What’s going on in Finland?
Having known a number of Finns (and being related by marriage to one) I’ve become moderately suspicious of people who choose to live where God only intended for reindeer to roam.
The Inklings were familiar with the Finns, and their myths fascinated J.R.R. Tolkien. According to BBC News:
Having fallen for the Finnish epic, the language-loving Tolkien was not content to read it only in translation. . . . In 1955 he told the poet W.H. Auden that discovering Finnish had been like “entering a complete wine-cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before.”
In 1916, C.S. Lewis had attempted to purchase a copy of the Finnish national myths for his friend Arthur Greeves, but was unsuccessful. “This morning I visited Mullans on your little job, but their copy of the Kalevala was much too old and shop-soiled to satisfy you.”
Doubtless he would eventually become familiar with the Kalevala through the agency of his good friend, Tolkien. (You can download your own copy, in two volumes, here and here.)*
Before reading on, we should dispel any false notions you might have about Finns being what we would call “normal.” Here are a few examples that suggest otherwise:
- Hobby Horse Equestrian Competitions are serious events! | Many contestants practice their jumps and prancing several hours a day. It’s actually rather quaint when performed by children.
- They are linguistically self-absorbed with their nearly extinct Finno-Ugric language tree. | As one blogger notes, “When Finns speak to you it sounds like they’re casting some sort of (probably totally evil) enchantment.”
- They are either so environmentally conscious, or energy impoverished, that the Helsinki Sea Life Center has powered their Christmas tree lights using their electric eels. | Fortunately, the eels have eleven months each year to recharge.
- Forget about yodeling. Finland has a Shouting Men’s Choir that is guaranteed to drive any non-Finn to the brink of insanity. | Mieskuoro Huutajat, the choir, is not above applying a sinister twist to the national anthems of other nations.
- The Truman Show premise is alive and well in Finland. Although Ari Kivikangas is aware he’s under constant scrutiny. | Despite that, he has apparently chosen to make the video feed as boring as possible.
- Finland has a popular “Take In” restaurant which seats fifty, but has no kitchen. |Diners have to order from other restaurants and have their food delivered so the Take In staff can serve it to them.
- Veijo Rönkkönen created a bizarre sculpture park in which some of the creepy figures actually sport human teeth. | I believe it’s no coincidence the asylum lies within a kilometer of the Russian border. It is obviously part of the Finnish psychological warfare that keeps their imperialistic neighbors at bay.
It might be entertaining (or disturbing) to list other Finnish oddities, but a recent study revealed that they are also accomplishing something quite commendable that no other developed nation can match.
Finnish fathers spend more time with their school-aged children than do their mothers. The study suggests that Finnish men are succeeding where most of the world fails—their menfolk are actively parenting!
The praiseworthiness of that accomplishment should not be undermined by the fact that the daily interaction gulf between the genders comprises only eight minutes. Nor should we belittle the accomplishment because Finland offers astonishingly generous financial enticements to stay at home and play while someone with a strong Puritan work ethic would feel guilty.
Despite the peripheral factors, number one is number one. Kudos to the fathers of Finland!
Addressing Finn “Peculiarities”
I’ve thought long and hard about how we can gently draw the Finnish clans towards a more sensible lifestyle. Parenting aside, their oddities remain too many to count. I have fallen upon a solution.
This parenting news reveals there is still hope for the Finnish people. The rest of the world now needs to work with urgency to have all of C.S. Lewis’ works translated into Finnish.
Sadly, while it appears Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia have been published in their tongue, those inveterate sauna-lovers desperately need access to Lewis’ nonfiction.
If you are interested in helping the Finns—something that would make J.R.R. Tolkien very happy—please visit my GoFundMe page.**
The Finnish father in the picture above celebrates the length of his daughter’s ponytail, and demonstrates what his daily hobby horse exercises have done for his quadriceps.
* An audio recording of Kalevala in English is available at Internet Archive.
** Just joking. We don’t solicit funds at Mere Inkling, even for worthy causes such as this.
12 thoughts on “A Priceless Lesson from Finland”
This is interesting reading.
Interesting, but not funny..? I didn’t realize you were a Finn, Mark!
Funny. I enjoyed this immensely.
Glad it brightened your day. My Finnish friends liked it too. Haven’t heard back from my brother-in-law yet, though…
Fins are also one of the most educated people. They love to read. People after our own hearts, right?
There you go… inflating their egos!
I took it as, like, a serious essay.
It’s serious in the sense that Finns are a distinctive people. And tongue in cheek that they are odd. Truth is, I would be willing to bet that you could compile a similar list of peculiar behaviors about any people group in the world.
If happy and playful make you odd…we should all be so lucky! Fun post
(And didn’t early /Victorian dolls actually use real teeth and human hair? Creepy smiles, though)
You’re right about enjoying life. As for the human teeth thing… we could include dentures. Yuk. I would have preferred a carved wooden set… or perhaps ivory (even though it comes from a biological source, it doesn’t seem nearly so “distasteful”). On the other hand, the thought of having an organ transplant doesn’t cause me any discomfort.
You have to admit that toothy dolls and sculptures are in a different weirdness category than dentures (Inserting giggles here)- have a nice weekend)
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