeared soon after. And when a young biologist, Nathalie, comes to write her doctoral thesis on wetlands, we soon realize her actual purpose is a lot more personal than scientific.
Then the bodies start to appear. And they are not from ancient times.
The landscape of the mire is somehow evasive and hard to define, surging on the border between land and water. And so as the mire itself seemed to take up more and more space in the story, The Forbidden Place largely came to be a story about borderlines. Between land and water, life and death, myth and reality, science and spirituality. Between the innocence of childhood and the sometimes painful awakening into the adult world.
So, what is the forbidden place then? The mire, obviously, where it could be very dangerous to dwell. It might also be a dark place inside you, where haunting memories are buried but preserved far too well.
And at heart the forbidden place may be a formless, ungraspable inner reality hidden by the outer, measurable world. An unknown territory where we need to travel alone, without a map, willing to leave everyone and everything behind. A space underneath, or within, or before. Before separation, before thoughts. Before large and small, black and white, good and bad. Where things neither are, or aren’t. A presence, rising from absence. A silent place where you can’t cling to anything, where you must lose yourself and your world to uncover the secret of who you essentially are.
Or rather what you essentially are.
Because maybe, just maybe, it’ll turn out to be this open void, silently watching. Vast and still like a mire at dusk.