Explaining requires some personal history. In the late 90’s as a Tolkienite, I had decried the effort to bring The Lord of the Rings to screens. (‘Loudly’ my husband reminds me. “Vociferously.”) How could any movie capture the epic settings, cultures, languages, poetry of Tolkien’s masterpiece? My husband went to see Fellowship in the theater. I, of course, would not be going, but amazed by its brilliance, he convinced me to see it. (He was going to see it a second time with or without me.) Well. It more than surpassed my low expectations and I became a diehard ‘Ringer’ with Sir Peter Jackson as my new God.
In 2002, National Geographic put out a DVD Beyond the Movie on Tolkien’s influences. Of course, I had already read “Of Gods and Monsters”, Tolkien’s essay on Beowulf, but I did not understand the impact of The Kalevala, Finland’s ‘National Epic.”
So I read The Kalevala in full (I’d read a bit in college as an ELA major but preferred Beowulf) and when I started writing my first novel (See newsletter #1) I had a ‘what if’ fantasy. What if dwarves and elves and men were real people in ancient Carelia who focused so much on their differences – who ‘othered’ so hard – they just thought they were separate races? What if Tolkien had only recorded the oral histories that were passed down? (Blasphemy, I know, but this is just in my imagination!)
And the more I explored the Finns, the more interested I became. With their own language, pantheon, mythologies and folktales, they weren’t Vikings – not even ‘Scandinavian.” It seemed unfair that the Norse in their newfound home of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were getting all the attention!
In fact, the ancient Finns had a reputation for shamanism. Olaus Magnus in A Description of the Northern Peoples printed in Rome,1555 referenced magical Finnar who would sell special knotted ropes to mariners. Ostensibly, loosening the knots would release the winds thus saving a becalmed ship. (Fortunately, I still had a JSTOR subscription and read a number of articles about the different peoples of that region in what I am calling my anthropology phase. So, the ‘Finnar’ he probably referred to were the Sami.)
The internet was invaluable and while some sites were more scholarly than others, I’ve bookmarked many on my website.
I was also delighted to find the treasure “Tales from a Finnish Tupa” first published in 1936 (Here on Amazon) and those folktales figure largely in my 2nd novel.
So much of this found its way into A Veil of Silver Tears. It might have started as “Tolkien, but with mosquitos” (as a friend of mine dubbed an early manuscript) but now it’s moved beyond that…
Next up, some very special stones.