Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Smile of Louhi

Tellervo and her friends
Riikka Juvonen 2013: Louhen hymy

Kalevala has been interpreted  mostly from the male perspective. But in this book Riikka Juvonen brings out the strong women in Kalevala.

The ladies in this book are:
Aino's mother
Maiden of the North
Lemminkäinen's mother
Louhi's daughteer

Ilmatar is the daughter of air. When she gets bored she descends to see and gets pregnant. The pregnancy last long and she swims and floats. A duck lays eggs on her leg. She moves and the eggs break creating the sun, moon, the stars and the clouds.  When she is swimming, where ever her hands point, form peninsulas and that is how the world was created. The pregnancy lasts thirty years and finally the boy, Väinämöinen claws his way out of the womb.


Aino is a young girl, care free and pretty. Her brother is Joukahainen, who wants to beet Väinämöinen and challenges him into duel. Joukahainen is no match to Väinämöinen and he promises his sister to Väinämöinen.  Aino would rather drown then marry him and so she does.

Aino's mother was happy, when Väinämöinen wanted to marry her daughter and then devastated when she hears that Aino drowned herself. Only then she understands that she had been too hard and selfish ordering her daughter to marry the old guy. She then advises other parents not to raise their children to fill the parents wishes. Joukahainen is angry and since Aino's mother is his mother too, she tries to calm him down. She does not want any more bad things to happen. She is heartbroken, but she is not angry and takes responsibility of her actions.

Louhi the Ruler of the North
Louhi rules the North, a far away land. She is not a kind woman, instead she as become used to endure difficulties, biting her lip and making it work. Aino's death has wounded Väinämönen, but his mother, Ilmatar, tells him to go North and ask the Northern maiden's hand, Louhi's daughter. Väinämöinen's trip isn't easy, he is hurt and finally he wails in Louhi's shore. Louhi tells him to get a grip, welcomes him and heals him. He is a famous shaman after all. Väinämöinen is home sick and wants to get back. Louhi asks, what she will get, if she helps him. Väinämöinen promises Sampo a wonderous machine, which grinds gold and fortune. Louhi promises to get Väinämöinen safely home and her daughter's hand in marriage, if she gets Sampo.  But Väinämöinen can't make Sampo, but he knows smith Ilmarinen, who could do it. Louhi promises Väinämöinen gear and Ilmarinen will get her daughter, Väinämöinen will talk to Ilmarinen to make Sampo. Both Väinämöinen and Louhi are happy. When Louhi gets Sampo, she refuses to give her daughter to the dirty Ilmarinen. She arranges a feast to the disappointed suitor. She is only concerned about her family's well being.

Pohjan neiti
The maiden of North meets Väinämöinen on his way back home. Her clothing is snow as white and of course Väinämöinen wants her to come with him. What for, asks the maiden. To brew bear, bake bread. He has a large farm. The maiden tells him that marriage is a dog's shackle, when a woman is married, she is her husband's slave. Väinämöinen naturally disagrees, a girl is a child until she is married. Only a wife is a real woman!

Kyllikki is the beauty of the country. Her hand has been asked even by the stars, sun and moon.  But Kyllikki does not want to twinkle in the sky, nor burn during the day or shine a pale light. She has suitors from near and far, but none have to offer what she wants. She doesn't know that herself.  Lemminkäinen, the womanizer from Kaukoniemi, hears about her and gets obsessed by her. His mother tries to stop him, but in vain.  Kyllikki is not impressed by him. She sees him the player he is, she wants someone steady. Lemminkäinen steels her. Kyllikki is not happy. Lemminkäinen has to stop getting into fights, Kyllikki refuses to wait at home and then stitch her husband up. When they arrive to Kaukoniemi, Lemminkäinen's mother embraces Kyllikki.  She urges Lemminkäinen to enlarge the house.  At first everything goes well, but then Lemminkäinen heads out fishing and does not come back for the night. Kyllikki is not one of those girls who stay at home waiting and goes to the near village for a feast. Lemminkäinen is furious and swears he will find a war to fight in. Kyllikki begs him not to go. To Lemminkäinen, Kyllikki was a price, a token of his capabilities and when she goes to the village without his approval that is an insult to his pride.  Lemminkäinen knows he will find a good fight in the North and he heads there. Kyllikki stays home.

