Almqvist, Bo Gunnar (1931–2013), folklore scholar, was born on 5 May 1931 in Edsgatan, a small community in Alster, a farming district in the province of Varmland, Sweden, an area noted for its old customs and traditions. He was the youngest child, born eleven years after his siblings, in the family of two sons and three daughters of Oskar Almqvist, a 'landfiskal', effectively the police superintendent of the rural area, and Hulda Almqvist (née Rydberg). Oskar Almqvist died when Bo was fourteen and mother and son moved to the town of Karlstad, where he attended Karlstad Läroverk, the local secondary school. Hulda Almqvist worked for a time in her family's hat making business. She had a remarkable repertoire of traditional proverbs to be used on any occasion, and her knowledge of folklife crafts and calendar customs deepened her son's interest in the folkways and oral culture of his native region.
In 1950 Bo entered Uppsala University to study Nordic languages and literature, along with English. He was also intrigued by Irish scholarship and took lessons in the Irish language from Caoimhín Ó Danachair (qv), a visiting professor in Irish studies (1952–3). Dag Strömbäck, professor of folklore at Uppsala, became a lifelong friend and greatly influenced Almqvist's choice of career. Almqvist developed a great interest in, and knowledge of, comparative philology and historical linguistics. After graduating from Uppsala in 1954, he spent a year on a scholarship in Reykjavik studying Icelandic language and literature.
On his return to Sweden, a year of compulsory military service, though mostly spent as an attendant in military archives, was far from enjoyable, and Almqvist was glad to return to Iceland in 1956 as a lecturer in Swedish. In 1959 he was awarded one of the first B. Phil. degrees of the University of Iceland (Baccalaureatus Philologiæ Islandicæ). Almqvist returned to work in 1960 to the folklore department in Uppsala University, as docent (1965–7) and acting professor (1967–9). He successfully defended his doctoral thesis in Uppsala, and Norrön niddiktning was eventually published in two volumes, in 1965 and 1972. His findings, on the magical power of satire and attitudes to manliness in Old Icelandic poetry, were regarded as a major contribution to the study of Old Norse literature and to ethnography.
From 1953, when he attended a summer school in UCD, Almqvist spent months at a time doing fieldwork in Ireland, especially in Dunquin and Dingle, Co. Kerry. He made friends with interviewees, including Michéal Ó Gaoithín (qv), son of Peig Sayers (qv), collecting many traditional stories and hundreds of proverbs from him and others. Dunquin locals nicknamed him 'An Lochlannach' ('The Viking'). In 1972 he moved to Ireland permanently to take up positions as professor of folklore in UCD and director of the Irish Folklore Archive (later the National Folklore Collection).
Fluent in Irish and the Nordic languages, and also in English, French and German, Almqvist was able to compare and contrast folklore and literature across several traditions, drawing on linguistic clues and on fieldwork undertaken in Scotland and Nordic countries as well as Ireland. His wide knowledge was evident in over ninety published articles and several books. His scholarly reputation and European perspective underpinned the development of the study of folklore as an academic discipline in Ireland through the introduction of new courses and inspiring fieldwork, and his influence hastened the disappearance of the rather parochial attitude to Irish tradition evident in some earlier studies. From 1968 he was a member of the editorial board of Tidskrift for Nordisk folkeminneforskning (later Scandinavian yearbook of folklore).
In his long involvement with Béaloideas, the journal of the Folklore of Ireland Society, he monitored and encouraged study of all aspects of Irish and comparative folklife studies. He was editor of Béaloideas in 1971–3 and 1977–9, advisory editor from 1981, and from 1972 general editor of the publications of Comhairle Bhéaloideas Éireann. He also wrote a history of the Irish Folklore Commission (1979). Almqvist trained most of the folklore scholars of the next generation. His influence on them and popularity with international colleagues was evident in two festschriften, Viking ale (1991) a collection of his own major articles published to honour his sixtieth birthday, and Northern lights (2001) for his seventieth. Collaborative publications included material recorded from Peig Sayers (I will speak to you all (2009)). Almqvist was a member of the Royal Irish Academy (elected 1981) and of the Swedish Kungliga Gustav Adolfs Akademien, as well as other learned societies.
Almqvist also had a notable interest in philology and comparative literature; his enthusiasm for tracing the not always obvious connections between medieval literature and contemporary folklore led to the introduction of a new course in UCD. One of his students on that course was Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, a writer and folklorist. She and Almqvist married years later in 1982 after his first marriage ended, and they had two sons. Almqvist's first marriage, in Iceland, had been to Jane Houston (d. 2018), an American textile artist and photographer, who became an expert on traditional Irish white embroidery; they had one daughter.
After a short illness, Bo Almqvist died on 9 November 2013 in Loughlinstown Hospital, Dublin. His funeral was from the Church of our Lady Seat of Wisdom, Belfield, to Mount Jerome crematorium.