Dear Charles, dear Carolyn,
there does not seem to be a translation of Messenius' play about Queen Disa into any of the languages I know; in fact, it seems it never has been translated at all. So unfortunately I have not been able to have a look into it. It is true that references to the Disa folklore are scarce in Swedish reference works. That's why I almost gave up. However, there are lengthy articles on her in at least two of the big old many-volume encyplopaedias. The longest one I had translated for me. If need be, I could supply chapter and verse, but it would require a trip to a special library.
Disa certainly was not seen as a sinister and dark queen at all, a sort of Stalin, but as clever, shrewd, kind and good-willed. We have to remember that she was faced with the classical dilemma of moral philosophy. If the lifeboat is full and those in it know it will capsize if they let everybody in - do they have a moral right or even an obligation to reject those clinging to the rail? Who is to be saved if only a few can be saved and trying to somehow save all would mean everybody's doom? Or to take a case of our times: does the airforce have a right to shoot down a highjacked plane headed for the Capitol? (It has been shown experimentally that in our judgment of such dilemmas we largely depend on numbers: to sacrifice a few in order to save many seems more defensible than sacrificing many to save a few. However, in between there is a large zone of uncertainty where we just don't know.) Disa's expedient was to spare her fellow citizens at least the necessity of killing the old and sick by their own hands and to let impersonal fate do the job.
Dieter Zimmer, Berlin

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