Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fairy Tale Hidden Treasures Blog Hop: "The Heart's Door" - A Finnish Fairy Tale

The Fairy Tale Hidden Treasures Blog-Hop, is the brainchild of Adam Hoffman over at Fairy Tale Fandom. Always up for sharing obscure fairy tales we love, Once Upon A Blog immediately signed up to be part of the fun. We are supposed to share a favorite obscure fairy tale (that very likely will NOT end up on OUAT), tell you a little about it, give you an idea of the main story, let you know where it came from and why we love it so, then tag the next treasure hunter... 

For those keeping track, yes, I did switch places with Tales Of Faerie for 'reasons'... (you'll find out why at the end).

So far the revealed tales have been:

[By the way - if you have a blog and would like to get in on the action (it doesn't need to be a fairy tale blog or storytelling blog in particular -you just need to love obscure fairy tales) then please contact Adam Hoffman HERE for details and to see if you can be included in this round.]

On to my tale treasure!
When I heard about the 'hop, I immediately knew I wanted to share a Finnish fairy tale called The Heart's Door. I also knew it would be tricky. While I have three versions in my personal library, know one else seems to know anything about this one. It's not online ANYWHERE (and boy have I hunted!) and, just to make it extra tricky, one of the books I have was reprinted in 2009 so the copyright on that version of the tale (which is the closest to 'original' that we can find in both English and Finnish) is back in force and I'm not able to transcribe it for the web without express permission.

I personally discovered this fairy tale in Neil Philip's wonderful DK book, The Illustrated Book of Fairy Tales, back in the late '90's. It took me a very long time to realize he'd re-titled this tale from Severi and Vappu, which had been sitting in my Scandinavian Folk & Fairy Tales book (edited by Claire Booss) for years. (Titles with just list names, I tend to mentally file under "epics and sagas"  - in this case, that was a big mistake and I missed out on what came to be a favorite fairy tale of mine, for years!) When I finally did realize what I'd been sitting on (and read the much longer version) I agreed with Mr. Philip: The Heart's Door is a perfect title for this fairy tale and I will always think of it that way.

Why do I love it? I'm a sucker for fairy tales with transformations. They're my favorite kind of 'wonder' in tales but The Heart's Door does it a little differently. You may recall Heidi at SurLaLune mentioning the 2009 reprint of a book called Tales from a Finnish Tupa, some time ago (a tupa is a Finnish peasant hut, complete with the all-important fireside for storytelling). To highlight what is unique about Finnish fairy tales from other European ones, she included an excerpt from the Notes on Finnish Folklore in the back of the book and I will do the same:
The heart of Finnish folk lore is magic. As Lafcadio Hearnhas so well said:
“The magic is not like anything else known by that name in European literature. The magic is entirely the magic of words. These ancient people believed in the existence of words, by the utterance of which anything might be accomplished. Instead of buying wood and hiring carpenters, you might build a house by uttering certain magical words. If you had no horse, and wanted to travel rapidly, you would make a horse for yourself out of bits of bark and old sticks by uttering over them certain magical words. But this was not all. Beings of intellect, men and women, whole armies of men, in fact, might be created in a moment by the utterance of these magical words.”
The magical words in this story allow the main character to hide inside... things - things you wouldn't normally be able to hide inside (no barrels or wash-baskets etc). It's a special sort of hiding and a special sort of transformation and I love the idea of the way this character is hidden. Most hiding in tales is to stay safe or get away from danger by diversion of camouflage, but, again, this is different. This tale also has other things I like: it has a little mystery, has motifs in common with other tales that are used very differently, but most of all it's about choices and dealing with consequences.

