Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas birds of the Village Elf

Martti Kapanen 2009: Kylätontun joululinnut

The Village elf upholds Finnish Christmas tradition: feeding and taking care of the birds.

The book is a collection of 19 Christmas cards made by Matti Kapanen. He wrote a story around the cards. The illustrations present the Finnish countryside at its best and nature and human living side by side.
The book also tells about the birds habitats and behaviour.

For children in Finland the Christmas eve is the most exciting  day of the year: then comes Santa. All day the children are on pins and needles. Watching birds could be one activity for the kids to get the time go by faster. And to get them to sit still for a while.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Teija Rekola 201: Kinkkulin jouluyllätys
Teija Rekola 2011: Kinkkulin kuusijuhla
illustrated by Timo Kätsämä

Kinkkulin jouluyllätys (Christmas Surprise)

Kinkkuli is the happiest pig in Korvatunturi (kinkku=ham, so the name in English would be Hamly?). The elves feed Kinkkuli and they talk about how he (I assume that Kinkkuli is a boy, but it never is revealed since the pronoun hän refers to both he and she.) is going to make a delicious Christmas ham. Kinkkuli thinks this is fun. The day before Christmas Eve the elves do not give him anymore food and tell him that Kinkkuli will have the best seat in the Christmas table. Finally Kinkkuli understands, what is going to happen and runs away.

The elves cannot find Kinkkuli
 He decides to make himself useful in some other way. He starts wrapping gifts. But his gifts cannot be opened. He bakes gingerbreadmen, but he ends up eating them all. Then he sows caps for the elfes, but those cannot be worn. The elves are coming to get him slaughtered. The mice help Kinkkuli hide.

Kinkkuli escapes the elves and visits Santa. Santa is sleeping and Mrs. Claus says Santa is sick and no presents will be delivered. This gives Kinkkuli an idea: this year the presents are given by Christmas pig.

Kinkkulin kuusijuhla (Christmastree hunt)

Kinkkuli is trying to make a snowman. The elves help him, but then they have to leave to get the Christmas tree. There are no trees to be found, since the storm Olga had torn all trees out. Kinkkuli helps the elves to find a tree.

He searches from elf school, where they are making crafts. Kinkkuli decides to make the tree himself. It does not look very proper.

Christmas tree by Kinkkuli.
Finally he finds a tree from Aunt Eulalia, but it is not a traditional spruce, but a palm tree. But it works.
 In Finland Christmas trees are fetched about a week before Christmas. It can melt in a cool place for a while and at least in our house it is brought in and decorated on Christmas Eve. It is also traditional to serve ham at the Christmas table.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Korvatunturi Tales from Land of Santa Claus

Written and illustrated by Pekka Vuori 1999
A book about Korvatunturi and Santa's and the elves' lives there. A lot is happening throughout the year.

The content of the book:

Welcoming in the New Year
Mrs. Claus hum though Santa's stomach rumbles
At home atop a stump Korvatunturi, here we come!
The postponed birthday celebrations
The vanishing concert hall
The little boy who liked jam
The greybeards of Christmas valley:
  • Fife 
  • Master Elf Jot 
  • Scrub 
  • Headmaster Jaunt 
  • Glyph 
  • Theater director Jacum
Much snow, little to eat.
At five in the morning a spruce topples
The deft hands and practiced eyes of the joinery elves
The call of the red peaked cap
A strange star falls in the night
An elf beats SAnta at his own game
Spring comes, Gold River thaws
There's no fear of laundry day here
A summer island: the perfect place for a holiday
Who's afraid of an old sauna elf
Seven red caps
The island of lazy elf
Berry-picking with a bear
The gnomes dwell beneath spruce
Seven red caps
The folks of Korvatunturi put their faith in the great grandfather clock and the almanac
Mail delivery posthaste
Tons of wishes
Let's get cooking
Pine-cone reindeer and wooden swings
Much snow, little to eat
There's always time for admiring the northern lights
A reindeer ride fits the bill
The sun goes into hiding
There's little of the musician in every elf
Drama on both sides of the footlights
Making toys is no mean feat
Santa Claus heads for the woods
Taking out the walking stick
The long day, happy night
The travelers return hungry - and tired

