Friday, January 20, 2012

finnish names - part two, the folkloric


During the late nineteenth century in Finland the social/political Fennoman movement was in full swing, inspiring Finns to embrace their unique heritage, neither Swedish nor Russian. This stimulated a great language revival that affected, amongst other things, Finnish names (which we'll cover in the next post) and Finnish literature.

Perhaps the largest literary gift of the Fennoman movement was Finland's most celebrated national folk epic, the Kalevala, written by Elias Lönnrot. The work wove together, into one tale, folk ballads that had been preserved orally over many years.  While his method has been criticized for taking too many liberties in his story telling, the work really opened the door for modern Finnish literature and has done much to preserve an oral tradition, language and national identity which all might be lost without it. The Kalevala not only inspired Finnish literature; J.R.R Tolkien's books are reported be heftily inspired by (or even more directly based upon it, deepening on whom you ask), as well.

All of the images above, from textiles to water color paintings, are illustrations of some portion of the Kalevala. The first and then the sixth & seventh images are textiles done several years ago by Sanna Annukka Smithin for Marimekko. The second row, featuring Louhi & Joukahainen,and then the very last bear image are illustrations by Anna Emilia Laitinen-- they are to accompany a coming Kalevala app for the iPhone by Oliver Blank and Kalle Karjalainen. The third row image is called Kalevala of Love by Tamara Yufa, from the 1960's. The fourth row image is an illustration of the Sampo (a magical machine/artifact) by Joseph Alanen from the 1920's, and the fifth row image (the boy playing music to the animals) is a 1979 illustration on a plate by Arabia of Finland.   

In addition to being completely captivating to read and having inspired such beautiful art, Finnish folklore boasts quite a list of melodic and beautifully simple names. So here they are, a list of names from the Kalevala and other sources of Finnish folklore and mythology:

Ahava (the west wind and father of swift dogs and horses)

Ahti (god of the depths)

Ahto (king of all the waters)

Aino (promised in marriage to Väinämöinen, dies in the water and turns into a fish)

Akka (old lady spirit, partner to Ukko)

Äkräs (god of fertility)

Allotar (goddess of waves)

Antero (protector of magic, a giant)

Annikki  (lady of the forest)

Eteletar (daughter of the south wind)

Henki (the presence of life or spirit in a human body)

Ilmatar (female creative spirit, and spirit of the air, crucial to the creation story--she floats on water for hundreds of years, contentedly, until casting a bird and eggs from her leg, shattering the eggs and creating the earth and heavens.)

Illmarian (the eternal hammerer,spirit of the air, maker of heaven)

Ilpotar (hostess of the northland, may be another name for Louhi, or may be the daughter of the snowflake)

Joulu (the winter solstice)


Jumi (ancient god)

Jumala (thunder home, sky god, god of all)



Katejatar (daughter of a pine tree)

Kimmo (patron of rocks)

Kuu (goddess of the moon)

Kullervo (beautiful name, but not such a desirable character to honor.)

Lempo (goddess of wilderness and archery)

Louhi (shamanic lady of the north, powerful witch, hostess of the underworld)


Melatar (goddess of the helm) 

Mielikki (mother of the woodland, hostess of the glen & forests)

Mimerkki (another  name for Mielikki)

Monjatar (another name of the daughter of the pine tree)

Nyrikki (forest deity, builds bridges to help herds migrate)

Otava (great bear of the heavens)

Otso (spirit of the bear)

Paivatar (goddess of summer)

Pilajatar (daughter of the Aspen tree)

Pekko (god of the crops)

Rahko (god of time)

Remmen (or Remu -- father of the hop vine)

Sampo (a luck bringing artifact, a holy grail of sorts, which plays a large part in the Kalevala. Seen by some as a metaphor for creativity and innovation.)

Sampsa (a gnome, helped plant and sow the earth after creation)

Satka (goddess of the sea)

Sima-Suu (means "honey mouth" -- a tiny woodland deity, plays the honey flute to guide hunters.)

Sinetar (goddess of the blue sky)

Sukkamieli (goddess of love)

Suvetar (goddess of the south wind)

Tapio (god of the forrest)

Tellervo (Tapio's daughter)

Terhenetar (daughter of the fog)

Tuametar (daughter of the Alder tree)

Tuletar (goddess of the wind)

Turi (god of the honey land)

Tursas (sea gnome, helped nature an acorn that became first oak tree)

Tuulikki (goddess of animals) 

Ukko (old man. god of sky and thunder)

Uni (god of sleep...oh how I'd like to meet him soon!)

Untamala (daughter of Kalervo)

Untar (goddess of mist and fog)

Väinämöinen (son born to Illmatar, who brings trees and life to the world. he is more of  a shaman in the Kalevala, though)

Wellamo (hostess of the waters)

Vipunen (song giant and shaman)

What do you think of these names, readers? What would you pair with them? I think the creation story is one of the most poetic I've ever heard and I just love that the folklore includes children of various trees. If you could imagine yourself the daughter of a tree, which one would you pick? I think I'd like to fancy myself the daughter of a giant sequoia and a 'Ipe' (can't decide between the pink or yellow, though).

Up next in this series: Finnish nature names and another lovely interview!

(images: Sanna Annukka for Marimekko bearheads, Louhi & Joukahainen by Anna Emilia Laitinen, Kalevala of love by Tamara Yufa, Sampo by Joseph Alanen,1979 Arabia of Finland boy with wolves plate,Sanna Annukka for Marimekko textiles seven/eightbear-Tuonen Karhu by Anna Emilia Laitinen )


  1. So many beautiful names here; more than one has the Elvish twang of Tolkien too...

    I do feel drawn to Finnish names; the language is certainly fascinating.

    Particularly like Antero, Annikki, Joulu, Louhi and Tuulikki.

  2. These names have such different sounds from the names I usually ponder, but they are beautiful. If I had to choose one, it would be Terhenetar, daughter of the fog. It reminds me of a young adult novel called Fog Magic, in which the lead character, a young girl, is able to shape shift whenever the fog rolls in and visit a nearby village just as it was a hundred years previously.

    Thank you so much for all the time and thought you put into your posts.

  3. It is, Nook... so distinct.

    Thuja, thank you so much. What a lovely comment. And what a neat book! My Nona would love to hear such a story. And you are certainly welcome, my pleasure, actually. This year is marking a bit of a shift toward fewer but higher quality (by my standards, anyway) posts.

  4. didn't know where to post this, but (FYI) it's off topic! i don't think you've ever mentioned the name Selah (say-lah) but my cousin named their baby Selah Pearl. Selah is the phrase in the book of Psalms that in hebrew means "peace" or "pause". it's supposed to be an action for the reader (or singer) to take, rather than read aloud. anyway, it's a beautiful name, and Pearl was a family name. they've been calling her both names together.

    ps. love the finnish names. if you've ever lived in minnesota you'd know a lot of scandinavians there and names like marit, berit, sonja, bjorn, leif (layf), erik, liv (leev or lihv), etc.

  5. what a beautiful name! and I love that they're keeping both names together. thanks so much for sharing, Sarah.

  6. Beautiful things and cool pictures. :) its nice to read these kind of posts!

  7. Hm, I don't see the connection between sima-suu and honey-flute that well. <lV *finnish*

    Sima is mead, and suu is mouth, so it'd be more like "mead-mouth". Of course together they sound more like a honey-tongue type metaphor. .w.'''

    1. typo! It actually means "honey mouth", and she *plays* the honey flute. corrected. I can see the connection with mead and honey, though, and I continue to trust my sources on this one. ; ) thank you!