Lemminkäinen's mother
Lemminkäinen's mother is devastated when his son leaves his young wife and heads North. He had thrown his comb made of bone to the wall and says when it bleeds, he is dead. His mother thinks about him constantly.  One day the comb bleeds.  Both Kyllikki and Lemminkäinen's mother grieve him. Soon Lemminkäinen's mother packs her bag and heads North to find out what happe
ned.  She asks Louhi nicely where her son is. Louhi twists and turns.  After a while Lemminkäinen's mother threatens to kill Louhi, if she does not tell. Louhi finally reveals that she got upset, when Lemminkäinen, a married man, wooed her daughter. She sent him to shoot the black swan of underworld. She hasn't seen him since. Lemminkäinen's mother is hopeful. She starts looking and finally hears that Lemminkäinen is in underworld. The sun tells her that her son is at the bottom of the underworld river. Lemminkäinen's mother starts crying, but then asks Ilamrinen to forge a rake for her. She starts raking the bottom of the river and collects all pieces of her son. Finally she sits on the riverbank and starts sewing. When Lemminkäinen is complete, he is not breathing. Lemminkäinen's mother asks a bee to get the honey of the forest flowers. That does not help either.  Lemminkäinen asks the bee to fly to heaven to get honey from God's cellar.  It works and finally Lemminkäinen is breathing again.  Lemminkäinen thinks he has been sleeping.  His mother is pretty upset, tells her son to stop scruple after Louhi's daughter and come back home. Kyllikki is a woman enough for him.

Annikki is Ilmarinen's sister. She works hard and she enjoys doing everyday chores. One day she sees Väinämöinen rowing by. Väinämöinen is reluctant to tell her, what he is doing. He lures Annikki to join him Annikki gets mad and demands to know where Väinämöinen is going. When Väinämöinen tells her that he is going to propose Louhi's daughter, who was promised for Ilmarinen. Annikki runs to Ilmarinen and tells him, what Väinämöinen is up to. Annikki urges Ilmarinen to go North to woo Louhi's daughter. Ilmarinen is not sure. Annikki heats up sauna and makes a fresh vihta (bush of birch branches) and gets the water from the love spring to through on the stones. Annikki knows that her brother needs all the confidence he can get.  When Ilmarinen has bathed, he is ready to go North.

Louhi's daughter is the fairest of them all. She has turned down Ilmarinen, but she keeps thinking about him. He was very committed to his work, talks little and was shy to show affection.  Obviously Ilmarinen is no empty speaker.  When he was forging Sampo, Louhi's daughter used to sneak to watch him in secret.  Maybe it would be good to live with him.  Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen return to compete for Louhi's daughter. Väinämöinen has a boat full of gold, Imarinen has improved his appearance. Louhi recommends her daughter to take Väinämöinen, but she wants Ilmarinen.  Louhi is not happy and demands that Ilmarinen proves himself with few tasks. First he has to plow a field of vipers. Louhi's daughter helps him, she tells him to get the golden plow and shield his feet with steel gaiters. Ilmarinen succeeds. Next task is to kill a bear and not  just any bear, but the bear of underworld. Louhi's daughter helps Ilmarinen again. The third task is to fish a giant pike from the under world river.  When Ilmarinen brings the pike, Louhi sees his worth and agrees to marriage. She throws a wedding never seen before.  When the newly weds are leaving, Louhi tries to stall, she can't let go.  Louhi's daughter knows she is going to miss her mother, but Ilmarinen by her side, she is ready. They are happy together. Ilmarinen remembers to praise his wife and both work hard for their home.