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The elf, who was afraid of Christmas

Hannu Mäkelä 1988: Tonttu, joka pelkäsi joulua
illustrations by Camilla Mickwitz

The house elf enjoys winter: he likes sledding, skating and building snowmen. The elf just doesn’t like Christmas, he knows what it is like, when Santa gets mad. Every year the elves have to report their work to Santa in order to get paid. Sometimes Santa yells so loud that even the wolfs run away.

The house elf is stressed because he has to do so much before Christmas. He has to build the presents and nowadays the children wish for difficult things. The elf does not know how to make them. Maybe he has grown old. The kids want all kinds of toys and apparatus they see on TV.

A squirrel brings the gift list from Santa. The Elf is distressed about a video game, he has no idea where to start. Suddenly the family dog notices the elf and starts barking. The kids see the elf. The elf is very scared of the dog, but the girl takes him in her arms and comforts him. The elf tells the girl about his troubles. The girl is sure that their parents buy the gifts. None the less the girl wants to help the elf. The kids bring the elf some rice porridge and wish for simple gifts.

At Christmas eve the kids receive skies and a wooden horse. They smile at the elf and that is a thank you enough for him. The house elf is pleased and goes bathing in sauna.

Very odd Christmas story, Santa is seldom described as angry and elfs seldom hate Christmas. But one thing hasn't changes: kids want more and more complex things.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Santa Claus and the folks at Korvatunturi

Riina Katajavuori 2014: Joulupukki ja Korvatunturin väki

background illustrated by  Anna Bernal
characters illustrated by Kiira Kalliomäki
part of the Santa Claus Finland series

Santa Claus is bit depressed: he has forgotton what it is like to be a child. Elves Oula and Tuomo with the help of Mrs. Claus show him what it is like to be a child.

Oula and Tuomo feel akward,
when Mrs. Claus kisses Santa
Playing in the crunching snow, admiring the northern lights, being together finally prove Santa that he still remembers.

Cute illustrations and clever story.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Summer story of Christmasman

Anni Swan: Kesätarina Joulu-ukosta 1933
illustrated by Auvo Taivalvuo 1982

The children are working indoors when they hear crying. They go out and see and old man crying in the ground. The man introduces himself as Christmas man, do the children not know him? The kids say they only have heard of him, never met him. The children take him inside and give him blueberry porridge and the Christmas man tells him why he is so upset.

 The Christmas man had been taking a nap outside his cave, when the forest devil had taken his boot. Christmas man needs his boot, because they are magic.

The Forestdevil takes Christmasman's boot.
The boots take the Christmas man fast to different places and without the boots, the Christmas presents won’t be delivered in time at Christmas. The kids promise to find the boot.

They take their dog with them and soon they see the forest devil. But the forest devil is too fast and even the dog can’t catch him. The kids do not know what to do. A woodpecker hears the kids talking and promises to help them. After all the Christmas man has been very kind to the bird.

The woodpecker finds a hole in the forest devil’s cave and sees that the devil is napping without the boot and that the boot is hanging on the wall. The woodpecker hides inside the boot. When the forest devil wakes up, he decides to go and steel the Christmas man’s other boot, too. The forest devil puts on the boot and starts screaming. The woodpecker pecks the forest devil’s sole. The forest devil is bleeding and he throws the boot away.

 The woodpecker comes out and the kids take the boot back to the Christmas man. The Christmas man is very happy and thanks the kids.

Christmas comes and the family is eating Christmas porridge, when the Christmas man knocks on the door. He has gifts for everyone: they boys get a book and skies, the mother gets a scarf.

The Story was first published in 1933 in a collection of Anni Swan's fairy tales. Anni Swan is considered the mother of Finnish children's literature and she was the first to write books for girls.

