The Lion of Gripsholm Castle

Swedish blogger Ulrika Good posted a story about a king and his lion that captured the internet, and turned a Swedish meme into an international sensation. She later put up an English version to replace the rough Google translation many were using. King Frederik I of Sweden was given gifts from the Bey  of Algiers in 1731. These included a lion, another wildcat, three hyenas, and a freed slave who became the animals' keeper. The creatures lived out their lives at Djurgården, the Royal Game Park.

Quite a few years after the lion died, some of its remains were sent to a taxidermist to be mounted. All that was left was the pelt and some bones. The taxidermist was not at all familiar with this animal called a lion. So he did the best he could with what he had. There's always the possibility that alcohol was involved.

The Warner Brothers School of Taxidermy did not exist in the 1700s, but many have pointed out how the lion's face resembles a cartoon. Good compared it with the dog Dug from the Pixar movie Up! Others thought it resembled Snagglepuss.

King Frederik's lion is on display to this day at Gripsholm Castle, a former royal residence and now a museum in Mariefred, Södermanland, Sweden. Some have speculated that the taxidermist may have used heraldic lion images as a guide, like the carved lion at Gripsholm Castle shown here. That would at least explain the tongue. Image by Flickr user Groundhopping Merseburg.

Good also pointed us to the lion's Facebook fan page, where you'll find a wonderful collection of tribute images. The lion of Gripsholm Castle has found a home anywhere lions exist in pop culture.

He fits right in with the cast of The Wizard of Oz in this image by by Emelie Bäckström.

Our lion stars as Aslan in this poster for the movie Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by Viktor Jungsand.

Our movie star has also appeared as Christian the Lion. Poster alteration by Dan Abrahamson.

Dan Abrahamson was also responsible for the fan page's profile pic, featuring the lion as Simba from The Lion King.

There are more references to Simba. Although he is a lion, he may have learned his facial expression from a hyena. Image by Vanitas Vanitatum.

Leo the MGM lion has been replaced in this new production card by Helena Lehmus.

This lion was there, along with what looks like his relatives, with Daniel in the lion's den. This image is from Vanitas Vanitatum. But these are only the images in which you would expect a lion to be. Others have the lion of Gripsholm Castle taking the place of various celebrities and figures from history, and set into various other ridiculous scenarios.

There are more images in a Fark thread about the lion, such as this portrait with Siegfried and Roy.

And so this Swedish meme is launched into the English-speaking world. If you ever find yourself in Sweden with time on your hands, you can still see the lion at Gripsholm Castle which is open most afternoons. However, photography is not allowed.

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April 12, 2011 - 4:15am
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