Here’s the first chapter of this Guide to Finland I’m trying to write. It’s an attempt to tell where the Finns and their dastardly language come from, and the first iteration on answering the eternal question of all exchange students and foreigners that visit Finland.
Namely, “Why are these people like this? Why the excessive drinking? Why the sullen silences and the violent pinpoint bursts of emotion? Why the sober and modest rationality speckled with sudden moments of boot-throwing, wife-carrying, sauna-bathing lunacy? Why? And, dear Heavens, is it contagious?”
The Guide also has an Introduction and a collection of drafting written by me. More will come.
* * *
I like snowstorms. I like howling winds and spells of cold that make you gasp and shiver even when you’re inside. Likings like this are common among Finns.
That’s not difficult to explain. Most Finns are nuts.
Seriously, did you think that any group of sane and sensible people would come to live here in the cold and dark north? Here, where everything is always blanketed either by snow, mosquitoes or darkness, huh?
Finns are composed of the lunatics, outcasts and hermits of all other nations. Our language is from beyond the Urals, from deepest and most dismal Siberia (not Russia), but our ancestors have come from all over the place.
We are the people your ancestors prodded with spears, suggesting they go and lick a glacier before they’d get thrown under the sacrificial mammoths.
We’re the ones that moved away rather than introduced themselves to new neighbors.
We’re the ones that went to find the North Star, the golden nail of the heavens’ pillar, and then got lost.
We, the Finns, are nuts.
You might find this explains a great lot about Finland.
Oh, and those few Finns that aren’t nuts most probably have Swedish ancestry: any tendency towards irrational nuttiness was quickly weeded out from among an olden horde of raging Vikings. People whose personal survival depends on good hand-eye (or hand-axe) coordination are highly rational and clear-minded.
(Nowadays, Swedes are nicer. Probably the kill’n'plunder genes burned themselves out, along with a few thousand barns and homesteads.)
So, the ancestors of Finns come from among all their neighbors — Germanic folks, Slavic folks, forest-loving Vikings, leftover Euskarans and Picts, Greeks and Hittites that got really badly lost, people like that. In contrast, the Finnish language is a legacy of the very first settlers of Finland, a bunch of primitive Siberian hunter-gatherers that wandered to Finland after the latest Ice Age ended some ten thousand years ago, happy that there was some place others hadn’t grasped yet. Those Siberians weren’t Slavs like Russians, not Germans like (uh) Germans, but Siberians (Fenno-Ugric guys; have your pick) pretty much unrelated to anyone else.
The surviving linguistic relatives of Finns consist of Estonians, Hungarians, Sami, and various minuscule tribes marooned in Siberia or stranded in the middle of legions of Russians. That explains why Finnish language is so difficult to learn: any two of Spanish, Kurdish, Russian, Bengali and English are closer to each other than any of them is to Finnish.
Those first Finns had their own language, and when other, more European settlers came, either marrying or slaughtering the first settlers the best they could, they adopted the old language.
Well, they brought new words for new, exotic inventions like a “window” and an “axe”.
Finn: “What’s that?”
Russian: “An axe!” (hits the Finn with the axe.)
Finn: “Oh, the impersonal brutality of modern warfare! It was so much better in the days of bare fisticuffs!”
But enough fun. Ten thousand years ago the first Finns came, and after that various other ancestors came intruding in and made themselves comfortable, but the language — the darned, complex, maddening Finnish language — has remained common to all.
It’s probably the reason there’re only five million Finns. If we’d had a simple, even simplistic, language like English — but no, that is idle fantasy.
Well, Finns lived worshipping their brutish gods, drinking and snorting powdered fly agaric mushrooms, occasionally axe-murdering each other or freezing to death, and years passed. A survey of Finland’s history runs into something interesting when, around the year 1100 CE, a bunch of Christianized Swedish Vikings decides to crusade over into Finland for loot, land, peons and converts.
When we’ll continue with that, we’ll encounter a bishop named Henry (Henrik), an irate Finnish farmer named Lalli, and an axe belonging to Lalli and partly embedded in the bishop, but this has been enough about the origins of Finns.