I read this book as a child and I thought it was the scariest book ever. The foresdevil looks so evil. Even today I vividly remember what I felt the first time I read this book. Needless to say that I cannot see any modern horror stories, because they haunt me several days afterwards.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Iivari the elf runs away

Raili Mikkanen 2013: Iivari Tonttu karkuteillä
illustrated by: Laura Valojärvi

It is Iivari’s job to carry the heavy gift sacks to the children. He does not like it. Great Elf is much bigger than him, why does he have to do the hardest part. After one delivery Iivari does not see the sleigh or Great Elf anywhere. Iivari wonders around for a while, but he cannot find them.

Iivari rejoices: now he is free and he runs away toward new adventures. He sees a circus and decides to sneak in. Then he climbs to the highest point of the tent. Suddenly he falls, but luckily the aerialist grabs him. Iivari runs away and sits in a funny cabin with lots of chairs. It is a tram.

Iivari is delivering presents.
Iivari gets off at the zoo and goes in. He doesn’t understand that he cannot go in the cages. He sees a familiar reindeer and gets to know the animals in the zoo. Some people spot him and start chasing him.

Iivari is scared, but he escapes from the crowd to a micro car lane. Iivari is starting to think that carrying the heavy sacks isn’t that bad after all. Suddenly he sees the sleigh, reindeer and Great Elf. Great Elf hugs Iivari and tells him how worried he has been. IIvari is happy again.

Iivari at the zoo.
Not your avarage story about elfs in forest. This story has a modern twist as the elf runs around in an urban environment. Maybe this is more of an adventure book than a Christmas book, but it does not matter. It brings thoughts of how much work Christmas can be. And what is more important than being together? The illustration is very dramatic and fits the story very well.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The little elf and the magic bush

Inkeri Karvonen 2004: Pienen tontun ihmeellinen joulu
Illustrations by: Hannu Taina

A large bush grows in the little elf''s yard. It is so big that the elf can walk in it as if he was walking in a forest.

The little elf follows the changes in seasons in the bush and when the bush is covered in snow, the little elf starts to wait for Christmas.

Little elf makes candles.
 But Christmas let's the elf wait for it. The little elf decides to sing a Christmas Carol so maybe Christmas does not pass him unnoticed.

Then the little elf decides to make candles and decorate the bush with them. Then he bakes gingerbread men and soon his yard is full of friends. Christmas has come!

Cute story and very delicate watercolor illustrations make this a very special book, which has been translated in English.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Old Elf of Turku Castle

Zacarias Topelius 1849 first published in the third “Sagor” –collection.: Turun linnan tonttu-ukko
illustraded by: Kirsi Tapani 2002 The old elf of Turku

Castle is the eldest in Finland and is the most famous of the elves. He lives in Turku Castle, in Hollow tower, where the air is nice and musty. The elf visits the elf at Turku Cathedral every 20 years.

His best friend is Matti Kivinen, who accidently ran into the elf in one of the passages of the Castle. At the time Matti was 12. Since then Matti become the caretaker of the Castle. The wind as well as time tears the castle. Winter snows in, spring rains in, the rats chew holes to the floors. The elf has been fixing the castle and now he has Kivinen as his help.

The Old Elf decorates the Turku Castle for the wedding
The elf has seen Saint Eric and Henry, the court of Duke John, the captured King Eric and Per Brahe. And he tells stories of the war, siege. The great fire of Turku happened when the elf was visiting his cousins at Häme and Raasepori Castles. He won’t leave again. The elf shows Kivinen his treasure, many who have attempted to steal it are now in chains.

Soon there is a wedding at the Castle: the grand-daughter of Kivinen is getting married and the elf has given her a beautiful crown. The guests are sure that Kivinen has found it in the Castle. Kivinen drinks too much and starts to tell about the elf to Saara Kouranen, whose need to gossip is trumped by her greed.

