Finland Folklore

By | December 17, 2021

There are few survivals of ancient Finnish customs and traditions. The national dress has almost disappeared and the ancient customs survive alone, tenacious and widespread in all the countryside, the sauna, the room for the steam bath, separated from the house. In the sauna, mothers go to relieve themselves, the sick seek relief and healing. But in the abundant popular literature, in the epic, lyric, magical songs, in the novellas, in the proverbs and in the riddles it is an immense treasure of traditionalism, as anyone who scans the Kalevala can warn.(v.), a precious document also for the most ancient forms of religion and magic, for the figures of gods and spirits, for the formulas of exorcisms and exorcisms of paganism. No other nation equals the Finnish in the love for popular traditions, in the zeal of the collectors and also in the richness of folkloristic materials. Having lacked for long centuries, for historical reasons, a literature in the national language, supplanted during the Middle Ages and almost until the middle of the last century by Latin and Swedish, Finland has sought and found its greatest and deepest spiritual food. in the ancient songs and in the old legends handed down orally through the centuries, tenaciously preserved by the laulajat (singers) and runojat (poets). It is well known that the publication of the Kalevala (1835) marks the beginning of the new Finnish literature. For Finland 2018, please check

The isolated attempts to collect songs (the first magical runo, the exorcism of the bear, appeared in 1675) and proverbs (H. Florinus, 1792) followed, towards the middle of the century. XVIII, the orderly and conscious movement of “fennophiles”, intent on the study of language, ancient traditions, Nazi history: Daniel Juslenius (1676-1752), the great pioneer HG Porthan (De poësi fennica, 166-1778), And. Lencquist (De superstitione veterum Fennorum, 1782) and Chr. Ganander (Mythologia fennica, 1789).

Research and collections intensified after the union of Finland to Russia as an autonomous Grand Duchy (1809): possibilities hitherto vainly hoped for were opened to the realization of the ideals of the “Fennomaniacs”. The collection and illustration work by I. Arvidsson, KA Gottlund (De proverbiis fennicis, 1818; 8th ed., 1831-32), R. v. Becker (the first to attempt, with his Wäinämöinen, of 1820, the fusion of several songs on the same subject in a kind of poem), Z. Topelius (father of the poet), culminates in the fruitful activity of Elias Lönnrot whom, in addition to the Kalevala, we owe the editions of the popular lyric (Kanteletar, 1829-31), of the Riddles, of the Proverbî, of the Magic songs. Thanks to the Finnish Literary Society, the research of other epic-lyric material, especially of the innumerable toisinnot (“variants”) of the Kalevalian songs, as well as of the tales and short stories in prose, hitherto relatively neglected, continued in the following decades. And the results were wonderful. Today, in the archive of the company, more than half a million documents of songs, stories, legends, customs, musical notations, etc., are preserved, sorted, numbered and provided with the most minute indications of provenance, etc., a whole treasure. folkloristic that has no equal in the world.

The keeper and illustrator of much of this material is Professor Kaarle Krohn, son of Julius and continuator of his father’s work, first professor of Finnish and comparative folklore at the University of Helsinki, guide of numerous disciples, among which we remember Antti Aarne who died on February 2, 1925.

Bibl.: We only mention the main works: in addition to the publications of the Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, the conspicuous Suomi collection (series of 20 vols.: vol. XII of the 5th series is from 1931), the Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Aikakauskirja (Journal of the Ugrofinnica Society ; vols. 44 until 1930) and the Toimituksia (Memories, vols. 61 until 1931); the Finnisch-Ugrische Forschungen (volume XX, 1929); the magazine Valvoja (later Valvoja-Aika); the Kalevalaseuran Vuosikirja (Yearbook of the Kalevala Society, 1921 ff.); and particularly the Folklore Fellows Communications, edited by J. Bolte, K. Krohn, A. Olrik and CW Sydow, and published by Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia (Finnish Academy of Sciences). Hj. Appelgren-Kivalo, Finnische Trachten aus der jüngeren Eisenzeit, Leipzig 1927; UT Sirelius, Les tapis finlandais, Helsinki 1924.

Finland Folklore