On the island of Ikea, there lived a nation of furniture makers. They were a kind folk, soft-spoken and constructive—never engaging in war or drug use—and spent their time redecorating their modular apartments. They were a tall and small-handed people that lived in close proximity but enjoyed privacy behind curtain walls. They loved storing things on high shelves and having three-plus uses for every stick of furniture. Although Ikea was a small island, the Ikean village was large, so there was no logistical reason for the inhabitants to live in small apartments. But a sign of honor in Ikean culture was how little square-footage one could reside in. Their perpetual state of redecorating enabled them to generate more efficient space use. Trimming a few square feet from one’s apartment could raise one’s social class. The chief elder lived in fifty square feet.
Throughout the year, the Ikeans would maintain their steadfast work ethic and innovative drive in rain or shine. But they maintained a Zen-like balance of work and pleasure. Their blue eyes were never afflicted with blood vessels of fatigue. It was an easy feat when one’s pleasure was one’s work. But once per year, the work would pause. The nails and screws would be placed in small compartments beneath the sink. Schematics would be rolled into retractable curtains. Saws would be stored in an ottoman. During korvodjur season, production ceased.
Each autumn, before the onslaught of snow, the Ikeans would set out to kill a korvodjur. A korvodjur was a large monster. It was long and tube-like, akin to a furry salamander that stretched the length of five dinner tables. It had sharp claws and fangs and ate a wide range of animals—from pigs and goats to chickens and turkeys. Korvodjurs were not picky eaters, neither in animal nor part—whatever they ate, they finished, hooves and all. As a result, the korvodjur was meaty creature. It wasn’t the tastiest—it certainly wasn’t a delicacy to the Ikeans—but it was a staple. A korvodjur could provide enough meat to feed the village through winter.
Hunting the korvodjur was a tradition deeply rooted in Ikean culture. As with furniture-building techniques, parents told stories of korvodjur hunts to their children, who passed them on their children. Each year, the oral history changed, but the impact remained. It was an event that united the community and turned boys into men. For the weeks leading up to the hunt, fathers spent evenings with their sons and a knife, whittling away scraps of wood to form spears. Maps were spread across desks to plan routes and plot traps. Hunting cloaks were patched. Boots were laced. Children cast aside their plush vegetables and sharpened their meat knives.
Once per year, the Ikean furniture builders became monster hunters. They would set out at dawn and head toward the coast, where korvodjurs lurked in caves and grottos. Where their logging routes ended, their hunting grounds began. The young boys, in their pursuit of manliness, would run ahead of the pack and perform a dance before the caves. They’d clank kitchenette-sized pots and pans and bounce on the balls of their feet. Irritated by the noise, a korvodjur would emerge from its rocky home and swipe at the young Ikeans. Nimble and quick, they’d dodge the korvodjur’s blows. The meaty beast would writhe in confusion while the men pierced it with sharpened sticks. The korvodjur would screech and retaliate. Its tail would knock the wind out of many. Its claws would gift battle-scars to some. But when it collapsed, the Ikeans would deliver the korvodjur a quick death.
The men, new and old, would dance in excitement before hauling the beast back to the village. There, the women would clean it and slice the meat for all to share. It was a great festival with much joy and feasting. When the festivities subsided, the korvodjur was portioned out per living unit. Once each household had enough to sustain themselves through winter, the excess meat would be given to those with additional storage space. She who could store the most meat in her apartment demonstrated utmost space efficiency—not only could she fit her essentials, but she had room for more. It was a great honor. While square feet determined social class, economic status was determined by pound of korvodjur meat per square foot.
But Ikeans didn’t always measure their worth in pounds per square foot. Like any normal nation, they once used the decimal system. But as globalization struck, the English measurement system shamed their culture. A humble fifty square meter apartment became a gluttonous 164 square feet. The Ikeans couldn’t stand to be dishonored by English numbers, so they promptly reduced their spaces.
Trade vessels passing through the Retailian Sea noted this act of conformity. Dozens of ships passed Ikea en route to Kirkland—a mega-continent where everything came in bulk. Kirkland seemed to have unending exports of trail mix and canned chicken. It was the first nation of Retailia to sign a trade agreement with the United States. After Kirkland broke the seal, even the small island of Ikea succumbed to foreign trade.
Ikeans began selling their furniture to the Swedes who later opened a retail franchise. The franchise appropriated “IKEA” and grew in popularity in the U.S. The large sales of furniture allowed the Ikeans to purchase higher quality tools and materials not afforded on their island: granite, bamboo, mahogany, and more. The Ikeans began working longer and harder. They were no longer building furniture to maximize their small apartments but to minimize McMansions. The businesspeople required documentation for each piece of furniture they produced. Since the Ikeans had no written culture, they drew ambiguous drawings on paper leaflets. They became sick and weary. Bags developed under their new red, white, and blue American eyes.
But progress continued. Ships formed harbors along the shore. Office buildings rose out of the forest. The businessmen and women marveled at the quaint village and indulged in the culture. When the men returned with the korvodjur one year, the businesspeople joined the village in their festivities. The Americans found the korvodjur meat delectable. They placed it on a large bun and drowned it in ketchup and mustard. They told the Ikeans that it was an American pastime and insisted on sharing its goodness in IKEA warehouses. The Ikeans, not wishing to be poor hosts, obliged and offered them excess meat.
Business moved fast and soon jumbo korvodjur bratwursts were advertised in IKEA warehouses nationwide. They sold for a meager fifty cents. The Americans needed more meat, so they harvested as many korvodjurs as they could find along the Ikean coast. The Ikeans were alarmed by the excessive hunting practices, but an American anthropologist pardoned their concerns: ‘We’ll provide the Ikeans with enough meat for their annual festivities.’
As the Americans demanded more than the Ikean Island could supply, the korvodjurs and Ikean men were driven into extinction. Although the Americans preemptively created life-size advertisements—massive 30-foot bratwursts of korvodjur meat—they decided to maximize their return on investment. Instead of removing the large korvodjur billboards, American IKEAs began selling ‘beef hot dogs’ and aptly placed the ‘*not actual size’ clause in the corner of each billboard. Warehouse culture killed the korvodjur.
Years passed and the Ikeans transitioned from depressed to oppressed. The men took up drinking and the woman weeping, and together their productivity diminished. The people lost interest in building furniture. They curled up in their lofted beds and kicked down the ladders. IKEA suffered as a business, and the businesspeople left the island. They established provenance in Sweden and hired second-rate designers to rekindle the ashes of their home furnishings enterprise.
IKEA regrew as a business, using the robust Swedish culture as a backdrop to American retail. But as IKEA blossomed, Ikea wilted. Material for cribs was used to build caskets. The culture was warehoused and the people diminished to their square foot homes.
In the future, when Americans feel guilty for the global crimes their ancestors committed, they’ll visit Ikea. Study aboard programs in Kirkland will take a day trip to the Ikean Island and discover the source of the giant hot dog advertisement. They’ll learn that it wasn’t a hot dog at all. They’ll marvel at the tiny caskets and skeletons scrunched inside. Maybe they’ll write a sentiment to honor the Ikean people? They’ll put it on a plaque in front of each warehouse. It’ll read something like this:
Even in death, the Ikean affinity for small spaces lives on.
It continues to live on today.