Tellervo is the daughter of Tapio, the king  and ruler of forest. She is very playful elf princess, who cherishes wolves and foxes, nurses fallen bird chicks. She also looks after the cattle pasturing in the forest. Kullervo, a  Sheppard for Ilmarinen's and his wife's cattle. Kullervo is bitter and withdrawn. He doesn't trust other people. Herding is beneath him. Ilmarinen's wife has baked a bread for him. When he starts to carve it, the treasured knife he got from his farther breaks.  Kullervo starts crying, it was all he had. He gets mad and chases the cows to the moor.  Even Tellervo cannot prevent that. Kullervo's hatred is over. He summons all wolves and bears and then takes them to Ilmarinen's house. The beasts kill Ilmarinen's wife. In the forest Tellervo is crying.

Mielikki is the wife of Tapio. She is in charge of the green of trees, flowers, forest paddies, wild animals and cattle. The forest is Mielikki's garden. People turn to Mielikki when they need good luck in hunting, or wish to find the most mushrooms or berries. She runs her kingdom kindly and knows how to turn her husband's head.  One story tells about Lieto Lemmi's son, who turned to Mielikki, when he was hunting the Moose of the devil. Without Mielikki's help, he would have not succeeded. Even Väinämöinen needs Mielikki, when he fights the bear Louhi sent after him. The people in Kalevala know that they can enter a forest like a treasure-trove.  But they have to respect the gifts tehy recieve. The forest only gives to those who respect them. Greed and arrogance insult the fores folk.  Mielikki also offers safety, when Lemminkäinen in anger accidently kills Louhi's husband, war starts. Louhi attacks Kalevala and burns Lemminkäinen's house. The people are safe in the forest.

Lessons the women teach us:

Aino's mother wanted best for her daughter, but couldn't see that her daughter is very different. Did she raise her daughter to be too nice? If Aino had rebelled earlier, had her mother seen her differently.

Louhi is too manlike and that people do not like. She does not seek for approval and certainly does not want to please everybody.  She loves her children above all. Louhi is the opposite force to Väinämöinen.

From the maiden of the North we learn that it is good to respect yourself and not to take seriously all kinds of offers.

Kyllikki refuses just to be a price to be won.  She is skeptical about Lemminkkäinen, but learns to love him. She gave up when she settled to live in a fisherman's cottage, but that is commitment.

Lemminkäinen's mother does everything for her son. Fear and terror turn into anger, when her son is finally safe. She also shows that nothing is hopeless.

Annikki is a good sister, she stands up to her brother. Together they support one another.

Louhi's daughter is firs very arrogant, but soon realizes what a good man is really like.

Tellervo is kind, but even she cannot do anything about the evil of humans. Kullervo's revenge is over sized. There is never a justification for revenge.

Mielikki represents the Finnish mentality. Deep down we still are forest folk. Just like Mielikki, we cannot stand greed or arrogance. Something we maybe should start exporting. Nature shouldn't be taken for granted. We need to care for it and respect it.

Kalevala is story between to tribes, the people of Kalevala and the North, but it can also be seen as the battle between men and women: Väinämöinen against Louhi. In the end Marjatta a girl pure and innocent gets pregnant by lingon berry, every one treats her cold. She gives birth to her son alone. Even Väinämöinen thinks the boy must be killed. The boy is wonderful and mightier than Väinämöinen. New era has begun.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Elina Hirvonen 2016: Näkymätön
illustrated by Ville Tietäväinen

Captain cannot sleep, her real name is Flower, but she wants everyone call her Captain.  She wants to be an astronaut. At the moment she leads the Space Dudes, who can save the universe from Bad Guys.

Usually she falls asleep easily, but now she is thing about day care tomorrow. If she wishes hard enough, could everything be totally different?

In the morning she departs with the Space Dudes and finishes her porrige and gets dressed real fast. Mother is surprised and Captain says the day care kids have to be brave and fast. She decides Everything Changes Now.

