5 February 10 | Chad W. Post

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Larissa Kyzer on Tales of a Finnish Tupa, adapted by James Cloyd Bowman and Margery Bianco from a translation by Aili Kolehmainen with illustrations by Laura Bannon.

I know we’ve been a bit slow about getting new reviews online, but now that the BTBA fiction longlist posts are winding down (to be replaced by posts about the BTBA poetry finalists), I swear we’ll be getting everything back on track, with reviews of the new Oe and Ugresic books coming in the next few weeks, along with some reviews my students wrote last semester and a look at the new translation of Gombrowicz’s Pornographia. Not to mention the new Handke book, etc., etc. There are heaps of good books coming out this spring for us to cover . . .

But anyway, digression over, this review by Larissa Kyzer—a regular around here who has a great interest in all literatures Scandinavian—is about a collection of Finnish folk tales that the University of Minnesota Press reissued last fall.

It’s a frequently-cited notion that fairy tales and folk stories provide children with a sort of moral or educational compass. Don’t stray from the path. Don’t talk to strangers. Work hard and be honest. Don’t trust your stepmother. But while we may generally associate this literary form with children, it’s certainly one that continues to resonate with adult audiences. As the German poet Friedrich Schiller has been quoted as saying, “[d]eeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life.”

Tales from a Finnish Tupa, recently reissued in a lovely illustrated edition by The University of Minnesota Press, will certainly resonate with contemporary readers for its humorous anecdotes which value enchantment and practicality in equal measure. The collection, which includes over forty “Tales of Magic,” “Droll Stories,” and fables, reverberates with themes of kindness to those in need, self-sufficiency, and common sense—as well as frequent encouragements to take advantage of anyone who does not exhibit the aforementioned qualities.

In “The Ship that Sailed by Land and Sea,” a young chimney sweep accomplishes impossible feats and wins a princess’ hand in marriage—but only with the help of the many magical strangers who he helped while on his journey. (As in many folkloric traditions, there are, apparently, simply dozens of unwed princesses just waiting for a resourceful fellow to come along and free them from the evil spells that bind them or sweep them away from persnickety fathers.) “The End of the World,” will be familiar to those who grew up with “Henny Penny,” telling the story of a foolish brown hen who thinks the world is ending after she’s hit on the head with an acorn.

Click here to read the full review.


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