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justice_turtle ([personal profile] justice_turtle) wrote in [community profile] readallthenewberys2013-10-05 03:14 am

Newbery Honor: Vaino, A Boy of New Finland (Julia Davis Adams)

[Written right before posting:] So I finally gave up on this... miserable object... (I tell you, I'm really regretting right now that I didn't make this blog R-rated) and decided to post what I had. In hopes that people will wail back at me and share my pain. O_O

In other notes, I've finally realized that putting the warnings in the actual post body as well as in the cut would be useful for anyone who ever gets linked here from anywhere. I'll do that from now on, and at some point go back and edit them into all the old liveblog posts. :D

**************

[Earlier:] ...I have no idea whether "New Finland" here means a place that is not Finland, like New York or New Zealand, or whether it means "contemporary Finland" as opposed to "traditional Finland with Lapps and reindeer and that".

LET'S FIND OUT. (Since I only have this book on interlibrary loan till October 7. ;P)

WARNINGS: normative arranged marriage, suicide, misogyny, classism, wildly skewed Finnish history... I may have missed something there because after 'suicide' the problems started coming so thick and fast I forgot to warn at the time

* This is a very old, beat-up, fragile book with a wobbly spine. I presume it was never reprinted after its first printing.

* There's a (less-than-legible due to overabundance of detail) "Map of Finland during the Finnish Revolution with the important Strategic Points" on the endpapers. Clearly there's a lot of Google-mapping in my immediate future. ;-) Let's head to Wikipedia and find out what the Finnish Revolution was, because I know zilch about Finland except that it's mentioned in Hans Christian Andersen's "Snow Queen" once. And I think I might have a paper doll with traditional Finnish wedding garb somewhere. :-)

* ...okay. "Finnish Revolution" redirects to Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic, which as far as I can figure out (knowing very little about the history of Russia or the Cold War either) was a proto-USSR-affiliated state which controlled southern Finland for about three and a half months in 1918 before being taken out by German-backed opposition called "White Finns". Presumably our hero gets involved on one side or the other.

* The book's jacket-flap, pasted on one of the front pages, informs me that our hero is called Vaino Lundborg, that he lives in Helsingfors (now Helsinki, the capital of Finland) and gets embroiled in the Russian and Finnish revolutions because he is "very patriotic"... this is giving me a serious case of HISTORY, since apparently this was so long ago that we weren't virulently anti-Communist here in the US yet. I know that actually US anti-Communism didn't start till after World War II and didn't really get rolling until the '50s, but that's a time period that encompassed not only my life but my parents' entire lives, so it feels... bigger than it actually was.

* Anyway. The book jacket also informs me that Finland had "never, until the Revolution, been independent", and that therefore "very little is known of the Finns" and therefore the book is very topical and Important for modern kids to read, apparently. ;P

* Okay, time to read up on the history of Finland. Wiki says Finland was part of Sweden from the 12th century till the beginning of the 19th century; in 1809 it became an "autonomous Grand Duchy" ruled by a "diet" or parliament-like legislative body under the authority of the Russian Tsar, who served as Grand Duke of Finland. In 1905-1907, the Diet of Finland was reorganized into a true Parliament -- don't ask me what the difference is. It seems that the Finnish Parliament was (and is) elected directly by the people via proportional representation, as opposed to the Diet of Finland which was composed of 201 nobles (roughly similar to the British House of Lords), 40 representatives of the clergy and "senior teachers" elected by that group, 30-70 representatives of the taxably wealthy men who lived in cities -- the exact number based on the represented population, and 70 representatives of the land-owning peasants, an estimated 4.5% of all rural residents.

* The Finnish parliament was unique at that time because, from the beginning, women could both vote and run for office. Non-landowners and minorities could also vote. So apparently the new system was designed expressly for the purpose of universal representation (of voting-age adults). Cool. :D Although in fact, from 1906 through 1916, Finland was ruled mostly by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and a group of Russian army officers known as the "sabre-senate", while the parliament had practically no actual power.

* Anyway, in 1917 Finland declared independence. There was a lot of warring over the next couple years, including the election and abdication of a German-born King of Finland, but in 1919 the parliamentary election resulted in Finland's becoming a republic.

* For the record, the winners of the Finnish Civil War were the Whites, who opposed the communist/socialist Reds. I don't know which side our Vaino is going to be on, although if the book is going to have a happy ending, I think White affiliation is more likely; Helsinki was controlled by the Reds through much of the Civil War, but after the war, the White Terror killed many Red sympathizers.

* The book jacket also mentions that we'll have Finnish folklore scattered through the book, including a story about "the first Vaino". (I'm totally guessing on the Vaino/Väinämöinen identification here. We'll see if I'm wrong.)

