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 from 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". Apart from that, 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 medieval 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 - such books 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 Fillmore 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 here to conform to standard ways of writing today. The tales are slightly edited in other ways too.
MoreIn Finnish folk tales the female characters are brave and resourceful with warm hearts beneath their fur coats. They are no helpless princesses.
On the downside, there are not so many English books of Finnish folktales. Anyway, three are listed below, yet with overlapping content. The book by Parker Fillmore consists of retold tales, and the book by Bianco and Bowman (or the other way round), is presented as a flowing translation . . . Bianco and Bowman's work has been termed "an odd-ball must read". The tales in it are chosen from two collections of Finnish folklore, one by Eero Salmelainen [Erik Rudbeck] and one by Iivo Harkonen. The collection by Helena Henderson aims at the general reader and the students of Finnish folklore. Her book also includes a number of Finnish jokes and anecdotes.
In Finnish folk tales, people and animals use their wits rather than their brawn - and there is rather little violence. Heroes tend to be men in tales about humans, and not drunkards. There is also a wise sense of human values - very often allied with humour.
Bowman, James Cloyd, and Margery Bianco. 2009. Tales from a Finnish Tupa. Paperback ed. Tr. Aili Kolehmainen. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press (1936). ⍽▢⍽ "A reprint of an adaptation of a translation."
Farbregd, Turid, tr. 1974. Finske eventyr [Finnish fairy tales]. Oslo: Samlaget. ⍽▢⍽ "Finland probably has the largest folklore collections in the world," writes Farbregd (p. 7). The Folklore Archive in Helsinki alone has about 90,000 filed records. (p. 7-8). Tales from Russia and Scandinavia have mingled with more innate ones, she goes on to tell, and that "unexpectedly little of the Finnish folktale treasury has been published in book form." What is peculiarly Finnish is glimpsed through nature and outer conditions, but also by the thoughts, ways and manners of the folktale characters. The forest means a lot to Fins, and stands tall in Finnish folklore. Some folk tale characters meet on forest paths among tall pines and spruces: a lad and a troll here, a bear and a fox there, and so on (Ib. 8).
Fillmore, Parker. 1932, Mighty Mikko: A Book of Finnish Fairy Tales and Folk Tales. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
Henderson, Helena, tr., ed. 2013. An Anthology of Finnish Folktales. Reprint ed. Cardiff: Welsh Academic Press. ⍽▢⍽ Previously published as The Maiden Who Rose From The Sea and other Finnish Folktales by Hisarlik Press in 1992.
Salmelainen, Eero, coll. 1991. Finska folksagor. Tr. Kerstin Lindquist. Stockholm: Klassikerförlaget. ⍽▢⍽ Some thirty tales translated into Swedish.
Sarmela, Matti. 2009. Finnish Folklore Atlas: Ethnic Culture of Finland 2. Tr. Annira Silver. 4th partially rev. ed. Helsinki: Matti Sarmela.
Therman, Erik. 1943. Finska folksagor. Stockholm: Natur och Kultur.
Vala, Katri, and Henry Peter Matthis. 1944. Finska folksagor. Stockholm: Kooperativa förbundetss bokförlag.
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