Like all great films, Midsommar teaches
you something new each time you watch it.
On my second watch of the film, I noticed
a poster Dani sleeps beneath in her apartment
after the death of her family but before she
goes to Sweden.
Like the murals of the Hårga, which we see when
the visitors enter the housing for younger people,
this picture is perfectly prescient of the plot to come.
A little blonde girl with a crown (much like Dani)
kisses a bear on the nose (much like Christian in
his final form). Of course this meant nothing to
me the first time I watched the film because I knew
nothing about Dani or Christian’s future. On the
second viewing, I was like what? This was there all
along? And I googled.
It turns out the artist is Swedish; his name is John
Bauer. Bauer was a beautiful illustrator of fairytales.
Besides Poor Little Bear, Bauer famously painted a girl
crowned with fern and candles. It’s called Lucia.
It’s influence on Midsommar is evident.
Like many of the characters in Midsommar,
John Bauer had an early appointment with death.
At the young age of 36, he was traveling
with his toddler son and wife and made a fateful
decision. It is as fateful as the decision Christian,
Josh and Mark make in going to
Sweden. Hearing of a terrible train wreck,
Bauer makes a last minute change in his
accommodations to avoid such a fate.
His family travels by boat instead — a boat
that sinks killing his family.
I found so much parallel meaning in not only
the art of Bauer but his life and death as well.
Bauer, like all of us, feared death and did his best
to avoid it. He failed, as we all will fail ultimately.
We will look death in the eye like the bear we
always knew was waiting for us in the guise
of disease, a murderer, mental illness, whatever
I wrote Poor Little Bear after the painting of its
name by Bauer and its influence on Midsommar.
We may never go to Sweden or experience the
film’s brutal rituals regarding death. But we
have our own rituals and superstitions and dance
with death that convey the fatalism and despair
this experience imbues in all of us. We all
bow before the poor little bear, that is
death, in our own ways, before it ultimately
devours us, too.
Poor Little Bear
after Midsommar and Poor Little Bear
a print above Dani’s bed by the Swedish
painter John Bauer
Before familicide, Midsommar, death
kept close at hand as Ativan, you
repose, lips primrose, exhaling baby’s breath
below bear, princess a Swedish artist drew.
The beast of death his own eyes peered young
into, at 36, he picks a boat trip,
abstains from the dangers of the train. Lungs
of lake water slay him, his wife and son, flipped
by excessive weight of freight, 1918.
Did you know this when you looked at them?
The kiss of death proffered by a tiny queen
upon the muzzle of a death machine seems
as much nightmare as a fairytale —
as is a life in which none of us prevails.
Feeling inspired? Click here for our Submission Guidelines for A Drunken Midsommar Anthology!
Kristin Garth is the author of seventeen books of poetry including Flutter Southern Gothic Fever Dream, The Meadow and Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir. She is the Dollhouse Architect of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and has a weekly sonnet podcast called Kristin Whispers Sonnets. Visit her site Kristingarth.com and talk to her on Twitter @lolaandjolie