It all started with Jonas Jonasson’s book The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden, a wild rollercoaster of a story which, in true Jonasson style, mixes up fictional characters with real historical and contemporary political figures, including, as the title implies, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, a chap who, until a few days ago I hadn’t ever heard of. If you had asked me, I would have guessed that Sweden’s head of state was a woman, although I should have known better. Sweden’s monarch is always named Gustaf.
In Jonasson’s story, the King finds himself in an entirely unexpected situation. He deports himself in a rather ‘unroyal’ way, being more concerned with feeding his appetite, fishing and similar down to earth activities rather than with matters of state: a funny and lovable character. Curiosity got the better of me as I realised that King Carl Gustaf is a real person, so I looked him up.
His picture on Wikipedia is so different from how I imagined he would be. As regal and dignified as ever a monarch will pose for a picture. I was rather disappointed that the character in The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden was light years away from the real person.
That was yesterday. Today, I was watching on TV the men’s biathlon relay taking place at the Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang, South Korea. At the last lap, Sweden and Norway were head to head for the gold medal. The winner would be decided at the final shoot-out. It was very exciting. The camera zoomed in on the crowd, to pick out… none other than the King himself! Even though the shot lasted less than a second, I immediately recognised the unlikely hero of the very book I’m reading now, in real life, wearing a sports anorak and jumping up and down in the midst of the spectators cheering for the Swedes, back in character as the affable fellow I’m reading about in Jonasson’s story. At that point, I had to start rooting for Sweden myself and in fact they went on to win gold, to their own, their nation’s and their royals’ delight.
So, thanks to Jonas Jonasson (also a Swede) and to the Swedish men’s biathlon team, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has earned a new fan. Me.