Welcome back, Ms Lund. A who's who of Norse misery


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The Independent Culture

That queen of miserablism, Danish detective Sarah Lund, returns to BBC4 in the second series of The Killing next Saturday – word has it that a demotion to the post of passport-control officer hasn't improved her mood....

Ah, but there's no grump like a Norse grump in a fetching bit of knitwear. So, in honour of Ms Lund's return, furrow your brow and turn up your lip for our gallery of grumps from Scandinavia...

Sarah Lund

Through the first season, the detective/goddess in the natty jumpers eschewed small talk, clean clothes and home-cooked meals in favour of scouring a perma rain-lashed Copenhagen for depraved killers. And though she did eventually catch her man, she managed to lose her fiancé, police partner and that apocryphal pine sauna in the process.


The daddy of all depressives, our sweet Prince has issues: his father's murder, a quasi-incestuous love for his mother, his vengeful hatred for his uncle, and an insufferably pompous would-be father-in-law. But like any self-respecting student, he's less interested in resolving his problems than poring over them – while bringing down the monarchy to boot.

Kurt Wallander

Depressive, temperamental, insubordinate... the scourge of the criminal community in Ystad, Sweden, Inspector Wallander is no ray of golden sunshine. The wife is long gone, he's barely talking to his daughter, and his father's barely talking to him. How does he deal with his problems? Workaholism, junk food, and brooding in his grotty little flat.

Hedda Gabler

Henrik Ibsen reached the peak of his miserablist powers with this mopey madam. The ultimate desperate housewife, Hedda vainly tries to compensate for her loveless marriage and hopeless existence with bouts of flirting, manipulation and blackmail. Her fascination with pistols is unfortunate, but her chutzpah makes her a right laugh compared to some.


Moomintroll lives in Moomin Valley, with Moominpapa and Moominmama .... OK, so author Tove Jansson's imagination isn't best exhibited in her range of names. Moomintroll is a mildly melancholic soul, waddling naively through life. His slightly flighty love interest, the Snorkmaiden, has been known to prompt wistful sighs. Love hurts.


The most famous character in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal is far from the miserable old git you might think. The medieval knight he's coming for puts off the inevitable with a game of chess and Death takes up the challenge with a dry wit: "Wait a moment!" are the knight's first words to Death, who replies "You all say that."

Eli the vampire

Eli is a vampire, with a sinister middle-aged factotum who supplies her with victims – and in the Swedish film Let The Right One In, "she" takes the form of a sad girl who befriends bullied young Oskar in a Stockholm suburb. More blood- letting and family breakdown ensue, and somehow Eli emerges as the only figure Oskar can trust.

Little match girl

A classic tear-jerker from Hans Christian Andersen. On a frozen New Year's Eve a match-seller lights her last matches for warmth and is taunted by visions of a roast goose and a Christmas tree. Filling up yet? Then a vision of her late grandmother appears, guiding the waif to Heaven. The next day passers-by barely notice her body....

Lisbeth Salander

An introverted, anorexic, borderline psychopath, the best you can say for the anti-heroine of Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trology is that she chooses her battles. She exacts a horrible revenge on her abusive father, and later, after her guardian rapes her, she tasers, tortures and tattoos him.


Whether it's in the folkore, the Marvel comics or the recent film, Thor is usually smiting someone with his war hammer, Mjolnir. The sources also mention two goats that pulled his chariot and whom he enjoyed snacking on; they are silent on the fact that he would come to snog Natalie Portman.

Entries by: Hugh Montgomery, Simmy Richman, Holly Williams and Mike Higgins