Saara and her son start to look for the treasure. The elf stops them and turns Saara into a cat and her son into a wolf. Kivinen doesn’t see the elf again, and the elf is no longer friendly toward the inhabitants. The flowers are no longer watered and the walls are not repaired. The elf is tired. Rose, Kivinen’s grand daughter promises to the elf that her son will take care of the castle. The castle of Turku laughs at the tooth of time.

 This was the classic Zacharias Topelius fairytale. There are two modern stories about the old elf at the Turku Castle as well. The secret of the old elf and the Old Elf’s miracle of Christmas.

Sinikka Sajakorpi
illustrations Taru Castrén:
Turun linnan tonttu-ukon jouluihme 2001
Turun linnan tonttu-ukon salaisuus 2002

The Christmas Miracle of the Old Elf at the Turku Castle. 

The old elf walks around the casle and meets ghosts of people that have lived in the castle. They meet the three Catherina’s that lived there in different times. Skapula the parrot was brought to the castle 500 years ago to entertain people. And the small monkey Talapoi was every one’s favourite. The old elf and his cat go visit pre-cat at the Aboa Vetus museum.

The greate Christmas tree
at the Turku Cathetral
The Precat tells them stories about the time when he lived in Turku. Next the elf and his cat sneak into the Pharmacy Museum to get a recipe for a pill that will make all the people happy and glad. The pill was invented over 3000 years ago.

 The Turku people eat the pills and become friendly and happy. All except Grumpy old man. He plans to create a balloon of bad mood and blow it up over the great Christmas tree near the Turku Cathedral, when the declaration for Christmas peace is read.

The old elf of Turku Castle hears about this and tells Santa Claus about the plan. Santa Claus’s reindeer grabs the balloon and takes it away. The old elf asks the Grumpy Old Man to have dinner with him. The Grump tells the Old Elf that he has no home. The old Elf arranges Grump to live at the Luostarinmäki Handcrafts museum.

The secret of the Old Elf of Turku Castle 

The Cat of Old Elf wants to go sailing. The Old Elf knows there is a maritime museum at the banks of Aura river and they could borrow a ship from there and go great Christmas Pike.
The ship sings and takes them to the Pike lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper seagull takes the to a near by rocks and the Christmas Pike comes to fetch them. The Old Elf and the Cat eat peaces of magical chocolate that allows them to breathe underwater.

The Christmas Pike shows them pikeschool, gift shop and hospital. Christmas Pike thinks that people should learn to keep the environment clean. Traditionally Christmas Pike had sent his greetings to the king. But then that tradition stopped, when the Russians ruled Finland. President Kekkonen returned the tradition that the Turku area locals bring a Christmas Pike to the President.

The pike hospital.
The Old Elf and the Cat return to Turku Castle. Christmas Pike comes to see them on the same trip, when he brings his greetings to the president.

 I had never heard of the Old Elf of Turku Castle, before I started to look for Finnish Christmas stories. This just proves, how isolated the Turku culture is from the cultures of the rest of the Finland. Or then rest of the Finland does not want to know anything about Turku. That is sad. The two newer books about the Old Elf tell fascinating details about Finnish history. After all Turku was the most important city during the Swedish regime.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tarlena, the Elf-girl on a journey to Christmas

Elina Karjalainen 2003: Tonttutyttö Tarleena matkalla jouluun
Elina Karjalainen 2006 : Tonttutyttö Tarleena ja talven ihme

illustrated by Christel Rönns

Tarlena, the Elf-girl on a journey to Christmas
Mama Maxim is loved by all in the village of Birdsong. One day she finds a little elf girl crying in the forest. Tarleena the elf girl is lost and Mama Maxim takes her home until Tarleena is found. Tarleena makes friends with a fairy Blue wings and the decide to go to school.