* Aaand now we can get to the book proper. XD

* In "also by this author", we have The Swords of the Vikings, a book of retold excerpts from Viking-era Danish propaganda author/historian Saxo Grammaticus. So it seems Ms Davis-Adams (Adams seems to have been her married name, although like most women of the era who chose to use their maiden names in middle-name format e.g. Laura Ingalls Wilder, she didn't actually hyphenate) has had previous experience in the "retelling folklore" field, and therefore the folklore may or may not be a bit better handled than the topical contemporary stuff. WE'LL SEE. ^_^

* The frontispiece is captioned "On the Glorious Sixteenth of May, Mannerheim Entered Helsingfors at the Head of His Victorious Army". I don't know who Mannerheim is. TO GOOGLE! XD

* Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was the military leader of the Whites during the Finnish Civil War, and apparently has something of a "Father of His Country" status in modern Finland. The "glorious Sixteenth of May", 1918, is the date on which the Whites held a celebratory parade in Helsinki after conquering the last Russian/Red stronghold in Finland and harrying Red-sympathetic refugees out of the country.

* So this is most likely going to be a very, very skewed White-sympathetic view of the Finnish Civil War. We also probably won't hear about the part where the White victory made Finland a German protectorate (until Germany lost World War I in November 1918 and the German-born King of Finland stepped down in order to let Finland make its own peace with the Allies).

* 'Kay. Actual book. Title page and everything! *g* Illustrator is Lempi Ostman, a Finn. Dedication is "To Billy", no explanation, presumably Ms Davis-Adams's son or a young friend. This copy came from the book's third printing, in 1931, i.e. after it had taken a Newbery Honor.

* According to the Table of Contents there are seven chapters of modern occurrences, from "Under Hooves" to "Victory", each with an accompanying Finnish folktale -- and I'm right about the reference to "the first Vaino" meaning Väinämöinen, these are all Kalevala tales I read as a kid. "The Magic Mill", "The Capture of the Sampo", and so forth.

* The book begins with an Author's Foreword, which she starts with "Everyone has heard of Nurmi, the 'flying Finn', the Olympic runner". I haven't, so I shall google. ;-) Okay, Paavo Nurmi was a mid-range and long-distance runner who dominated the various 1920s Olympics (1920, 1924, and 1928) for Finland. He innovated the concept of running at the same steady speed throughout a race rather than sprinting near the beginning and end, and is apparently responsible for popularizing modern "analytical running" techniques, since he always ran carrying a stopwatch.

* So... apparently Julia Davis Adams visited Finland several times from 1923 to 1926, and was inspired by its dramatic development post-independence into a "soundly established and quietly thriving Republic".

* She tells us the Finns are originally of Magyar extraction, like the Hungarians, with some Swedish blood from "their centuries of being ruled by Sweden", and that most Finns at the time she wrote spoke both Finnish and Swedish.

* She also tells us that originally she only planned to do a retelling of the Kalevala, but that she felt the tale of the Finnish Revolution was just as important to understanding modern Finnish culture, and therefore she made "the modern part of the work... as historically accurate as possible", basing some incidents on true stories of their own experiences told her by Finnish friends. *interested but skeptical thinkyface*

* The first sentence of the book is "It was four o'clock of an October afternoon in 1916." Vaino is walking home from school; he lives outside Helsinki with his mother, his seventeen-year-old sister Anniki (a University of Helsinki student), and his twenty-year-old brother Sven. Possibly also his dad. We don't know yet.

* Vaino sings a traditional Finnish song as he jogs along the road. A Russian officer on a black horse rounds a bend, running Vaino off the road, and demands, "So it was you, making that horrible noise?" Vaino pretends he doesn't understand Russian, so the officer makes some nasty remarks in bad Swedish. "Vaino hated him."

* Once the young Russian officer has gone on, Vaino runs home and tells his family what happened. Mother is thankful that Anniki, who sometimes travels to and from Helsinki with Vaino, was not there; I don't know whether that's intended to be because Anniki is a fiery-tempered girl and would have snapped back at the Russian, or because she's a pretty teenager belonging to an oppressed race and might have been sexually harassed.

* Vaino, we learn, is half-Swede half-Finn. Sven is perhaps an architect or surveyor; at any rate, he's working at the kitchen table with a compass and square, draftsman's tools, while Anniki scowls at the fire and Mother tells Vaino the creation myth from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic (compiled from folk tales and poems in the early 1800s).

* "Ilmatar, daughter of the air", falls from the sky into the primeval ocean, "and there the caressing of the waves brought to life a child within her." Okay then. This kind of phrasing always makes me wonder just how bowdlerized the kiddie-version of an old myth that I'm reading actually is. Granted, virgin birth for the First Hero isn't an uncommon origin story, although it's a less usual creation myth than the marriage of the sky and the sea/earth, as far as I know.

* Ilmatar swims in the sea for seven hundred years, apparently without giving birth (I'm... impressed *dry grin*), then calls out to thunder-god Ukko to help her create life because she is lonely. A seagull flies down from the sky; Ilmatar raises her knee from the sea, and the seagull builds a nest on her knee and lays seven eggs in it. Six eggs are gold, one is iron.