Captain asks the Space Dudes to fix the situation.

Mom leaves her in the day care and Captain smile. If she smiles enough everything will be fine. But the other kids don't want to play with Captain.  The other girls turn their backs on her and boys tell her, they don't want to play with girls.  Captain swings hard when the others play together.

When Mom picks her up and ask did she have a good day, Captain smiles and lies, yes. Together with her Mom and Dad Captain go swimming and visits the library. For supper they have pan cakes, but Captain belly hurts as if someone is pressing it with a stone. In the evening she repeats the days events. In the morning her belly still hurts. Mom doesn't listen, she is in a hurry. The Space Dudes have vanished too. Captain tries not to cry, not now, when the other kids can see. Again she plays alone and in the night she has nightmares.

In the morning Mom and Dad want to talk to her. Captain cannot tell them, they will only be upset and what if her parents find out there is something wrong with her. Then no one will like her. Her mother takes her to the day care and talks with the day care manager.  After nap time there is a sign: "Everyone is welcome to play".  The grownups ask kids to a ring and ask them what happens when they fall with their bikes. The kids know: it hurts.  Then the grown ups ask, how does it feel, when you are left outside of play. It hurts too and there is no band aid for it.

Later the teacher asks Captain, what she would like to play. She says she is good at space. She starts to build a space station and a curly headed boy builds a rocket in it. A girl decorates is with leaves and sticks. When Mom comes to pick Captain, she does not want to leave.

This is a very current book: everyone should be let to play. In adult world that means that everyone should be at least tolerated. This book almost makes me cry, which is a bad thing, because this is an important issue and should be read. As parents we often are so proud, when our kids read well and can calculate difficult mathematical equations. When can we say we are proud that our kids are the social wizards: they get along with every one and that they never hurt anybody?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Stories from music

Silja Sillanpää 2016: Tenho ja Ryske
illustrated by Kati Vuorento

Tenho is a seven year old boy who wanted an instrument for his birthday. He gets a mp3 player (soitin in Finnish means a player or an instrument). Luckily Ryske an elk comes along and takes him to nature to see the instruments people used to make: The shepards clarinet, Liru
Pitkähuilu (from 1 minute on)
Bag pipe
luikku (at 1:43 minute)

Most of the instruments were used to scare bears and wolves when shepherding in the woods.  This book had new information to me: I did not know that we had a kind of bag pipe already in the Middle Ages.  What I do not understand is, why all the old songs are so sad.  The Swedish traditional songs are much more up beat and cheerful. I wonder, why that cheerfulness never landed on our side of the Gulf of Bothnia? Is it the Finnish stubborness, since the rulers are so happy, we will never be just to spite them?

Kantele was made of Pike's jaw bone according to Kalevala

If you yet haven't heard enough sad Finnish music, here is one more Alhaal' on Allin mieli.

Finnish melancholy at best, even the
long tailed duck (alli in Finish) is felling low.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Overly helpful Sandman

Harri Tarkka 2005: Liian innokas nukkumatti

 Nestori the platipus is ready to go to sleep, when all of a sudden his room is filled with noise:his friend Pystyhylje, the seal is playing sandman and wants to get Nestori to sleep.

The effect is quite the opposite. The sandman wannabe offers Nestori a sleep menu, where he can choose what kind of dream he would like to see: maybe arriving to the daycare naked? Or be a hero or food?

Pystyhylje and Buffen argue
 When Nestori is almost falling asleep his buddy makes some noise so he can't. Bluffen, Nestori's pelican friend arrive and he and Pystyhylje start to argue what kind of sand is the best for falling a sleep (in Finnish we use unihiekka, sleep sand to get children to sleep). Finally Nestori falls asleep listening to them argue.

Sleep is very important and falling asleep is difficult to some children (and adults). This sandman does not help.

Menu for dreams: naked in daycare, getting strong, flying,
being a lizard, being food
Finally the two sleep professionals understand to leave
and let Nestori