Because there is no text online for you to read, I've done my best to retell the story in short form. I've expanded beyond the points included in the DK version and put the emphasis back on the use of words and word-magic, but it's still much shorter than either of the other printings I have as well. I left out a lot of descriptive detail and got right to the parts that I love the most. As with all storytellers, it has my 'print' and emphasis on it, but I believe that is a storyteller's prerogative. ;)

And I've done something else: because this is all about 'hidden treasures' and my tale is also about 'hidden treasures' I have hidden another treasure within this tale for you to find... 
[For you 'pop-culturalists', think Easter egg. I did NOT make it easy... but it's definitely there... ]
Photographer & artist unknown - any information appreciated so can properly credit
[Found on fototalisman.livejournal.com]
Now, without further ado, I present to you:
The Heart’s Door
A Finnish Fairy Tale
(also known as “Severi and Vappu”)
A retelling by Gypsy Thornton

Once there was a boy named Severi who announced one spring morning that it was high time he had adventures and seek his fortune.
“What are you seeking?” people asked.
”I do not know yet,” Severi replied, “But when I find it, I’ll know then,’ he said, and waved goodbye.

He walked over bright meadows and through dark woods, sailed over great seas and survived ocean storms. He climbed up a great black cliff and down a long stone stairway, until eventually, at what he thought must be the very heart of the earth itself, he found a golden door.

He lifted his hand to knock and it swung open for him, so he stepped through. Inside was a magical world of green hills with fragrant flowers and shiny plumed birds sang among lush trees, all laden with golden fruit. In the distance, turrets of a copper castle rose into the air, shining like red gold in the sunlight. Immediately Severi set out straight toward it. There he met a strange old man with glittering white hair and very young cheeks, who asked him who he was and where he was going.

“My name is Severi,” he replied, and told him of his journey so far. “And now I am here. I do not know yet where I am going to, but when I get there, I’ll know then.”

Ka!” said the white-haired man, “Since you’ve come such a long way, why don’t you stay here with me awhile? I live in the copper castle, just beyond.”

So Severi went with the old man to live in the copper castle. When he’d been given all the good food he could eat, the old man held up a heavy ring full of keys. “Here are the keys to the castle: twenty four keys for twenty four rooms. Feel free to go into any, except for the last. If you open that twenty-fourth door, you do so at your own risk. I am not to blame for whatever may happen.”

“I understand,” said Severi, accepting the keys, but already he was quite curious.

Before long the old man set out on a journey that would take him far away and the instant Severi was alone, he began to explore.

Each door held a room of wonders, the next even better than the last: one seemed on fire, it dazzled with so much copper, while the next glittered with so much gold it hurt his eyes. Another was all ebony, another, blue sapphire, yet with each door he grew sadder and sadder until he stopped in the middle of the twenty-third room, too sad, even, to touch anything.

“Now I have seen it all. My adventures are over and done. I might as well just go back to my tupa.” He sighed, lay down right where he was, and fell asleep.


When he awoke he found the key to the twenty-fourth door clasped in his hand.

“The old man said I could enter at my own risk, “ he thought, turning it over curiously. “I will open it and find out what happens,” and he bravely turned the key in the twenty-fourth lock, then pushed open the heavy door.

Inside, sitting on a very high throne, was the loveliest girl in all the world.
“Who are you?” asked Severi.
“My name is Vappu,” said the girl. “I’ve been waiting for you a very long time.” Severi held out his hand and she put hers in his then climbed down to him.

The golden days that followed were like a dream as the two lived together in the copper castle. For a whole month, they sat by the silver stream and feasted on golden fruit with not a care in the world. One day Vappu led Severi into a deep orchard. Cool winds caressed the trees and their faces and at the center blossomed the Tree of Life. They sat beneath it, ate its fruit and drank from the sparkling brook nearby. Completely content, Severi fell into a deep sleep under the Tree. When he awoke, Vappu was gone.

“Vappu!” he called. “Vappu! Vappu!” and his calling turned to cries and his cries turned to tears, for she was nowhere within and nowhere without.

When the old man returned home he found Severi in deep misery.
“Please help me find her”, Severi begged. “I cannot live without her.”

The old man chuckled. “That’s the way it always happens when you do what you should have left undone. I warned you about that twenty-fourth door,” he said.

“I am a grown man,” Severi replied. “I make my own choices. And you did not tell me I must not enter, only that to do so, would be my own risk. ”

“That is fair,” the old man said, gently. “But have your choices made you wiser?”

“My sorrow has made me older – but yes, wiser too. Please help me find my Vappu - that is all I ask.”

The old man muttered some words of magic and there stood Vappu, radiant as a sunbeam.

