The legend of King Arthur opens with the young man being guided by Merlin to draw the sword from the stone: a feat said only to be possible for Britain’s rightful king. The legend has permeated throughout the centuries, depicted through spoken word, on film, and even in Disney cartoons — and maybe that’s why it’s so hard to discuss an 8-year-old Swedish-American girl named Saga Vanecek without eliciting images of Arthur’s destined royalty, or even Beowolf’s mythic heroics.
Because like these legendary heroes of old, young Saga Vanecek has also drawn a seemingly impossible sword from the depths of a European lake — prompting locals in the nearby town of Tånnö, Småland to dub her the “queen of Sweden.” An appointment that could be difficult, seeing as Sweden’s crown jewels were stolen earlier this year.
“I was outside in the water, throwing sticks and stones and stuff to see how far they skip, and then I found some kind of stick,” the young girl told local newspapers. “I picked it up and was going to drop it back in the water, but it had a handle, and I saw that it was a little bit pointy at the end and all rusty. I held it up in the air and I said ‘Daddy, I found a sword!’ When he saw that it bent and was rusty, he came running up and took it.”
Her father, Andy Vanecek, a Minnesota native that relocated to Sweden last year so his family could be closer to his wife’s relatives, relayed what it was like watching his daughter make the discovery in a Facebook post, in which he added the sword was found complete with its scabbard.
“She picked up the object, lifted it high above her head, and shouted as if she was Pippi Longstocking,” he said.
The sword was taken to a nearby museum, where initial estimate suggested that it was around 1,000 years old, however, subsequent expert analysis has now placed the sword’s origination at somewhere in the 5th or 6th centuries A.D., making it more like 1,500 years old and unlike any other sword discovery ever made in Scandinavia. Researchers have since returned to the lake, uncovering a brooch that is believed to be from the same ancient time period. Initial sentiments were that they had found a grave in the lake, but the prevailing theory is now that it was actually a place of sacrifice. The discoveries were made possible, they believe, by a recent drought lowering water levels.
“It’s about 85 centimetres long, and there is also preserved wood and metal around it,” explained Mikael Nordström from the museum. “We are very keen to see the conservation staff do their work and see more of the details of the sword.”
Young Saga actually made the discovery a few months ago but was asked by the museum staff and local researchers to keep it quiet until now, so they would have the opportunity to search the area for more clues before the area became the subject of international attention.
“We asked Saga [not to tell anyone about the sword] because we were afraid that if this find would go public too soon, there would be a lot of people there, perhaps destroying our possibility to find things later,” Nordström said.
Saga spent the first seven years of her life in Minneapolis (and her father is a notable Minnesota Vikings fan — something he says added to his excitement about the discovery). According to the 8-year-old, finding the sword and the subsequent attention it garnered hasn’t encouraged her to pursue a career in archeology, as she would much prefer to become a doctor, vet, or actress in Paris. She did, however, admit that she doesn’t mind learning about “old stuff.”
“I think maybe I found it harder to keep secret than she did,” her father added. “It’s cool that it will be in a museum and it might even say ‘Saga’s sword’ and it might be there for thousands of years. We didn’t put it on Facebook or anything until yesterday, and now it’s really blowing up!”
You can see the sword, and Saga explaining her experience, below: