HEALTH CONDITIONS IN 1681 LAPLAND
AS SEEN BY JEAN-FRANÇOIS REGNARD, FRENCH PLAYWRIGHT AND
WORLD TRAVELLER IN "LE VOYAGE EN LAPONIE"
André J. Fabre Octobre 2012
A wealthy commoner and a compulsive traveller
Jean-François Regnard (1656 - 1709) was a celebrated playwright in his time but also a compassionate traveller. He was born in
There, Regnard is said to have had a love affair with a mysterious lady from
A travel to Lapland in the year 1681
Among the main places visited :
On July 20, Regnard and his friends arrive in Copenhaguen, visiting with great interest, even if they encountered some problems with the Danish language, the "Tour ronde" (Rundetårn) and the famed Tycho Brahe's celestial globe,. Regnard is invited at the french Embassy in company of two pretty ladies from Revinsleau. The next day, he is received at the
On July Ist, 1681,the party leaves Copenhaguen to get to Federiksburg (Fredensborg?) and Elseneur. They cross Öresund (with most adverse winds…) to arrive in
After Engelholm and Halmstad, they stop in Jonköping to buy a chariot (at the price of "four écus"…) to a miserable peasant "living in a very moscovite shack".
After arrival in
Le 28 Juillet, 1681: arrivée à Torneå ( "la dernière ville dans le Nord ...»).
Trois jours plus tard, le 31 Juillet Regnard et ses amis partent pour une croisière sur la rivière Torne portable à bord de petits bateaux.
Le 15 août la partie atteint Kengis visiter le fer et le cuivre des forges.
Quelques jours plus tard, le 20 août, ils sont en Svappavaara où ils rencontrent un ancien mineur de langue anglaise en provenance de
Maintenant, Regnard et ses amis veulent prolonger leur voyage vers le pôle Nord ..., mais, arrivé à Torneträsk, os réfrigérées et épuisés, ils abandonnent, laissant là une stèle commémorative, le soi-disant Metavara stèle.
Le 31 août, ils sont en Pello à se joindre à une belle partie de pêche du brochet
Le. Septembre 2, ils sont de retour à Torneå: ils y restent une semaine entière au cours de laquelle ils se réunissent plusieurs notables, y compris les "bourguemestres» et le «Bailli "de la ville et également à la" très animé "les funérailles d'un prêtre célèbre
.Back to Stockholm
September 9, the party leaves Torneå but, due to a very rough weather, their ship can just reach Ratan (near Robertfors), then Agbon (Bönan near Gävle ??) and Withseval (Withval ?).
From there they go visiting the Copperbery mines (Kopparberg, near Falun Dalecarlia) : there, Regnard gest a poetic inspiration comparing the galleries in the underground of the mine to the Inferno of Virgil. After that, they go to
Lapland a strange country as seen by Regnard
Regnard's Journal is an invaluable document on early
From the very start of the travel, Lapland's climate was a constant source of amazement for visitors coming from
Regnard was also very much impressed by
Many details are given by Regnard on animal life, especially on Nordic elks (a King's property …) and reindeers (main resource for the Lapps) but also on wolves (there is a description of a fight between Laplanders only armed with arrows and spears and a horde of wolves). Regnard had a keen interest (mainly as hunter ?) for birds : swallows (staying all winter buried in snow), fiaelripa (the "mountain bird" resembling a French "perdrix", indeed a substantial compliment) and snyeuripor (the "snow bird" using its white colour as camouflage).
Large mention is given to the "pest" of
As for the people from Lapland, Regnard gives a long description not only of their physical appearance ("frail, 3 "coudées" high with flat nose, long beards and black hair, wearing amazing dresses : a reinskin "sack" girdled with silver plates, knee boots, reinskin gloves and red bonnets topped with bird-like bobbles". Women are dressed with a "bag trimmes with a red collar ("craka") and some tin plates on the belt.").Of special interest for Regnard was to observe tools, handicraft, and equipments : canoes, sledges ("puleas") and skis ("Lapps can move at very hig speed on 2 aunes long planks spiked at their frontal extremities")
What impressed most Regnard was to find among Laplanders a true "lust for freedom" : a wandering folk with no other houses than a "wadmal" tended over four perches and pierced with a hole for chimney. But this wandering folk keeps faithfully traditions : a priest in Kangos explains (in latin) that Laps" attend the mass but keep a pagan heart". Thus, Regnard was fascinated to observe a sheman using magic, sorcery and drums to communicate with supranatural forces : "When a Lapp is facing death, a sheman comes at his bedside beating drums and playing tricks with a firm belief that the living and the departed are two halves of the same family"…
Health conditions in
Among the main items presented by Regnard : hygiene, nutrition, longevity, diseases, sexuality, alcoholism and lapp pharmacopoea
On newborn care : Lapps give to newborn infants a very special intensive care: rubbing the baby with snow until he gets short of breath, then dipping him in hot wate. Comments Regnard : "Just fair training against cold"
On children : "children less than one year of âge get a bath three times a day, older children, to Regnard's amazement, three times a week "
On adults : near every house stands a wooden shack called "Basses-touches", there are kept stones heated by a great fire. When water is thrown upon, "temperature gets so high in the shack that all attendants can take off their clothes" . Regnard notes with great surprise a "total mixity between boys and girls, mothers and sons, brothers and sisters" . Yet even more surprising, young girls are coming, armed with birch stalks, hitting everyone nearby, and, finally, the whole party rushing outside to get a swim in ice cold water". Comments from Regnard : "I should never have thought that Bothnians could follow Roman emperors in this search for luxury and pleasure"…
Salmon, pikes and sichs are on menu every day : simply delicious but why, ask Regnard, "eat in place of bread a mixture of fishbones crushed with tree bark : how can people enjoying luxury baths as Roman Emperors did, ignore all about bread ?".
About meat and dairy products : "Rein meat is highly nutritive with many choice morsels as tongue and bone marrow". Regnard was amazed to experience sausages "à la laponne" : reindeer vesical bladders filled with blood, left freezing outdoor and served sliced with fish …" . Rein milk blended with water is the favourite beverage of the Lapps and rein cheese, admits Regnard is " fat and highly nutritive but insipid and stinking"
Now about vegetables and fruits : "Lapps are especially fond of the most tender bark of pine trees. They let it dry under the sun then keep it buried underground in large baskets ". Same thing for the whitish lichen of
Finally, Regnard, to his dismail, had to taste a strange marmelade : "they pick up black berries called crokberg, and mix it crushed with… fish eggs…Regnard's sober comment : "I was near to collapse "…
Regnard has nothing but praise for the Lapp healthy way of life, "Lapps live 100 yrs or more : some lived up to 150 yrs !". "Old age disabilities are different from
As supreme argument : "you never find six children families around here"… Longevity is so high that Lapp families need not have plenty of children as in
From their unique way of life (in spite of a poor nutrition…) Lapps "live in a perfect state of health". As expressed by Molière : "No physicians, no diseases"
However, a frequent handicap among Lapps, especially aging Lapps, is eye troubles : "Their eyes naturally fragile are deteriorated by the sun glare reflected on snow and the smoke from fires burning night and day in any Lapp house"
Engagements last a very long time in order to get from the future husband as many presents as possible but what came as a shock for Regnard was to learn that in Lapland "neither dowry nor virginity are seriously discussed".
Other startling observation : "young married couple spend their wedding night in family hut", " bridegroom not only going to bed with his bride but all her relatives".
Sexual life here is exactly what can be expected from a wandering folk : "freedom for sex without any jealousy nor cheating …!". No surprise, then, that foreigners can be expected to give homage to any girl coming to them. Another privilege, no lesser, for foreigners is to share the same bed than their host…and his wife or daughters…!
Regnard's conclusions : "enclosed in stones, is a fire ony disclosed by contact with iron, and, from the same way, is kept inside men and women, a principle of life only disclosed in sexual union". Regnard could not suspect he was launching a myth promised to a bright future : "the Noble Savage"…
Quote from Regnard : "alcohol is always present on festive days". Thus, during feasts : "As meal starter, we got beer, "akvavit" and another liquor called "calchat" ("kall skott" ?), mixture of beer, wine and sugar, the most vicious drinks that ever entered into human body".
Moreover, alcohol holds in
Among medicinal plants: a moss called "jeest"("Jereh"?) and a plant called Angelica ("fedna"), also, fir gum-resin used as ointment plaster.
Rein milk and cheese are basic drugs in Lapp pharmacopoea : rein cheese is a "divine unguent" against frostbites and "oil" obtained by driving a red hot iron into rein cheese gives highly "succesful cure in all sorts of internal or external diseases, including chest illnesses, persistant coughs and all contusions"
Remain all sorts of "kill-or-cure" remedies as "wolf bile mixed with "brandevin" and gun powder" and "whale oil given after delivery, the best of all tonic remedies".
The most impressive part of Lapp Pharmacopoea is cauterization : wounds are treated with red-hot charcoal in local application, lasting as long as the patient can endure, "thus consuming all impurities". From Regnard's previous experience in Orient, "there is no better medicine"… !
A problem in "Lappologia" : Regnard vs Scheffer
First, the facts : in 1671 Johannes G. Scheffer, native of Strasburg and Professor in Rhetoric and Philology at
There is clear evidence that Regnard’s "Voyage de Laponie" was greatly dependent upon Johannes Scheffer’s text : many details given on
Regnard brought back an eye-witness report, there is no question about that, bringing first hand informations but, also, with great literary appeal, a fascinating narrative of his personal adventures conveying in some passages a truly mythic dimension.
Scheffer's Laponia can be seen as a scientific report on Lapland, based on raw facts, centered on religion, folk beliefs and practices but …Scheffer had never set foot in
Back to Paris
On December 3, 1683, Regnard is back in
The strange world discovered by Regnard was so far out from
Thus, 50 years of silence : Regnard, as long as he lived, refused to release any travel notes and his "Journey in Laponia" was only published in 1731, 20 years after his death
However, as soon as he was in
At age 30 years, he becomes success author whose plays are performed in the most famous theaters in Paris, Comédie Italienne and Comédie Française and climbs up swiftly all social scales. In 1708, his major play, "The sole legatee, gets Regnard sacred by Voltaire successor of Molière, in 1682 : Regnard is enobled Conseiller trésorier de France, then, in 1700, " Bailli d'épée, Lieutenant des eaux et forêts et des chasses".
In 1701 Regnard reaches the top of social ladder when he acquires the
Meanwhile, he had obtained a solid reputation of hedonist close to libertine, ardent amateur of good food, music, theatre and … actresses. His solution for problems of life was to seek only pleasure :
Do what you want, live with no sorrows
Never refuse anything, here is my system
This will be my life until the end. 
As a tribute to the Lapp country stands the "Matavara Stele" left by Regnard : "We travelled seven or eight leagues along the lake [Torneträsk] to a mountain higher than other mountains. Here we concluded our northward journey and raised the tent poles. We spent four hours climbing the mountain by a route that no mortal had ever set foot on. When we were up we could Lapland in the west and Arctic Ocean as far as
We visited every country in
After so many adventures, here we stand, arrived to the limits of Earth"
(de Fercourt, de Corberon, Regnard, Anno 1681, 22 August.
A benchmark in Lapland History still hidden somewhere in Torneträsk ?
. Regnard Jean François, Voyages de Flandres, Hollande, Suède, Danemark, Laponie, Pologne et Allemague. Voyages de Normandie et de Chaumont (posthume 1731), [in] Les Oeuvres de M. Regnard, Paris, Vve de P. Ribou, 1731, 5 vol., in-12, vol. I et II. (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France
. Regnard Jean François,
. Scheffer Johann G., Lapponia, id est religions Lapponum et gentils nova et verissima descriptio, Francfort, 1673.
