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Parker Fillmore writes in a note to her retold Finnish stories how Finnish lyrics, proverbs, stories and other works of Finnish folklore were first collected and then taken care of in the archives of the Society of Finnish Literature at Helsinki.

All the tales in her book – which these stories are from – are found in the folklore collections of Eero Salmelainen (1830-87), one of the scholars who collected Finnish stories. His books were sponsored by the Society of Finnish Literature and used in its campaign to bring back the Finnish language to the Finns at a time when Swedish was the official language of the country.

Parker Fillmore also says: "The stories as I offer them are not translations but my own versions . . . I make no apology for retelling these tales". She explains why, and also informs that the stories are for the most part "variants of stories told the world over". The Finnish stories are marked by what is called local colour – are dramatic and picturesque and told with detail that is much Finnish.

She also tells how the Finnish animal stories compare with the old stories of Reynard the Fox on the European continent. The two have many episodes in common and both have episodes that are found in Aesop and in books of animal analogues that were widely read in medieval times. The Reynard that is best known today has been current in Europe since the 1100s. Scholars also suggest that the charming Finnish animal stories are older than the final Reynard stories, and are similar to the earlier simpler stories that the Reynard cycle was originally built on, tells Fillmore. The Finnish animals are not the clerics and the judges and the nobles that the Reynard animals are, but plain downright Finnish peasants, often amusing, and always very human, she assesses.

Her book has been republished many times.

Stylistic changes in this new edition

In these Finnish animal fables as retold by Flllmore Parker, the squirrel, ermine, horse, and mouse have no personal names. However, the most recurrent animals are given personal names, such as Mikko for the fox. It is in line with a Nordic way of referring to animals that are frequent the native folklore. In Sweden it is Mickel Räv, in Norway, Mikkel Rev or Mikkel. And it is also possible to say just 'the fox', and leave out the first name. I figure that way works best for many who are not familiar with the Finnish names on the animals. And so:

"Osmo, the Bear," rather often becomes "the bear"

Pekka, the Wolf, — the wolf

Mikko, the Fox, — the fox

Mirri, the Cat, — the cat

Jussi, the Hare, — the hare

Harakka, the Magpie, — the magpie.

Varis, the Crow, — the crow.

Capital letters in "the Farmer", "the Bear" and other common nouns, are removed in this edition too, to conform to standard ways of writing today. The tales are edited by me in other, minor ways also.

Tormod Kinnes


Finnish folktales, fairy tales of Finland, Suomi fairy tales, Literature  

Fillmore, Parker. Mighty Mikko: A Book of Finnish Fairy Tales and Folk Tales. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1932.

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