scandinavian and baltic studies

June 2013

xvii + 116pp



978 1 86057 083 4

Folklore of the Nordic Baltic Region




Translated and Edited by Helena Henderson

This collection serves well as an introduction and one must applaud Ms. Henderson...fascinating
Journal of the Finnish Church Guild

Not only could the texts in this book provide a most colourful entry to the study of the folktale but a basic course for students could be designed with the use of the scholarly data given... never before translated into English

a very accessible and valuable collection
Southern Folklore, University of Western Kentucky

The collection will be of value

Available for the first time in paperback*, this anthology of 50 folktales is an excellent introduction to the rich oral tradition of Finnish folktales for both the general reader and for students of folklore.

Storytelling as a living tradition was preserved longer in Finland than in many other countries because of its relative geo­graphical isolation compared to other countries that more readily came into contact with another civilization which destroyed local oral traditions. As in other countries skilled storytellers were often representatives of the itinerant trades such as cobblers, tailors, lumberjacks, peddlers and beggars.

The anthology is drawn from the Folklore Archive of the Finnish Literature Society (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, or SKS) in Helsinki, which is the central archive of the Finnish folk tradition and houses an unusually large number of folktales compared to similar collections in other countries.

The anthology provides both traditional folktales and a number of popular Finnish jokes and anecdotes. A couple of extracts are featured below.

Although essentially innocent in its narrative and suitable for all readers, An Anthology of Finnish Folktales does contain gothic elements and explicit language at times. It might, therefore, be advisable for general readers to exercise parental guidance where younger children are concerned.

*This collection of folktales was previously published in hardback as The Maiden Who Rose From The Sea and other Finnish Folktales by Hisarlik Press in 1992.

Helena Henderson is a UK-based freelance Tutor, Translator and Writer and member of the Anglo-Finnish Society.


The Rabbit, the Wolf, the Fox and the Bear Caught in a Pit

A man had dug a pit in the ground and placed a carcass there as bait to lure rabbits, wolves, foxes and bears. And indeed, each of the animals was tempted by the carcass, and all fell into the pit. As they saw no way of escape, the animals felt it best to settle down for a rest.

After a short while they became restless as their hunger returned, one of them asked, "Well, what shall we eat now?" The fox, looking the rabbit over, said, "Let's eat that pop-eyed one first; we're sure to come up with something else later". "Yes, let's eat him", replied the others, and set about eating the rabbit straight away. So they got settled down for another rest and after a while woke up and asked each other, "What shall we eat now to satisfy our hunger?" The fox, while looking at the wolf, said to the others, "Let's eat the hairy one". "Yes, let's do that!" said the others and made fast work of eating the wolf, after which the fox and the bear took another nap.

While the bear was sleeping, the fox got up quietly and placed the wolf's innards under his own belly and went back to sleep. When the bear in turn woke up, he asked the fox, "What shall we eat now? I'm hungry". The fox then scooped up the wolf's innards from under his belly and said, "Gobble up your own innards; I tore my belly open, why don't you do the same?" The bear followed the fox's advice, but as he tore his belly open and began gobbling up his innards, he died there and then. Now the fox, all alone, could eat the bear in peace, and carried on with his life in the pit as best he could.

Eventually the trapper came to the pit to see whether he had caught any prey. The fox then pretended to be dead, and the man, believing this to be so, pulled the fox up and threw him onto the hillside. Mikko* then ran off into the forest and freedom, and thus managed to escape death.

* A popular name for a fox.

Two Women, a Mouse and the Gold Coins

Once two women were walking down the street. One of them had good eyesight, the other one had poor eyes. They happened to be passing the king's window, which was open, and the king was looking out. When the good-sighted woman noticed the king, she said, "The good king will help". When the bad-sighted woman heard this, she said, "The king does no such thing, it's God who helps".

The king invited them into his court and put them in a room by themselves. He then put a mouse under a dish so that the women couldn’t see it. Then on his way out of the room he said to the women, "You mustn't look under the dish".

But when the king left the room, the good-sighted woman looked under the dish, and the mouse escaped. On his return the king looked under the dish and saw that the mouse was no longer there. The good-sighted woman confessed to having had a look.

Then the king ordered two cakes to be baked - a big one and a small one - and he told the baker to fill the smaller cake with plenty of gold coins. When the women were leaving the court, the king gave the bigger cake to the poor-sighted woman and the smaller one to the good-sighted woman. After they had walked some distance from the court, the good-sighted woman said, "Let's change cakes". To which the poor-sighted woman replied, "I don't mind if we do". So they changed the cakes over.

While she ate the cake, the poor-sighted woman kept picking gold coins out of the cake and putting them into her pocket. The good-sighted woman wondered at what the other one was picking. "There are gold coins inside this cake", she said. To which the good-sighted woman replied, "We'll break off our deal". "No, we won't!" said the bad-sighted one.

So they began to argue and, as they were unable to finish it, the women decided to go over to the king and ask for his counsel. The king said, "A deal is a deal. You can't go back on it now. Remember it's not the king who helps, but the good God".



Also of interest

Wordless Secrets

Anne Charlotte Leffler
and Modernist Drama


Co-operatives and
the Social Question