. Scheffer Johann G., Histoire de Laponie, sa description, l'origine, les moeurs, la manière de vivre de ses habitants, traduite du latin par le Père Augustin Lubin, géographe ordinaire de S.M., Paris, Veuve Olivier de Varennes, 1678.
. Aunet d', Voyage d'une femme au Spitzberg,1839. Paris Ed. Payot (coll. Petite bibliothèques Payot / Voyageurs, n° 149), 1995
. Bertrand D. L'ironie libertine dans les Voyages de Jean-François Regnard », [in] Le Rire des Voyageurs (XVIe-XVIIe siècles), Paris : Dominique Bertrand éd.
. du Chaillu P. B., Land of the Midnight Sun,
. Ehrenmalm, Arwid. Resa igenom Wäster-Norrland til Åsehle lappmark, anstäld uti julii månad 1741. Sthlm, Kongl. boktryckeriet, hos P. Momma, 1743
. Emerson-Bremer Svend, Rejse i Danmark aar 1681, København, Jacob Lund, 1909
. Gourmont de, Rémy, : Mœurs et coutumes et légendes de
. Grillo A. Au pays des vendeurs de vent. Voyages et voyageurs en Laponie et Finlande du XV au XIX siècle: l'invention du récit de voyage en terres boréales, Thèse Université Paris IV, 2005.
. Grillo A., Léonie d'Aunet, Oltre Capo Nord. Viaggio di una donna allo Spitzberg, Roma, Ed. Voland, 2006
. Hall G. Travel and literature : Observation and imagination in French seventeenth-century, Journal of European Studies, 14; 117, 1984.
. Holloway Alan Ivvár, The Decline of the Sámi People’s Indigenous Religion, (Internet site : http://www.utexas.edu/courses/sami/diehtu/siida/christian/vulle.htm)
. Kraemer, Irène, Les femmes dans le théâtre comique de Jean-François Regnard, Thèse de 3ème cycle de Littérature française, Université Paris 3, 1985.
. Leem, Knud, Beskrivelse over Finmarkens lapper, deres tungemaal, levemaade og forrige afgudsdyrkelse, Köpenhamn, 1767
. Marmier X., Lettres sur le Nord. Danemark, Suède, Norvège, Laponie et Spitzberg. Souvenirs de voyage, Paris, Hachette, 1856
. Maupertuis, Pierre Louis Moreau de, Relations d'un voyage en laponie. Voyage au cercle polaire pour determiner la figure de la terre, Lyon, 1768
. Maury, Lucien, A la recherche de J.F. Regnard en Laponie, Paris ; 1930
. Nielsen Y., Det Norske geogr. Selskabs Aarbog, 1891
. Passarge S., Fahrten in Schweden, besonders in Nordschweden und Lapland, Berlin, 1897
. Pinkerton, John. A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World,
. Rabot C., "
. Rae E., Land of the North Wind,
. Reusch H. H., Folk og natur i Finmarken, 1895,
. Rydving, Håkan, The End of Drum-Time: Religious Change among the Lule Saami, 1670s-1740s,
. Seminario Il viaggio in Finlandia e Lapponia nei secoli XVII, XVIII e XIX, Facoltà di Lingue et Letterature Straniere dell’Università degli Studi di Bologna, 2004
. Sheldon F., Jean-François Regnard, The Atlantic monthly, Volume 15, Issue 92, 710:711, June 1865
. Taylor B., Northern Travel,
. Tromholt S., Under the Rays of the Aurora Borealis,
. von Diiben, Om Lapland och Lapparne,
THEATRE PLAYS FROM REGNARD
Theater plays at the Comédie-Italienne:
Le Divorce (1688)
Arlequin, homme à bonne fortune
Les Filles errantes ou les intrigues des hôtelleries (1690)
Theater plays at the Comédie-Française:
Le Bourgeois de Falaise
Le Joueur (1696)
Le Distrait (1697)
Le Carnaval de Venise (1699 comédie-ballet mus. de Campra)
Le Retour imprévu (1700)
Les Folies amoureuses (1704)
Les Ménechmes (1705)
Le Légataire universel
In collaboration with Dufresny:
Les Chinois (1692)
Attendez-moi sous l'orme (1694 attribution contestée)
 See later the list of Regnard's theatre plays.
