It had all the trappings of a normal summer afternoon.
The 8-year-old girl played in the lake on a hot day. Her father waited anxiously for a much-anticipated World Cup match to begin, imploring her to finish up so he could go watch the game.
But then she noticed something strange as she felt along the bottom of the lake, significantly shallower than normal because of Europe’s sweltering summer: a long and hard object was stuck in the lake’s bed.
The girl, Saga Vanecek, pulled it out of the water and, noticing a handle on one end, pointed it toward the sky, she would later say.
“ ‘Daddy, I’ve found a sword!’ ” she said.
Indeed, she had. Museum experts estimate that the sword Saga found could be 1,500 years old.
The story of Saga’s miraculous find drew headlines from around the globe after it was disclosed this month. It has inspired a T-shirt design and led some wry commenters to dub Saga “the queen” because of the story’s myth-like aura. And it is back in the news after the plucky 8-year-old shared her account with the Guardian.
Saga was summering with her family at a cabin by a lake in Tanno in southern Sweden.
“I like to build sand castles on the beach, or find rocks to skim across the water and see how many times I can make them bounce,” she said. Her father and she were working to set a buoy to mark a particularly shallow part of the lake; the lake was low because of the record heat levels during the summer.
“Daddy was begging me to rush so he could watch the World Cup final, but I like to take my time about things so I ignored him,” Saga said.
She described finding the object while crawling around the lake to find skipping stones.
“I felt like a warrior, but Daddy said I looked like Pippi Longstocking. The sword felt rough and hard, and I got some sticky, icky brown rust on my hands,” she said.
I ran to my mamma and my mormor — my grandma — and some other relatives who were all sitting outside having fika, which is Swedish for having a sit-down with coffee and cookies. I was yelling, “I found a sword, I found a sword!” Daddy went to show it to our neighbours, whose family has lived in the village for more than 100 years, and they said it looked like a Viking sword.
Her father showed it to some neighbors, having apparently given up on the soccer match.
“Daddy didn’t get to watch the football in the end,” Saga told the Guardian.
Later, an archaeologist from a nearby museum told Saga that she got goose bumps when looking at the sword, making the little girl promise to keep the find a secret so more archaeologists could see whether anything else was buried in the lake before people came to look for more treasures themselves.
“It wasn’t hard to keep the secret,” Saga said. “But I did tell one of my best friends, Emmy, and now I know I can trust her because she didn’t tell anybody, except her parents — but they promised not to tell anybody else, so that’s okay.”
In the lake, archaeologists found a brooch from the same era as the sword.
“We don’t know yet — but perhaps it’s a place of sacrifice,” Mikael Nordstrom of the Jonkopings Lans Museum told the Local. “At first we thought it could be graves situated nearby the lake, but we don’t think that anymore.”
Saga’s father, Andy, is from Minnesota, and the family recently moved from the state to Sweden, where her mother’s family lives, according to the Star Tribune.
Saga’s story has inspired $9,220 in donations from a crowdfunding campaign set up by her father to create a replica of the sword for Saga to keep for herself.
“After discussions with a sword expert in Sweden, we realized that this is a very expensive endeavor,” he wrote on the page.
“People on the Internet are saying I am the queen of Sweden, because in the legend of King Arthur, he was given a sword by a lady in a lake, and that meant he would become king,” Saga told the Guardian. “I am not a lady — I’m only 8 — but it’s true I found a sword in the lake. I wouldn’t mind being queen for a day, but when I grow up I want to be a vet. Or an actor in Paris.”