* The bird sits on its nest for six days; on the seventh day, the heat of its body burns through the nest, Ilmatar flinches, the nest falls, and the eggs shatter.

* "From the lower shell was formed the earth, and from the upper shell the heavens which arch above the earth. The yolk of a golden egg made the blazing sun, and the white of a golden egg the silver gleaming moon. From the mottled parts came the bright little stars, and from the darkish parts the high sailing clouds." No report on what happened to the other six yolks, whites, and shells, whether the iron egg had any significance, where the bird went, or why there were seven eggs at all; but all this is pretty straight out of the Kalevala, as far as I can find, so I'm assuming the missing details just got lost in transmission before the tales were collected and written down, or else in editing while they were being written down, since collector Elias Lonnrot did a good deal of cobbling-together of odd bits of story to make the finished Kalevala.

* Ilmatar shapes the earth and creates the seashore and the hills. More years pass.

* Finally Ilmatar's child Vainamoinen, "the aged and the ageless, the mighty singer", gets bored of being in her womb -- the book says "his dark resting place", possibly hoping we've forgotten by now that he's inside Ilmatar and therefore we can continue thinking storks bring babies or some such thing.

* Anyway, Vainamoinen "took the fourth finger of his left hand, the nameless finger, opened the portal of his resting place, and swam out into the sea." That cannot have been comfortable for Ilmatar. I mean, I don't know that it would be any more uncomfortable than birthing a baby the normal way, with its head just butting bluntly out, but it seems an awfully specific sort of way to be born -- poking open the birth canal with the ring finger or pinky finger (I never know which one is "fourth") of one's left hand. WHY. O_O

* So Vainamoinen has a long white beard, because of course he does. I'm thinking of the New Year's depictions that blend Father Time with Baby New Year as a bearded baby or wizened old man in a diaper, carrying a scythe.

* Anyway, Vainamoinen floats around in the ocean for nine years, then drifts to land. He calls on "Sampsa, the child of earth", who sows plants and trees, bringing life to the earth. Then five maidens from the water plant an oak tree, "the highest and greatest god", which grows so large it shades the entire earth and prevents "men on the earth, and fishes in the water" from telling day from night. No one can fell the giant oak tree, and Vainamoinen prays to his mother Ilmatar, who now apparently lives on the floor of the ocean, to send someone who can fell the tree.

* A tiny man the size of a thumb, clad all in copper, skips over the surface of the waves and comes to shore near Vainamoinen. This is "the hero of Ocean, who will fell the oak". Vainamoinen looks at the tiny man, at the giant oak, and then says "gravely", "You are not equal to it."

* The tiny man grows to giant size, so tall his head is hidden in the clouds, and fells the oak in three blows. The people gather around the oak and take pieces of it, which bring them blessings: some get riches, some are lucky in love, and some become "magic-working shamen". I do not think that's the correct plural of "shaman". Let me check that.

* Yeah, the proper English plural is shamans. One might also use the original Evenki plural form "shamasal", but this is not usually done in English. However, "shaman" is not (as I thought it might be) only or mostly appropriate to New World religious leaders; it is thought to come from a Chinese term meaning "Buddhist monk". I'm still dubious about the appropriateness of using it, in any form, for a Finnish magic-worker. *pokes Google Translate and Wiktionary* Okay, "taikuri" seems to mean "magic-worker", without - as far as I can tell - the gender implications of "velho" (wizard) or "noita" (witch).

* Aaaand that was a digression. *g* Back to the story. Things are better, but there's no grain to make bread for the people to eat. Vainamoinen finds seven grains of barley by the beach, but a titmouse (small bird) tells him it will not grow "while the forest stands", and that the ground must be burned over and tilled in order for the grain to grow. Vaino chops down all the trees in the forest except the birch tree, which he leaves for the birds to perch in. But he has no fire.

* An eagle swoops down and asks why Vainamoinen has left the birch tree standing. Vainamoinen explains that he left it for the birds to perch in, flatters the eagle a bit, and the eagle is so pleased he flies up to the skies and fetches down a lightning bolt for Vainamoinen to burn the ground with. *jazzhands* Creation myths, man.

* Anyway, Vainamoinen plants the barley, and it grows, and the birds sing in the birch trees, and everybody is happy. End story. :D

* We return to the Lundborg family; Anniki mentions her boyfriend Scarelius, who thinks "the time is very near" and plans to head to Germany next month, presumably to help raise the Finnish/German blended army for the coming uprising. Sven teases Anniki a bit about Scarelius, but Mother - the book calls her "Fru Lundborg", which simply means Mrs Lundborg - scolds him gently, then sends the kids to bed.

* In his box-bed - built "in imitation of the peasant beds", so we see (from Anniki's presence at University, too) that the Lundborgs are relatively upper-class for Finns of the era and area... because OF COURSE they are. Can't have a protagonist who's an actual peasant, oh no sir! ;P I'm so tired of this. Anyway, where was I?