“Did you miss me Severi?” she asked.

“All my happiness disappeared with you!” Severi said to her. “Please, never leave me again.”

“I will promise,” said Vapu, “But on one condition: you must hide from me where I cannot find you. Then, and then only, will I always be with you. You have three chances.”

Severi did not understand what she meant, but the old man whispered a magic charm in his ear and promised he would help.

Severi did not want to hide but knew he must try if he wanted to win her, so the first day he snuck away over the hills and whispered his charm to a rabbit running by. It stopped, let him hide inside its thumping heart then ran on, even faster than before. But Vappu quickly tracked him down.
“You are not very good at hide-and-seek Severi,” she said. “Try again.”

The next day Severi stole away into the dark heart of the forest and whispered his charm to a bear ferociously guarding its den. It stopped, let him hide inside its warm heart then growled, more ferociously than ever before. But Vappu still, somehow, tracked him down.
“I have found you Severi! You cannot hide from me. You have one last try.”

Sadly, Severi walked back to the castle. He could not think how to hide from clever Vappu.

The next day, at a hint and a wink from the old man, Severi finally decided to hide in Vappu’s own heart. He drew close to her and softly whispered his charm:

“Three times I knock at your door, dear heart, 
Let me in, heart’s jewel, let me in!”
And he vanished right before Vappu’s eyes.

Try as she might, Vappu could not find him anywhere. 

When she had looked and looked and looked some more, Severi called to her:
“Can you not find me, Golden One?”
“I cannot - where are you?” asked Vappu.
“Here in your heart,” answered Severi.
“Who led you here?”

“You, Vappu. You led me here.”
“Then my heart is yours,” said Vappu.


Severi came out of his hiding place and she held him as close as he held her.
“And now,” said Severi, “I’ve found you.”
And they lived in peace, ever after, in their copper castle, beside the silver stream, beneath the golden trees.

…………………«§ The End §»…………………


Did you find the hidden treasure in the tale? 
If you like spelunking for information and digging for gems of knowledge, then you will like this: there's a hidden page I've linked to in which I have put 
an annotated version
(And if you looked but didn't find it yet - go back and check the text carefully. It's a teeny tiny link, hidden within the text of the tale - and yes - I checked - it's there and it's working.)
When I wasn't able to find an e-text of the original for you to read, and I wasn't able to reprint the original on the blog due to copyright reasons, (I have contacted the publishers - plural - to ask for special permission but these things take time to sort out. I am still pursuing permissions as of this posting, so no e-text yet), I decided to use the opportunity to give you more information about the tale than I should sensibly put in a blog post, and send you on a treasure hunt instead. Turns out, these things take a good amount of work to put together, (!) hence the place swap. (Thanks for being understanding Adam!)
In the annotated version, you can find out more about the original form of the story, learn more Finnish words, the original wording of key phrases, tidbits on Finnish culture and mythology, and uncover links between motifs to other fairy tales around the world - some of which you know very well! 

Happy hunting!

And next up in the Fairy Tale Hidden Treasures Blog Hop is: Megan Hicks at Life, the Universe and Everything! (Hey Megan: TAG - you're it!)

Credits for images within the tale: 
1. Secret Door by Georgina Gibson
2. Fantasy Castle Wallpaper - artist unknown
3. Antique keys - photographer unknown
4. Antique door knob - photographer unknown
5. The Golden Apple Tree and Nine Peahens by Arthur Rackham
6.  From "The Princess in the Underground Kingdom" by Pavel Tatarnikov
7. A Golden Dream by Thomas Cooper Gotch
8.  Searching by Amanda Clark
9.  Bearskin Falling by Ellen Li
10. The Lover's World by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale 
11. Detail of Brunnhilde and Siegfried...from Rhinegold and Valkyries series by Arthur Rackham from an opera Siegfried by Richard Wagner

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer D. BushroeApril 25, 2015 at 12:32 AM

    Ah, I loved all of it!! The fairy tale (which had a perfect and symbolic ending), the treasure hunt (so much fun), and the annotated notes (which helped shed more light on the tale)! Thanks, Gypsy!

    ReplyDelete