Harald Wiberg grew up in north-eastern Småland, where old folklore still thrived. People believed in barn elves, trolls and other supernatural beings. The barn elf entered into Harald’s life when he was young.
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One night when Harald was away from home visiting a farm, a barn elf walked passed him, a small elf that in folklore helped take care of the animals and watched over the buildings. But if the barn elf was not treated well and appropriately thanked for his work, he could become mean.
If a person happened to see or meet a barn elf, they were not allowed to say anything to anyone for a full 24 hours. Harald was so surprised and scared that he did not dare mention the event until several years had passed, but he secretly drew pictures of the barn elf. All of his barn elves were small with big beards, short legs and a hood. Harald drew this barn elf again and again during his career as an artist.
Harald Wiberg was self-taught, although he did spend a few years at what eventually became the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design. While studying, he worked as an advertisement illustrator, for example for product catalogues, but when photography had its breakthrough there was no longer any need for illustrators.
This change also heralded the start of Harald’s career as an artist. He selected his motifs from nature and the old farming society’s superstitious tendencies – like the barn elf.