* Right. Vaino thinks over the political situation -- how the Russians forbid Finns to have organized sports (so that Vaino, like Olympic runner Paavo Nurmi, gets his exercise by running to and from school), how the teachers in school are not allowed to speak Finnish, how Vaino's own uncle was sent to Siberia for speechmaking, and how Sven and Anniki are both involved with a group of young activists at the University whose talk by the Lundborg fireside always runs on the topic of "if we are free--when we are free". (Vaino, it's noted, knows never to talk about Sven's and Anniki's subversive friends or activities. Have we heard how old Vaino is? The way this passage is phrased, all Vaino wondering things like "why had Uncle Paavo been sent to a place called Siberia", makes him sound pretty young.)

* Vaino thinks also over how Finland has never been free, being ruled first by the Lapps (an outdated, now somewhat pejorative term for the indigenous Sámi people of northern Scandinavia), then by the Swedes -- "but nobody had minded about that for centuries, and the Swedes in the country had become the most patriotic Finns". I don't know how true this is; Wiki suggested that Finns during the 1700s agitated for independence from Sweden because Finland kept being the battlefield for wars between Sweden and Russia, but unfortunately Finland was ceded to Russia instead of gaining its independence at that time.

* Anyway, now the Russians are the masters of Finland, and Vaino falls asleep to dream of Russian officers riding roughshod over Finland. Seriously: "while the hard hooves of their horses trampled Finnish earth". It's not a bad turn of phrase, it just amuses me a bit out of context. ;P

* And that's the end of Chapter 1.

* If all these chapters have the same proprortion of ancient to modern happenings as this chapter did, this is going to be a relatively short modern frame-story surrounding a great deal of Kalevala. ;-) Which makes sense, since Ms Davis-Adams apparently intended it to be just a Kalevala retelling.

* Chapter 2 is "The Russian Officer". It is next March -- that was quick! *g* That is, it is March 1917. Sven shows up at Vaino's school and takes him away in the morning. Vaino is put into a drosky sleigh with a driver whom Sven trusts, and taken home; the news of the February Revolution, in which Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was overthrown, has just broken, and everyone is worried about what the Russian Army soldiers and officers stationed around Helsinki may do. There might be riots if the Russian soldiers and sailors revolt against their officers. Sven is "needed in town", Anniki is staying with Scarelius's family (Scarelius himself is in Germany right now), and Vaino must go home and stay with Mrs Lundborg.

* Vaino asks "will it be good for Finland?", and Sven replies happily, "We think it is the beginning of everything!" Vaino cheers.

* When he gets home, Vaino gives his mother a letter which Sven gave him explaining the situation, and the drosky driver answers Mrs Lundborg's questions about who may be rioting (Russians, Finnish lowlifes, some workmen who were collaborating with the Russians to fortify Helsinki) and what they mean to do with the Russian officers when they find them (kill them).

* Mrs Lundborg is very quiet and thinky; eventually Vaino, growing bored and having no idea what he should do, suggest he should go out for some skiing before dark, but Mrs Lundborg asks him to stay with her -- "to take care of me", she says, citing Sven's given reason for Vaino to go home. I don't criticize this because it's obviously not misogynistic, rather a perfectly natural way to try to keep a nine-year-old-ish (no age has been given, but Vaino feels about nine to me) child in the house without making him feel "babied".

* So Vaino works on a wood carving he's making, and Mrs Lundborg sews, and she tells him another Finnish folktale. This one is called "The War of Song".

* Vainamoinen, now referred to as Vaino, lives in his meadows and sings wonderful songs. In Pohjola, "The North", here associated with the area north of the Arctic Circle inhabited by the Lapps/Sámi, a young man called Joukahainen thinks himself a good singer, but the old men of his village tell him that Vainamoinen (I'm going to keep using that name so as not to cause confusion with our young hero Vaino) is far better. Joukahainen grows angry and sets off for Vainamoinen's land, Suomi (a name for Finland, translated "Marshland" in this book but now thought to mean simply "The Land"), saying he will "teach this old man how to sing!"

* Joukahainen's parents warn him that Vainamoinen will send him to "a bed beneath the snow", but Joukahainen brags that he will lay Vainamoinen in "a coffin of stone". He sets off for Suomi on a sledge.

* Four days later, Joukahainen is driving through Suomi along a narrow road, and his sledge collides head-on with Vainamoinen's sleigh. Vainamoinen challenges Jouka to a battle of song. Ms Davis-Adams makes the very good choice (in my opinion) to show Jouka's less-than-stellar verses but to let us imagine Vainamoinen's for ourselves. :D

* Anyway, Jouka throws a temper tantrum when Vainamoinen is unimpressed by his verses, but then Vainamoinen begins to sing. He turns Jouka's sledge-runners into saplings, his whip into a reed growing by the edge of a lake, his horse into a stone; he sends Jouka's sword and bow and cap and gloves flying away into the sky; he sings Jouka himself sinking down into the black mud by the lake. Jouka screams and begs and offers Vaino his bow and boats and horses and money, his fields and houses, everything he has except his life -- but Vainamoinen says no, no, no.

