My introduction to Louhi, witch of the north in The Kalevala, appears at @FolkloreThursday today. Folk familiar with my work know that she appears in my stories in Dream Book which were inspired by Finnish mythology in both The Kalevala and The Kanteletar.
Some helpful links: The best translation of The Kalevala; the only English version I know of The Kanteletar; here’s me playing a kantele so you know what the traditional Finnish lap harp sounds like and here’s a fantastic classical piece inspired by Louhi from Tomi Räisänen.
Of course you can get my collection Dream Book thanks to Fox Spirit Books. Stories, poems and a play inspired by the Finnish mythology and music that fills my head. Oh, and ancient rock paintings, too!
Hang around Twitter and see all the fun: @FolkloreThursday is a great opportunity to learn and share.
My Finnish murder ballad-based story ‘Palakainen’ first appeared in the Mythic Journeys magazine. It’s included in the Dream Book collection from Fox Spirit Books. Like all the tales in Dream Book I wanted to keep the original well in mind; I tried to capture the feel of the Kanteletar in the language, giving it something of a lyrical, almost circular style.
He came with raven feathers. He came to woo our daughter. Had the wind whispered her secrets into his ear? For she would not have become the wife of any ordinary man, Kommi stubbornness made sure of that. Swanlike she was born, swanlike did she grow, with white hands and a graceful neck and eyes that looked unblinking at you. The servants, who all grumbled day and night about their work, would give her the best of the cream, the finest weaving, the sweetest olut brewed for her. Her brothers and sisters too, who should be jealous of the attention our little star received, instead protected her, coddled her. Her sisters did the mending rather than let her prick her fingers. Her brothers gathered kindling, which should be her job, carried hay to the cows in winter, rather than let her chap her hands. Swanlike they stayed, white.
Palakainen she was named, our little tidbit, our little treat…
Read it in full here.
Image from the original printing (wish I knew the artist!)
I love this version of the Bear Feast Polska by Rymäkkä. It captures the mythic heart of the song. ‘Karhunpeijaispolska’ is one of the first songs I learned to play on the kantele. I imagined cheery bears frolicking in the woods to the jaunty tune, which of course I figured out eventually had nothing to do with the lyrics.
The song is of course about the ritual of hunting and eating the bear. The song honours his sacred gift to the community. Bears are very important in the folklore and myths of Finland. Even today when you arrive at the airport in Helsinki, the signs outside are held in place by concrete bears.
I worked that into my noirish tale ‘Baltic Tango’ in Dream Book. It reunites two characters from À la Mort Subite who somewhat unexpectedly find themselves in Finland and have a hard time adjusting. They even hear the explanation of the Bear Feast over dinner one night. It’s important that the bear agrees to be sacrificed. To kill the bear when it’s unnecessary is a great crime again the living and all would suffer for it.
Besides, he has a good beer that’s perfect after a sauna.
Drop by Todd’s blog for more conventional TOA/V.
One of the important themes of Dream Book is the music of the kantele. Long time readers of this blog know well the Finnish lap harp. I have a couple of five string kanteles, a ten string made by Gerry Henkel that’s waiting for me in Dundee and a fifteen string one that I got back recently. I have improved my playing though I’ll never be a superstar, mostly thanks to the Maine Kantele Institute, where I even made a five string kantele.
It’s a wonderful instrument that’s great for meditative music. Unamplified it’s rather quiet so you won’t disturb anyone — though I am still longing to get a red electric fifteen string. One of the stories explores a little girl’s relationship to her kantele — and the imaginary friend she discovers with it (or is it just her imagination…?)
Here’s some samples:
Hey, kids in the capital region, I’ll be among the attendees at Albacon — which surprisingly has nothing to do with bacon at all but is the local SF/F/H/anime/manga/comics/costuming etc con. Plenty of fun people will be there: GoH is Mur Lafferty and Ghost of Honor is jan howard finder a.k.a. wombat. Doubtless I will be doing my best to flog Dream Book to all and sundry.
My schedule includes:
(possibly taking Debi Chowdhury’s place on the 9 and/or 10 am panels too)
Getting it Published
Laity, Hartwell, Chowdhury, Willis
Getting the Word Out
Laity, Chowdhury, Shvartzman
Kressel, Lafferty*, Laity, Shvartsman
Hammond*, Laity, Schneyer, Shvartsman, Rothman
Noir in SF Cinema (or, perhaps,SF in Film Noir!)
Doyle, Laity*, Barnett/Grant
Full program here. Sorry for the rush job: trying to finish grading!
Out today from Fox Spirit Books is my Finnish-inspired collection DREAM BOOK. I’ve got a post up at the Fox Spirit site that offers a little introduction to the basics of Finnish folklore and mythology and I’ll be putting some multimedia stuff online in the coming days.
Here’s a video I made of some photos from my visit to the Astuvansalmi rock paintings that grace the cover of the book designed by the always fabulous QoE, S. L. Johnson.
What reviewers say:
“In this book, K. A. Laity’s efforts make Finnish mythology and folklore relevant today in ways that resonate with the modern reader. She mates myth and womanhood exquisitely. In short, her work is fabulous.”
Pagan & Pen
“…you will want to savor every word, every page and read this book over and over. The warmth and peacefulness these stories bring to the reader feels like a big, comfortable blanket on a cold wintry day. I am just so impressed, I can’t say enough for Dream Book, except what a wonderful treat.”