 Jean François Regnard,
 Regnard is said to have always been a dedicated gourmet and a skilled cook…
 Jean François Regnard, Voyages de Flandres, Hollande, Suède, Danemark, Laponie, Pologne et Allemague. Voyages de Normandie et de Chaumont (posthume 1731), [in] Les Oeuvres de M. Regnard, Paris, Vve de P. Ribou, 1731, 5 vol., in-12, vol. I et II. (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
 De Fercourt, a gentleman from Picardy, travel companion for Regnard in
 Nicolas-Augustin de Corberon (1653-1729), "Avocat à la grand-chambre du Parlement de Paris" and "Substitut du procureur général au Grand Conseil" shared with Regnard, an ardent passion for travels : he is said to have travelled to
 " easy virtue"…
 There is no other language more suitable for begging than danish, Danes seem always crying ("Il n'y a pas de langue plus propre au monde pour demander l'aumône que la danoise : il semble toujours qu'ils pleurent…")
 Tycho Brahe's globe was destroyed half a century later during the 1728 catastrophic fire in
 Rudersdal ?
 A log house made of interlaced balks
 Olof Rudbeck (Olaus Rudbeckius) (1630-1702), renowned scientist from Upsala was, among many other studies, a pioneer in the study of lymphatic vessels.
 .See : Regnard Jean François, Voyages de Flandres, Hollande, Suède, Danemark, Laponie, Pologne et Allemague. Voyages de Normandie et de Chaumont (posthume 1731), [in] Les Oeuvres de M. Regnard, Paris, Vve de P. Ribou, 1731, 5 vol., in-12, vol. I et II. (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France
 " Tranquilles et sombres forêts Où le Soleil ne luit jamais, Qu'au travers de mille feüillages, Que vous avez pour moi d'attraits…"
 Further conclusions from Regnard : "Here is, Monsieur, a description of this little animal called Lapp : one could say that there is no other animal, except monkey, with a closer resemblance to human beings"
 and …their tax system set in
 aune was French equivalent of "ell" :
 Understand "bastu"...One should also be aware that "basses touches" has, in French, the meaning of "low hit"…
 Quite certainly, "sichs" stands for "Sills"
 Without any doubt, kaviar...
 Cf. Molière : L'Amour médecin 1665 - Acte 2 : "Est-ce que les médecins font mourir? "
 See Jean-Jacques Rousseau :"Nature made man happy and good but society depraves him and makes him miserable " ("La nature a fait l'homme heureux et bon, mais la société le déprave et le rend misérable" (in Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques)(1772-1776)
 See following note.
 There is no need to stress that "eau de vie", originally "aqua vitae", was doomed to become "alvavit"..
 An objective confrontation shows that many more details are given by Scheffer on Laplanders state of health ragarding, for example, "pleuresies", "lung inflammations", "stitches in the back", "dizziness in the head" and "small pox"...
 Marco Polo(1254-1324), the "Man of a Million Lies", had to face for 20 yrs the scepticism of his comptariots towards the reality of the
 "Faire tout ce qu'on veut, vivre exempt de chagrin, Ne se rien refuser, Voici tout mon système, Et de mes jours ainsi j'attraperai la fin".
 Arwid Ehrenmalm : Travels into western Nordland (1741),
 Knud Leem : Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper (1767)
 Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis : Voyage au cercle polaire (1768),
 Mme d'Aunet : Voyage d'une femme au Spitzberg (1839)
 Gallia nos genuit ; vidit nos Africa ; Gangem, Hausimus, Europemque ocultis listravimus omnem ; Casibus et variis acti terraque marique, Sistimus hic tandem nobis ubi defuit orbis
Date de dernière mise à jour : 29/07/2013