* But then Jouka offers Vainamoinen the hand of Jouka's sister Aino in marriage. And this pleases Vainamoinen; he sings his song backwards, he sings Jouka out of the lake and sings all his things back to him. And Jouka rides off home.

* But Aino does not want to marry Vainamoinen! She doesn't get a say in the matter, because her parents think it would be a wonderful match, but she doesn't want to marry at all, saying she's too young to leave home, and she is very sad.

* Aino runs away into the woods to grieve, and Vainamoinen finds her there and gives her a silver cross and a red ribbon, asking her to wear the one around her neck and the other in her hair, for the love of him. But Aino refuses, throws them away and runs home.

* Aino runs crying to her mother and says she does not want to marry Vainamoinen and leave her home, but her mother tells her she will be fed fine food and make a pretty plump bride, and that she will wear a beautiful wedding dress. (I know where this story is going, so I'm not being too critical of this... somewhat skewed attitude toward marriage, that being a pretty bride should be enough to make you accept marrying a guy who would take your hand in marriage as payment for not killing your brother, whether you wish it or not.)

* Aino's wedding dress will be the one which the daughter of the Sun and the daughter of the Moon wove for Aino's mother -- blue as the sky, with a golden belt and a silver crown, and a white shift like the clouds and the snow. Aino is to go up the mountain past the tree-line and find these garments in a painted trunk where they have lain since her mother put them there to wait for her. "Then you will be the most beautiful bride in the world ... and all your family will be filled with pride." Yeah, yeah. o_O Because the purpose of a daughter is to be beautiful and to buy honor and pride for her family by making a good marriage and being a beautiful bride. I'm not criticizing Julia Davis Adams, I'm criticizing the entire cultural structure of, apparently, Europe and most of Asia and probably some other continents too! :P

* A-ny-way. Aino goes up the path crying. When she sees the beautiful garments she stops crying for a little bit and dresses up in them, but then begins crying again when she remembers that she only gets to wear them because she has to marry Vainamoinen, whom she doesn't even know.

* So Aino wanders sadly through the forest, till she comes to a lake. She takes off her clothes and swims out into the cold water, and she drowns. And that is the end of Aino, who chose not to marry The Hero Of The Story. But at least she was allowed not to marry him and discover that he was lovable after all, unlike the heroines of a hundred thousand modern romance novels.

(Sorry, I have... feelings about the mother/sister/wife pattern of female character creation. :P)

* So as I said, that's the end of Aino, and now we get a fairy-tale-ish pattern of writing: which animal of the forest will tell Aino's family that she has gone and drowned herself in the lake? Will the bear? No, the bear forgot and went to hunt the sheep. Will the wolf? No, the wolf forgot and "strayed among the cattle". Will the fox? No, the fox forgot, and went and frightened the geese.

* But the hare remembered, and he ran and told Aino's family that she was dead.

* Really? REALLY? Okay, Aino's mother is very sad that she drove Aino into her grave by trying to force her to "marry well". She weeps bitter tears, which form three mighty rivers, and in each river there is a waterfall with an island in it, and a tree on the island, and a golden cuckoo singing sorrowfully in the tree. And, listen -- the first cuckoo sings three months mourning for Aino, yeah? But the second cuckoo sings SIX months for Vainamoinen, "who grieved for little Aino", and the third one sings "all his life for the mother whose tears will never cease".

BECAUSE AINO IS STILL THE LEAST IMPORTANT OF ANY OF THESE PEOPLE EVEN AFTER HER DEATH. She dies because it's the only option any of these jerks left open to her, and we're going to have... golden cuckoos grieving (okay, that kind of broke the mood ;P) WAY LONGER for the terrible sadness of these other people about -- not about how they WERE JERKS TO AINO, but about how they lost her because she went and killed herself due to their actions and MADE THEM SAD THEREBY!!!!!

Fffffffffffffffft.

* [several days later] Okay, I got madder at that than I expected. (And, uh, rejiggered the tag-system around here again instead of continuing with the book... *dry grin* I only noticed I was stalling after I finished the tag system and started clearing out my 10,000 back e-mails. ;P)

* Okay, Vainamoinen cries over losing Aino, and then... goes and asks the all-wise dreamer Untamo where to find the realm of Ahto, king of the sea. Untamo says, essentially, "in the sea". (Duh. ;P) Anyway, then Vainamoinen goes sea-fishing for days on end. I DON'T KNOW WHY OKAY? This mythological stuff is making no sense to me, I'm just trying to get through it.

* Anyway, Vainamoinen catches a strange pink fish and decides to eat it for breakfast (why? Was he fishing for food? I thought he was fishing for Ahto or somebody), but before he can cut it up, it slips overboard and tells him it is Aino, and if he had recognized her she would have married him and done a long specified list of wifely chores (like "bake the bread") for him... but now she has to go to the "dark and misty halls of Ahto". Bye-bye!

