Selma Lagerlöf’s Mårbacka in Sunne

Mårbacka: Selma Lagerlöf’s revenge

An oasis in Sunne. With memories, environments and smells that remind us of one of Sweden’s greatest authors – Selma Lagerlöf. Welcome to Mårbacka, the house that offers cultural heritage, information and activities for the whole family. Get to know the author, Nobel Prize winner, entrepreneur, politician and the farmer Selma Lagerlöf at the Mårbacka heritage site.

Lena Gynnemo, former curator at Mårbacka, talks about Selma Lagerlöf’s upbringing at Mårbacka, How Selma grew up with a father who had great plans for the place. But as their financial problems grew, the idyllic existence began to fall apart. Her father began to drink and later left. The family were unable to keep Mårbacka and in 1890 the estate was sold. At this time Selma Lagerlöf had been studying to become a teacher in Stockholm and was working at Elementarskolan in Landskrona.

“Selma was working as an elementary school teacher and was not earning very much money at the time. However, despite being poor, she made a promise. “When I become rich I will buy back Mårbacka”, she said.

Selma the entrepreneur

And she did. She succeeded in her goal when the Swedish people began to take note of Selma’s authorship and her books become successful. She also worked as a farmer and a supervisor at Mårbacka in addition to writing.

In 1909 Selma wrote a letter to the newly-qualified gardener Ruth Brandberg. Selma dreamed of establishing a nursery garden but the result was instead a market garden that sold large quantities of apples and pears in its own shop and at Sunne market. The garden at Mårbacka was restored during the 1990s by the landscape architect Anna Tandre. Even to this day you can stroll through the beautiful garden surrounded by apple trees, flowers, vegetables and spices.

At Mårbacka Selma Lagerlöf had to mobilise her mind towards innovative thinking and entrepreneurship in order to cope with the finances of the estate. She established a large apple orchard, a kitchen garden and even a spice garden. The goods that were produced were sold in the estate shop and in Sunne at the market and to the hotel. Even to this day tourists flock to Mårbacka its famous Mårbacka cake

In addition to farming, Selma also ran the company Mårbacka Havremjöl for a short period. The flour that was milled at Gårdsjö Kvarn and transported to Mårbacka for packaging was then to at NK in Stockholm and exported to the USA during the short period of the company before it was closed down.

Between 1921 and 1923 Selma Lagerlöf had the house converted to is current appearance according to drawings by the famous architect Isac Gustaf Clason. In her will Selma Lagerlöf had stipulated that Mårbacka should be preserved as a heritage site and shown to the public as it was at the time of her death.

Today the shop Mårbacka Handel offers a selection of Selma’s works, art and crafts, souvenirs, postcards and kama flour. Locally-produced and homemade pastries are served in the café, often made from the local kama flour. Today locally-produced kama flour made from roasted oats from Stöpafors Kvarn is available to buy from a number of places including grocery shops and farm shops.

Mårbacka is today shown to the public through guided tours and you can visit the exhibition located in Mårbacka Barn (Mårbackas Lada). Mårbacka offers many different activities for the whole family.                   

There are also interactive exhibitions, quiz walks, hobby rooms, obstacle courses for those who love climbing and treasure hunts for young and old. Try the delicious homemade pastries in the café or take a relaxing walk beneath the apple trees.  Coffee and kama flour dreams (skrädmjölsdrömmar) are another favourite among our guests at Mårbackas Café. The vegetable that are served are grown in Mårbacka’s own kitchen garden and the apples for the apple cider come from the estate trees.

Culture right until Christmas

Vernissages, garden fairs, school theatre, ghost shows and cultural weeks are some of the events that are organised during the course of the year. And the Christmas Fair of course. Christmas at Mårbacka is one of the most popular Christmas markets in the country where potters, weavers and craftsmen display their handmade work and the larders are well-stocked with food made according to old traditions and using natural raw ingredients.

Selma’s Mårbacka has even become a popular service set made by Rörstrand between 1993 and 2008, the Mårbacka service set (Mårbackaservisen) and is found as both fine and everyday porcelain in many homes along with the classic Mårbacka geraniums.

From books to film

Selma’s work did not only become books In the early twentieth century her stories and texts began to be made into films Twelve of Selma’s stories were filmed over a decade and she achieved an enormous breakthrough with cinema audiences.

The Nobel prize and a place in the Swedish Academy

Selma was the first Swede and the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909. She was awarded the prize primarily for the novels the Saga of Gösta Berling (Gösta Berlings saga), The Tale of a Manor (En herrgårdssägen), Jerusalem and The Treasure (Herr Arnes penningar).

In 1914 Selma was elected into the Swedish Academy where she occupied seat number 7.

A selection of Selma Lagerlöf’s work

  • Gösta Berlings Saga
  • Jerusalem, 1901-1902. Selma was inspired by both her home and a journey to the far East.
  • The Emperor of Portugalia (Kejsaren av Portugallien)
  • 1899 En herrgårdssägen
  • 1904 Herr Arnes penningar
  • 1906 Nils Holgersson’s Wonderful Journey Through Sweden (Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige).
  • 1925 The Löwensköld Ring (Löwensköldska ringen)
  • 1930 Memories of My Childhood (Ett barns memoarer)
Guided tour at Mårbacka
Photo credit: Guided tour at Mårbacka
Guided tour at Mårbacka
Summer at Mårbacka
Photo credit: Summer at Mårbacka
Summer at Mårbacka