Sara Jonas

Sara Jonas

By Wenche Spjelkavik

Sara Jonas
The Sara Jonas Cave                                          Photo: Wenche Spjelkavik

In modern times, certain historical landmarks in the Sulitjelma mountains have attracted visitors due to their cultural significance, or for the “feeling” of being there. The Sami people have left their mark on the mountains over the centuries, but because of a lack of records and documentation these cultural heritage sites have been erased from folklore. However, there is still one place, far off the beaten path, that is still famous today. That place is the Sara Jonas Cave, located in a secluded cliff to the west of Lake Balvatnet. The cave is idyllically situated by a small, unnamed lake, where the trout feed on quiet summer evenings.

The cave is named after Jonas Andersson Bessett (1858–1916), colloquially known as “Sara Jonas”. There are many myths about Sara Jonas, such as that he buried a copper kettle full of money in this mountain area.[1] Jonas’ father is also said to have lived in this cave, and he is supposed to have buried two herring barrels full of silver goblets and brooches. In folklore, these stories have combined to become a large silver treasure trove that people have searched for but have never found.

Dozens of people from all over the Salten region have scratched their names and the date of their visit in the rock wall next to the cave. Most of the names are those of people born after 1960. The place is so inaccessible that these visitors must have been told how to get there by people who had been there before. From 2005, and for some years thereafter, the Saltdal Hiking Association arranged group hikes to the cave.

What do we know today about Sara Jonas’ life? And why is his name so well known, almost a century after his death? After all, the stories about him still live on among the people of Fauske, Saltdal, Beiarn and Misvær. Stories about Sara Jonas have been printed in yearbooks and literary works for almost 100 years. One of the more tangible memories he left behind is a pair of skis that now adorn the wall of a community centre in Misværmarken. When they were stolen a few years ago, the case received a lot of coverage in the newspapers and the skis were quickly recovered.

A person who is so well-known in Salten deserves a biography. The reason for creating this narrative of Sara Jonas was to recount the history of his life and to question the veracity of all that has been written and said about him. During research, it soon became apparent that the myths about Sara Jonas had roots going back to his ancestors, and that several of his family had been well-known and much-discussed figures.

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[1] Hultmann, C. 2009.