* I HAVE NO SYMPATHY FOR YOU VAINAMOINEN. You deserve everything that's happened to you, except for Aino coming back to say she'd like to marry you now. That was probably just a hallucination brought on by your wishful thinking, because AAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH. :PPPPPPPPP *tears hair metaphorically*

* Vainamoinen does more fishing, but never sees Aino again. He cries. He wishes his mother were alive - apparently Ilmatar died offscreen at some point while we were focusing solely on Vainamoinen - and because, I kid you not, "Even dead mothers waken when their children cry"... and tells Vainamoinen not to mourn for Aino because, I again kid you not, SHE ISN'T WORTH IT. I'mma quote. "Do not mourn, my son, my little Vaino. Do not mourn for that girl. There is no maiden living worth a tear from your eye. In Pohja, the uttermost northland, there are fairer and fatter maids by the score."

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH. What even is this. Really, what is this. O_O I just can't even. Do you think if I skipped the rest of the mythological bits I could get through the actual modern story without wanting to set the (expensive, interlibrary-loan) book ON FIRE? :P

* Let's see if I can be a little more coherent. I am so mad because: not only has every female character in the (mythological) story so far revolved entirely around Vainamoinen or around Being A Mother in both reason for existence and motivation, but the author is treating this as ABSOLUTELY THE NATURAL AND RIGHT ORDER OF THINGS! Also mothers are these mystical whatsits supernaturally linked to their children, whose lives' sole meaning is provided by being a mother, who should weep forever if a child predeceases them (I mean, it is sad if a child predeceases a parent, I'm just saying nobody suggested Aino's dad cried never-ending rivers of tears) and SPEAK FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE to reassure their living children that the story revolves totally around the kids and that the kids have not, in fact, been totally self-centered jerks!

...blah.

* [several more days later] Okay, this book has to go back today, so let's skip the rest of the Kalevala and just do a quick summary of the modern storyline.

* The haughty Russian officer from Chapter 1, no longer haughty, runs into the Lundborgs' house and begs them to hide him. They do so, and Fru Lundborg also gives him some of Sven's old clothes to disguise himself.

* A posse of drunken Finnish workmen and low-ranking Russian soldiers demand the Russian officer, and Fru Lundborg tells them off without actually denying she knows where the man is, then has Vaino lead them all in several Finnish folksongs before sending them off with her apologies that she hasn't enough food to invite them to supper.

(We also learn that Mr Lundborg is definitely dead - Fru Lundborg says "My dead husband" in passing.)

* When the Russian officer comes downstairs again after the group hunting him have gone, Fru Lundborg gives him some bread and advises him to strike across the winter sea-ice for Sweden. (This map gives the approximate route he'll take; Fru Lundborg recommends a friend in Åbo, Finland, stop B on the map, who will help the man cross to Sweden on her say-so.)

* The Russian officer's leaving the house ends chapter 2.

* At the beginning of chapter 3, we get a very brief overview of that summer, summer 1917, the time when the White Guards and Red Guards - less-than-official armed militias - are forming up and skirmishing but the Finnish Civil War has not yet officially broken out. The Reds are the bad guys, possibly supported by new detachments of Russian soldiers. (Russia at this point is between the February Revolution which ousted the Tsar and the October Revolution which put Lenin in power, so it's in some disorder.)

* Now we reach a "dreadful, unforgettable evening". A fisherman brings Fru Lundborg a letter; her nephew Kullervo has been killed in Tammerfors, now Tampere. (This map shows the distance from Helsinki -- about 100 miles/180km.) We hear that the Reds took him from his family's house, killed him, and threw his body back into the room.

* The rest of the summer passes with merely a note that Vaino gets to take his and Sven's little motorboat out alone, and learns to handle it well, but does not go out of sight of shore. I assume this will have plot relevance. *g*

* We skip to November, after the Russian provisional government has been overthrown in favor of the Bolshevik/Leninist government. We hear that the Reds are breaking open the jails and letting out all the criminals to join the Red Guard. Sven, who is with the White Guard, states that his people in Helsinki have only 20 guns for 200 men, while the Reds are well-supplied by the Russians, so the Reds have the upper hand for now. (I have no idea how true any of this is. I strongly doubt that the White Guard had no criminal thugs in its composition, though. o_O JUST ONE NUANCED VILLAIN, PLEASE? JUST ONE? :P)

* Hah, that was quick. Vaino is to take Anniki and a male White Guard out in his motorboat after dark to collect a load of war materiél from a German U-Boat; Germany has agreed to supply the White Guards for their fight against the Red Guards.

* The three of them use code names: the male guard is "John Golden", Anniki is "Voima" (no last name given), and Vaino is "Kuervo Paali". Vaino worries that someone will laugh at him for using this name, but I can't find any references at all to it online, so I'm confused. :P

* All goes well. As well as guns and ammunition, the Germans supply the White Guard with grenades and two "wireless receiving sets" -- radios, to help the Guard coordinate (I think).

