Death Is A Bear For Us All: A Drunken Midsommar Introduction

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 

its form.  

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 and talk to her on Twitter @lolaandjolie

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