Mama Maxim and the elves celebrate Christmas.
Meanwhile Santa is worried: Tarleena is the one who wraps Christmas presents and she is no where to be found. He sends a search party to look for her. Tarleena is enjoying her stay at Mama Maxims, she helps with the chores, plays with Blue-wings and the village kids.

Finally the search party finds Tarleena. Mama Maxim suggests that the elves celebrate Christmas with her, get rested and then go back to Korvatunturi. Mama Maxim does not want to be alone at Christmas. Blue-wings suggest that they celebrate Christmas now, even though it is not quite Chrismas yet. Everyone gets busy with the preparations and soon they are dancing around the Christmas tree. The elves return to Korvatunturi and Tarleena promises to visit Mama Maxim.

Tarleen, the elf girl and the miracle of winter
Tarleena is visiting Mama Maxim. The winter is still holding its freezy grip on the nature and fairy Blue-wings cannot be found anywhere. Blue-wings is needed to chase the frost away.

Tarleena asks for help from all her friends and soon even the smalles creatures are looking for Blue-wings.

Finally and at the last minute birds find the fairy nearly frozen in the forest. Luckily Mama Maxim knows how to defrost fairies.

Tarleena is looking for Blue-wings

Monday, December 1, 2014

Elves of Marjaliisa Pitkäranta

The land of Santa Claus -cover
Heli Karjalainen 1987: Joulupukin maa
illustrated by Marjaliisa Pitkäranta
Heli Karjalainen 1989: Joulumaan tonttujen tarinat
illustrated by Marjaliisa Pitkäranta
Anna Nuutinen 1992: Joulupukin tarinoita
illustrated by Marjaliisa Pitkäranta:
Kari Keränen 1992: Joulupukin jäljillä
illustrated by: Marjalisa Pitkäranta also published in English: In search of Santa
Annikki Marjala Heli karjalainen 1998: Korvatunturin salaisuus
illustrated by: Marjaliisa Pitkäranta also published in English: The secret of the magical mountain Korvatunturi
English translation: Margaret Vainio
Santa's workshop

The Land of Santa Claus 

Four children from different countries get to know how Santa’s works shops operate. Finally they get to meet Santa himself.

The stories of the elves in
Christmas land -cover

Stories of the elves in Christmas land 

Several stories about different elves. One elf has come all the way from France and is trying to find a home. The Mailmaster Elf brings good news to an elderly man who lives alone. Stone elf is looking for a special blue stone. Nessi the Elf dreams about living in a castle, her brother Jussa helps animals that are hurt. In the last story the reindeer elf Peski gets mad at stupid humans.
The feast Simeoni arrange for the fores animals

Santa’s stories 

Samta tells stories about three different elves. Simeoni arranges a Christmas feast to the forest animals. Temppu is trying to build a remote control car, but doesn’t quite succeed. And Tappura gets caught from hie beard when chopping wood. Luckily Liisa saves him Tappura then takes her to see the Korvatunturi manor.

In search of Santa 

The elves get a ride from the Snow Girl and get chaced by wolfs
Aunt Marja-Liisa has drawn two elves. They decide to find Santa. They travel all around the world to find it. The book teaches us the different Christmas habbits. It is remarkable how many countries even in Europe do not expect Santa on Christmas day. In Czech Republic good king Wenceslaus comes December 16th, in the Netherlands Sinterklaas brings gifts De
cember 5th. In Spain the three kings bring gifts in January as well as the wicht Belgana in Italy. In Russia the Grandfather Forst as well as Babushka bring gifts in January.

Jussa and Unna help a reindeer

The secret of the magical mountain 

Jussa, the ship elf, has heard a mysterious invitation. He cannot explain what it is, but he has a compelling need to travel north. On his way he meets other elves that help him to get to Korvatunturi. There he meets Santa Claus who has a special assignment as the ambassador of goodness.

More of Marjaliisa Pitkäranta can be found at Marjaliisa's fan pages and at Marja-Liisa Pirkäranta foundation. Marjaliisa's elves are known to all Finns. And they are seen in popular Christmas cards.