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Winter in Falun. The billygoat Kåre who, according to the legend, discovered the Falun Mine.
© Richard Lindor

Billy goat Kåre

Nobody really knows how mining started in Falun. We do know that before there was a mine the area was covered in dark woods. In some places there were clearings that opened up over bogs and mires. Even if we don’t really know what happened, there is an old folktale about the discovery of the Falun Mine. Story by Johanna Nybelius, the Falun Museum educator.

Once upon a time, it was common for farmers to let their livestock graze freely in the woods far away from the farm. Young men and women were tasked with looking after the animals, and they could spend many months alone in the woods during the summer, with only cows, sheep and goats as company.

According to this folk story, a farmer had hired a girl to take care of his herd of goats, and she lived in a little shed while she tended the animals. One of the goats was a majestic billygoat called Kåre. Kåre, like many goats, drifted during the days but came back to the shed in the evenings.

One evening the girl saw that Kåre had gotten strange red stains on his horns. At first the girl was worried, believing that the red came from blood. The red stains were easily brushed off, and Kåre did not show any signs of being hurt. The next morning Kåre ran out into the woods again, and once again in the evening he returned with red horns. When it happened the third night in a row, the girl felt that she needed to tell the farmer.

After she had let the goats out for the day she walked the long way back to the farm. When the farmer saw her returning he got curious and angry that she had left the animals by themselves in the wood. The girl told him about Kåre the billygoat and his red horns.

When the farmer heard about the red stains he became very interested. The farmer, like many other farmers in the region, was also skilled in working with iron. In those days iron was mostly taken up from lakes and bogs and smelted in small furnaces close to the farm. The farmer knew that a telltale sign of an area rich in iron was that the water draining from the bog was coloured red.

The farmer decided to follow the girl into the woods and see Kåre for himself. When Kåre came back to the little shed in the woods the farmer could see for himself that not only the horns, but the pelt as well, had large red stains on them.

The next morning the farmer and the girl decided to see where Kåre went during the day. They followed him and suddenly they came to a clearing in the woods. In the clearing there was a bog, and in the bog, there were a couple of rock formations cropping up. As soon as Kåre reached the bog he started to rub his horns against the rocks, and immediately they turned red. The farmer walked closer to the rocks and he saw that they were glistening in the sunlight. He realised that Kåre had just not found a bog filled with iron, in the ground you had something even more valuable. In the rocks he could see the rich copper ore shining up at him.

Soon the farmer returned to the bog with proper tools and started to mine the copper, and that is how Falun Mine was discovered a long time ago. That is, if you believe this old local folktale.