* "John Golden" takes the hand grenades into Helsinki. Some of the guns (there are six boats besides Vaino's) are hidden in a hollow tree on the Lundborg farm, and the one of the radios which the Lundborgs hide is in a kitchen cupboard. I suspect this also will be Plotty.

* Ah. In the morning, Anniki wakes Vaino up and explains that today she is smuggling Mausers (guns) into town under her nurse's uniform, and tomorrow there will be a school parade in which she and Vaino will be dressed as King and Queen of Winter. They will sit on a white bearskin which will cover the wireless set, and deliver the set to its final destination after the parade.

* Anniki gets a letter from her boyfriend Scarelius, who's heading to the Eastern Front to help the Germans fight against the Russians. She's worried about him; this becomes a lead-in to another Kalevala story. If you want to google the story of "The Magic Mill" and read a summary yourself, you'll get the pace of the book without me actually having to go through it. ;P

* Now it is chapter 4, and we hear that "The winter of fear dragged on." The sea is frozen solid, and people have to wrap up well to avoid frostbite.

* On December 4, 1917, Finland declares independence. Russia officially recognizes this but keeps sending troops. We hear that the Red Guard is now totally out of control, and Sven laughs derisively over their recruiting notices requiring Red Guard members to belong to Finland's Socialist party and "have class consciousness" -- the author thus implying that they'll take any bully going, whereas Sven's White Guard is sooo much better. o_O

* In January the Finnish Civil War actually begins; the Reds control Helsinki and the urban south of Finland, while the Whites control the rural north. Sven leaves home and goes into hiding with the rest of the "Civil Guard", the name that the author chooses at this point to give to the Helsinki White Guard.

* Yadda yadda politics... eventually Vaino is sent out on his skis to take Sven et alia some supplies, and finds that one of Sven's men is our old friend the Russian Officer! (Capitals original, no less.) We are now to call the Russian officer "Vladimir". He, Vaino, and Sven go out scouting to look for a nearby Red outpost.

* They find the outpost, scare off the Reds by pretending to be a whole company of Whites firing guns wildly, and take away the guns the Reds left behind.

(I'm really, really not impressed. Really not. This is such a sanitized view of war - a fun little skirmish against idiotic, cowardly opponents. This is the sort of thinking that [reportedly] led people to take picnics out to watch the First Battle of Manassas1, believing it would be a little light entertainment. :P)

1: The correct name is disputed. Northerners used "Bull Run", Southerners "Manassas". The United States National Park Service, which administers the battlefield as a park, uses "Manassas", so I chose to go with that.

* Anyway. I was liveblogging. *dry grin* The three bring the weapons back to the White camp, and Vaino is sent home early the next morning, since a Red attack is expected. On the one hand, it does make sense that a ten-year-old(?) boy would not get involved in a battle if at all possible; on the other hand, this is a very conveniently sanitized view of war. :P I am offended on behalf of everyone who gets hurt because other people think war is no big deal.

* Yadda yadda Kalevala. This story is called "Death's River". You can read it somewhere else if you want. ;P

* More skipping ahead. The Whites are still getting very much the worst of all the offscreen battles.

* On February 18, Scarelius returns to Finland with part of the German army, who have joined Mannerheim in Vasa (or Vaasa), a White-controlled city on Finland's west coast. The Whites in the south of Finland are still being defeated and having to hide or sneak away over the sea-ice to Sweden.

* One day a battle comes very near the Lundborgs' house. Sven turns up, scruffily dressed in an ill-fitting uniform and exhausted from running. He and Vaino take the cart and fetch Vladimir, who has a wounded leg. Sven and Vladimir are hidden in the Lundborgs' house.

* It is almost the end of February, 1918. We learn that Reval, Estonia, now Tallinn, Estonia, the capital city... you know, I'm not very impressed by Mrs Davis-Adams's research. She consistently uses the older, Swedish or Russian names for places which started using their native names in 1917 when they declared independence. Wouldn't you agree, if she's going to be all about praising Finnish independence, that she should be using the Finnish preferred names for things? I don't know; maybe she had trouble with her editor. *shrugs*

* Anyway, Tallinn/Reval is in German hands, so Sven and Vladimir hope to get across the bay to Estonia after the sea-ice starts to break up in a couple weeks; they believe they'll be safe there. -- and now I'm even more confused. Everything I've learned from reading about polar exploration (I'm a big fan of Sir Ernest Shackleton, okay?) says that you want to either drive across the solid ice or boat across the clear water, but definitely not take a boat into water that has big chunks of breaking-up ice in it, because they will KNOCK HOLES IN YOUR BOAT. I am even less impressed by Mrs Davis-Adams's research. O_O

* Chapter 5, "The Friendly Ice". We have a nice happy family time while Sven and Vlad wait for the ice to break up.

