About Gutes, Gotlands, Vikings & Hobbits; Sheepishly unravelling the confusion.

In the Baltic sea there is an island and that island is called Gotland.
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It was the home of an ancient people called the Gutes.

Wikipedia tells me:

Because of Gotland’s central position in the Baltic Sea, from early on the Gutes became a nation of traders and merchants. The amount of silver treasures that have been found in Gotlandic soil during the Viking Age, surpasses that of all the other Swedish provinces counted together, which tells of a traders’ nation of indisputable rank among the Norse nations.The Gutes were the leading tradesmen in the Baltic sea, until the rise of the Hanseatic League.

The Gutes were both yeomen farmers and travelling merchants at the same time, so called farmenn. This was an exceptionally dangerous occupation during the Middle Ages, since the Baltic Sea was full of pirates. The Guteish farmenn always had be ready for battle. The division and organisation of the early Guteish society shows a nation constantly ready for war. The “Ram” seems to have been an early symbol for the Gutes, and is still seen on the Gotlandic coat of arms.

This Ram symbol is most likely of the native horned sheep on the island called The Gute (Swedish: Gutefår). See below.

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Photo by Martin Olofsson

The Gute is the most primitive sheep breed native to Sweden. Thus, I can conclude that this wool was most likely worn in the Viking Age. If you are interested in spinning and weaving Viking Age cloth you probably want some of this wool.

Are you with me so far?

As time progressed to the 20th century, the islanders cross bred their Gute/Gutefar sheep with with Karakul and Romanov sheep during the 1920s and 30s. This resulted in the modern Gotland (Swedish: Gotlandsfår) breed.

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Photo by PeterHasselbom

The Gotland, also called the Gotland Pelt (Swedish: Pälsfår), were named after the island in the Baltic Sea called Gotland that we started with. These are a modern breed of sheep descended through cross breeding from the Gute sheep. This fibre was worn by actors playing Hobbits in Peter Jacksons Lord of the Rings Trilogy. If you want a groovy modern wool and want to spin and weave cloth for a magical elven cloak you probably want some of this wool.

I’m after Gute fleece for Viking living history, fibre purposes and if you could help me that would be very Gute!

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9 thoughts on “About Gutes, Gotlands, Vikings & Hobbits; Sheepishly unravelling the confusion.

    1. Hi Chris, Im in South Australia. As long as the wool is washed and most of the vegetation is gone it will be okay coming into the country. I get wool from some Old Norwegian Spelsau and Wild Norwegian sheep as well as Icelandic sent over from Norway and Iceland. Do you have any pictures of your Gute/Gutefar and the wool?

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  1. I understand you are tired of waiting for me to get my thumb out of… where ever it has begotten itself 😉 I hope you find some wool and I want you to know I am still thinking about it. The big breeders here shear in early summer I have realized because that is when the sheep them selves drop their coats if they have that genes… I have some contacts thought that says they are shearing this fall! SO I will get back to you when I have some fleeces! Ulrika at Gotland 😉

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    1. Hi there busy lady. Sorry I didn’t reply to this sooner. Found that the wordpress spam program had tucked your conversation in the spam box. It is not spam! I figured you were busy and thought it might be wise to pursue this further and try and encourage further pursuit by others in the hope that more Gute wool would be available. I hope we have some luck with your autumn shearing. I so want to visit Gotland etc for the wool alone :). I understand why it would be best for the shearing to happen just before the sheep shed. The autumn shearing would have to be done in a way that the sheep don’t get too cold I imagine. I am glad you have not forgotten. It will be a great day when I am able to spin and weave some real Gutefar!

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