Finnish Fairy-tale Monsters the World Is Missing Out On

Every culture has their own monsters directly out of fairy tales and even though for centuries Finland was merely a contested land between Sweden and Russia, we are no different. Some of them are pretty much what you’d expect but some of them… Well, you’ll have to see.

Näkki

A näkki is basically a malignant water spirit. They live almost anywhere with water from wells to rivers to lakes and seas. In Finnish folklore she takes the form of a breath-takingly beautiful young woman whose seductive singing is nearly impossible to resist. Predictably, once seduced, her victims drown in her embrace. A näkki can be gotten rid of by throwing a stone into the body of water because that calls a dragon to live there instead and she’s afraid of it.

Iku-turso

There’s definitely a pattern here; a lot of the monsters of Finnish fairy-tales have something to do with water and Iku-turso is no different. Something between a fish, a man and an octopus, Iku-Turso used to be a god of war before mistress of the North tamed him. His weapon of choice was the bow from which he shot arrows of disease, strife and hunger. He is also supposedly the father of Väinämöinen who’s basically like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Moses and someone’s dirty uncle all rolled into one.

The Mistress of the North

Something very Finnish – and indeed very human – is a touch of Xenophobia. And so one of the biggest monsters in fairy-tales is the mistress of the North (mistress in the sense of master, not lover) She is independent and in control. She is also a magician of the highest degree, jealously guarding all that is hers. She has a beautiful daughter who is the object of many a caper in our national epic, Kalevala.

The interesting thing about Finnish fairy-tales is that mostly the heroes aren’t very good people. On the whole most of their enemies have better and more understandable motives than they themselves do. Take Väinämöinen; first he decides to have a girl young enough to be his grand daughter for a bride. When she decides to drown herself rather than marry him, he goes off to trawl for her corpse in order to force her to marry him anyway. When she manages to escape again, he decides to marry another very young girl, the daughter of the mistress of the North. She wants him to prove his worth by several heroic efforts culminating in obtaining a Sampo (a machine that mills out salt, grain and gold) which he completes and is then allowed to marry the girl. Some time after the marriage he realizes that the Sampo is making the people of the North happy and prosperous, even more so thanhis own people, he decides to steal it back. Because other people can’t be HAPPY ffs! His brothers, unfortunately are no better.

So maybe the true monsters of Finnish fairy-tales are the supposed heroes.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Finnish Fairy-tale Monsters the World Is Missing Out On

  1. I always enjoy seeing the connections between different mythologies: nagas are serpent spirits in Hindu which are often associated with water.

    And yes, Finnish heroes are quite strange…that was one of the things I enjoyed about reading the Kalevala.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s