* BAHAHAHAHA okay I'm pretty much done. I can't take this book seriously any more, even a little bit. "The fear that the house might be searched by the Reds added only a pleasant dash of excitement to the peace of their days"... I'M SO DONE.

* Anniki carries a message up to Mannerheim and takes the opportunity to get married to Scarelius; she will stay with the army.

* Yadda yadda Kalevala: "The Capture of the Rainbow".

* The morning after Anniki's message comes, Vaino goes into town for the mail and overhears two gossiping stonemasons -- "and stone masons and Reds were the same thing". YOU DO REALIZE HOW CLASSIST YOU ARE BEING DON'T YOU MRS DAVIS-ADAMS. The Reds are cowardly, bullies, evil, and composed entirely of lower-class people. I'm aware that, for obvious reasons, the Finnish Red party was composed largely of lower-class people, but do you know which side in the Finnish Civil War killed somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 people outside of battle? THE WHITES. The Reds only killed approximately 1500 people outside of battle. I'm just saying, Mrs Davis-Adams is *koff* whitewashing her favored side's actions pretty severely.

* Anyway, the stonemasons are gossiping about how Fru Lundborg is buying more food than she and Vaino alone should need, and how they're going to report to the (Red) government that one of them saw a man walking in the Lundborg house's courtyard the other night. Vaino carries this news home. Sven and Vlad promptly decide to leave that very night for Estonia in a borrowed fishing boat.

* Sven, Vlad, and two other White Guardsmen accordingly make the trip. Our POV detaches from Vaino for the first time and follows them so we can have a little extra suspence before learning that they make it safely. (Who am I kidding? There is no suspense in this book. None.)

* The White Guardsmen meet a Red sympathized from Estonia going the other way, toward Finland, but he has no boat. They try to tell him he can't cross, but "his war-fagged mind had room for only one idea". (Uh, I should probably mention that "fagged" at this time meant "wearied, worn out". ;S) I'm... again, less than impressed by the consistent portrayal of Our Heroes as being sooo much more sensible and competent and wise than the opposition.

* Anyway, the group makes it safely to Reval/Tallinn, and after resting up for a while, they will take ship for Vaasa and join Mannerheim's army there.

* Chapter 6: "Vaino's Adventure". ...why am I still reading this book? Fru Lundborg is moving into the house of a bedridden friend closer to town; the stated reason is, that the friend's serving-maid and live-in companion has "run off to join the Red army, like a lot of other silly girls". Blaaaaah.



* You know what? I'm done. This book is SO BIASED, and every bad sort of -ist possible [except maybe racist, which it made up for by being AS CLASSIST AS POSSIBLE, like the Dynne in The Phantom Tollbooth whose middle initial "A." stood for "AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE", only with classism]. I have no more interest in it whatsover. Blaaaaaaah. Done.

ETA: I found and fixed my own overflowing link. Aren't you proud of me? ;P Yes, this book has addled my brain. Addled, I say.
pedanther: (Default)

[personal profile] pedanther 2013-10-09 02:03 pm (UTC)(link)
My favourite historical diet is, for reasons that I trust are obvious, the Diet of Worms.

(Anonymous) 2016-02-16 03:08 am (UTC)(link)
I can't really follow the story and say what is wrong with the history and what is not (for the most part that's not how it went) but I would comment on that "classist" thing.

The Reds did start the terror by killing countless of civilians and they did try to overthrow probably the most democratic government (and parliamentary system) in the world, so it's not really surprising that they were not liked. They had committed a treason and several (mass) murders. If the Reds had won, Finland would have probably come a Soviet Republic, or at least some kind of a dictatorship. Also one has to remember that a lot of Reds died because of the Spanish flu or other diseases and there was a shortage of food in the whole country (because of the war that the Reds had started and WWI, too). And those Reds who escaped to Russia either returned early enough or were killed in Stalin's Purges in the 1930's, so even they preferred the Finnish prison camp to the Soviet Gulag.

There are other things, too, like most people spoke Finnish and hardly a word of Swedish but you had to know Swedish in order to study at a university. No family would have names like Vaino (means "persecution" in Finnish, the correct name is Väinö), Sven and Anniki (that's Annikki). Sven is Swedish, others are Finnish. "Kuervo Paali" means nothing, "paali" means "a bale (of hay)" and a Finn can barely pronounce "Kuervo". And the Whites are/were called the Civil Guard, that was their name. Whites were mainly students, farmers, government officials, members of the clergy etc., in short non-socialists, so no, they didn't have many "criminal thugs".

Also, as far as I know, the people were not afraid of Russian officers, it wasn't like a hostile occupation but more political. Finland had enjoyed a mostly beneficial 19th century under the Russian rule. The situation was very complicated but things would have become much worse if the Reds had won, luckily they didn't even have the full support of the Left. I still can't understand what they hoped to achieve. My grandfather was a railway worker but he didn't support the Reds, either. And most Finns don't go around telling stories from the Kalevala. It's supposed to be sung, anyway.