Mistä olet kotoisin?
Where are you from?
Magical and ethereal and in some way, has a drop back of elven woods from middle earth. It is the extremes of light and dark, Freezing, snowy magical winters, with blissful long summers, with a double day. And in winter the northern lights can be seen dancing in the skies.
The land of a thousands lakes, well specifically thats 187,888 in total. There are around 179, 584 islands approx. 100,000 of these are located in these lakes. It is a place where you may just believe, that you could possibly bump into a troll or a wisp in the woods.
Finland may only be a 100 years old in terms of independence and in its time, surrounding countries have fought over the land. The people have a close relationship with this land. Much of that relationship is reflected in poetry such as the Kalevala, folklore & song.
A liberal and equal country now, but it took many artists and creatives to assist with the culture and identity change. The Cambridge history of Theatre (2010) describes Finnish theatre as “retelling of the story of the national awakening. The threat from foreign imperialism and eventually victory through political independence.”
Finland produced artist and writer Tove Jasson, who if you have ever read the Moomins, lived in Moomin valley, somewhere in Finland.
And then there is also ‘Tom of Finland’. An artist who completely challenged the status quo for homo-erotica art and very much set a president of identity for the gay community, not only in Finland but around the world. When I look at his art, I can see Freddy Mercury.
This is a brief introduction into what Finland is about. I have only touched the surface. But I know that its a place that I love. The clean air, the water, they mystery and magica. The calmness, tranquility, the extremes and quiet emptiness. In the Words of the Monty Python song “Finland Finland the country I want to be, Finland has it all”…
“An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when talking to you; an extroverted Finn looks at your shoes”.
There is a stereotype that Finns are reserved…. Well lets just say thats not true in my experience. I would just say that they have a special attitude and use of words. They are selective. And then you have the ‘Finnish word’, meaning that when things are said, they are meant. Meaning face value is, face value There is a Finnish proverb “Take a man by his words and a bull by its horns”
Chit-chat is small, but the Finns once they get to know you. Have this dark sense of humour, that is witty and to the point and incredibly dry..
“The whole poem is replete with the most fascinating folk-lore about the mysteries of nature, the origin of things, the enigmas of human tears, and, true to the character of a national epic, it represents not only the poetry, but the entire wisdom and accumulated experience of a nation. Among others, there is a profoundly philosophical trait in the poem, indicative of a deep insight into the workings of the human mind, and into the forces of nature.”
The Kalevala is body of work that is considered to be ‘epic poetry’ it was compiled by Elias Lönnrot and is a collective of Finnish & Karelian mythology & folklore. As a body of work it is considered a national treasure. It is embodied and significant piece of Finnish culture & literature, In the paper ” The Kalevala the Epic poem of Finland into English” J Crawford (2000) breaks down this poem, and discusses the how this poem has much of the Finnish origins or culture contained within in it. He describes the Finns as ancient people and that their history and way of life has a base in this body of work. It played a key role as part of the Finnish national identity especially in 1917, when Finland gained its Independence from Russia.
The Sauna Elves:
The sauna is historically in Finnish culture, is where you enter and exit life. I remember Linnea, one of the Finnish students telling me when we visited the sauna, that this is where women would give birth to their children back in the old days. It was a sterile place, that was cleansing and a place that you can relax from the world. There is a whole ritual when you go to the suana, especially if there is an ice lake involved like we experienced.
I found this wonderful animation online by the “Finnish Storyteller” who creates her own animations to reflect Finnish folklore and culture. This is the story of the Sauna Elves,
Tove Jansson & The Moomins.
Tove Jassons Moomins books and characters are known all over the world. Moomin Papa, Little Mi, Moomin and Snufkin to name a few. My favourite character was Snufkin, he always had this ability to walk away but really deep down I was more like little Mi. I grew up on the stories of the Moomins. They fascinated me as a child and their adventures in Moominland are probably one of the reasons I am the way I am and have a wanderlust.
For Tove her life and art were closely linked and she lived an interesting life. This documentary by the BBC gives a backdrop to how her life inspired her art and writings. She was quietly unconventional but at the same time was a heroin for many. When I watched this documentary It really made me understand her writing so much more, her expression but also it made me curious about the art & creative movement beyond the Moomins, as the documentary gives reference to this.
Tom of Finland:
“Tom of Finland is one of the gay world’s few authentic icons. His drawings have had an enormous influence on gay identity.” IMDB
Gay erotic artist Touko Laaksonen is a Finnish export and is better known under the name pseudonym of “Tom of Finland’ which he was given in the 1950’s when he was first published in the American magazine “Physique Pictorial”, these images are now considered iconic homo-erotic drawings. Like stated in the introduction Tom of Finland has become a Gay icon and has set a president that has be used to inspire other artists. (Attitude Magazine 2017 )
jrbrookes.com. (2017). THE KALEVALA THE EPIC POEM OF FINLAND INTO ENGLISH. [online] Available at: http://www.jrbooksonline.com/pdf_books_added2009-2/kalevala.pdf [Accessed 16 Aug. 2017].
BBC Four. (2016). The Life of Tove Jansson. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYgC0nKyF0g [Accessed 16 Aug. 2017].
YouTube. (2017). ***Singing a Kalevala runo in Finnish [Ensiferum]***. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8UfdehDqm4 [Accessed 16 Aug. 2017].
YouTube. (2017). The Kalevala – Interview with Scott Sandwich. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNVwM7smTkM [Accessed 16 Aug. 2017].
Anon, (2017). [image] Available at: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/1d/e2/98/1de298c705f444ed7886353ec2c73578–finland-travel-advertising-poster.jpg [Accessed 16 Aug. 2017].
T.Jansson (1945). Moominland. [image] Available at: http://beckstewart.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/IMG_0010-1.jpg [Accessed 16 Aug. 2017].
YouTube. (2017). TOM OF FINLAND trailer english subtitles. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXpYQXGL4WQ [Accessed 17 Aug. 2017].
YouTube. (2017). The Finnish Storyteller. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCilX7iCVbG4Xd0GxHfyJDEw/videos [Accessed 17 Aug. 2017].
Attitude Magazine. (2017). Tom of Finland: A History. [online] Available at: http://attitude.co.uk/tom-of-finland-a-history/ [Accessed 17 Aug. 2017].