It is uncanny how some people are obsessed with the love life of Jo March and Louisa May Alcott and refuse to see Friedrich as a character in his own right based to an assumption that the writer might have been gay. There is multiple evidence which shows that Lucy Maud Montgomery might have been a lesbian (and many Montgomery scholars believe she was) and a great deal of Anne of green gables was based on the author´s life so in a way it´s also semi-biographical.
Yet no one is tearing Gilbert and Anne apart because of that.
In the 19th century relationships between women were more sentimental (we see this with Anne and Diana). In our modern-day perspective, it can feel strange and even romantic but in those times the world between men and women was strictly divided.
Reminds me of what @ajedisith said about Fritz possibly being bi. LMA grew up in the transcendentalist circles, do some research and you´ll find out that there was lots of gender fluidly among them. There were also rumors back then that both Henry-David Thoreau and Emmerson who Louisa had crushes on (and was possibly in love with) and to whom she partly based Friedrich´s character were also bi´s (not that there was a term for it during those times).
Sexual orientation is a spectrum same way as gender. The queer theory only tends to be about Jo (maybe we should broaden it up) and there is lots of speculation that Jo was trans/gender fluid. LMA liked to dress up as a boy the same way as Jo. Friedrich has zero problems with the fact that Jo is not traditionally feminine. I see Jo as gender fluid and Fritz as someone who accepted her as gender-fluid (and maybe Fritz was also gender fluid) but at the same, it is an assumption, not something that we or I can prove.
Some people say Jo was asexual which would make LMA ace. It definitely seems that LMA was on the spectrum but in her adult works there are sexual themes (read “long fatal love chase” everyone) and there are records which show that she had sexual feelings towards some of her male friends which rules out her being an ace but that doesn´t mean that she was not on the spectrum.
What it comes to Jo and Friedrich, the girl was lusty over the professor. She checks him out from head to toes multiple times.
Then there are cultural differences. You´ll hear some people calling Fritz emancipated because he has feminine/nurturing features (the argument is quite silly since Jo is attracted to them). I was quite baffled when I heard people using this argument against Fritz for the first time. The way Fritz plays with kids is not too different from the way Swedish, Norwegians, Germans and Russians for example act with children. This goes back to the “little women controversy” Jo has a boy´s name, Laurie has a girl´s name, Jo wants to be a man, both Fritz and Laurie possess feminine qualities, but these “feminine” qualities are also cultural differences (for example Laurie being very emotional is seen as a feminine quality, he is also half-Italian, so it can be in his heritage).
In the end, does Louisa May Alcott´s sexual orientation matter? she wrote excellent thought-provoking books that we still read today.
Northuldra and the Sámi
I just saw Frozen II (literally an hour ago) and I had to write about the connections to the Sámi culture and Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish myths and folklore.
Let´s start with the Sámi culture (also known as Sami, Sapmi and Saami. As a Finnish speaker I´d refer a Sámi person as "saamelainen" or "saami" and the language as "saame") I have written a lot about Sami mythology here in myblog. I have Sámi ancestry from the Lapland of Finland and Sweden.
The Sámi´s are native people of Scandinavia. There are about 20 000 people in this world who speak Sámi languages. These days you can find Sámi´s all over the world (and people with Sámi ancestry) but in general most Sámi´s live in the Lapland of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Kuola Peninsula in Russia. This is why, for example in Finland, Lapland is sometimes called as "Saamenmaa" the land of the Sámi. Sámi´s were nomads and reindeer herders and still today many Sámi´s are reindeer herders. Already in the first Frozen there was Sami influences, because Kristoff´s character was inspired by Saami culture. Kristoff´s outfit is similar to traditional Sami outfits. Different Sámi tribes and regions have their own outfits and designs. The pointy shoes and outfits made of reindeer skin are common (sorry Sven).
There are several Sámi tribes and Sámi languages. Most common Sámi language is northern Sámi, which is sort of universal Sámi language that Sámi´s who speak different Sámi languages use to communicate with each others.
A joik or yoik also named luohti, vuolle, vuelie, or juoiggus in the Sámi languages, is a traditional form of song in Sámi music performed by the Sámi people. Joiks do not have any words. They are pure sound that captivate emotion. There are different types of joiks. Joiks for love, friendship, family, reindeer's, winter, northern lights..you name it. I was impressed how many new joiks there was in Frozen II and I loved the sound of the shaman drums.
In Frozen II we meet the Northuldra tribe and they are based on Sámi people. One of the Northuldra´s mentions that they worship the sun. Sámi´s followed a nature based belief system and since in Lapland winters are dark and long they did worship the sun as the giver of all life.
You´ll be sad and disappointed to know how much discrimination there is towards the Sámi culture in Finland. There has been some progress recently, especially what it comes to cultural appropriation being questioned. I was sitting on the movie theater and some teen age girls were making fun about Northuldra´s/Sámi´s worshiping the sun since they are from Lapland...
This is the Sámi flag. It has a sun in the middle. Sometimes I am genuinely worried about the lack of education of our own history in this country (several Finno-ugric tribes shared a similar belief system). Sun is also often portrayed in the center of Sámi shaman drums.
In autumn 2019 Walt Disney Studios made a historical agreement with the Sámi population of Norway, Finland and Sweden so that the Sámi culture in the film was portrayed with respect and they had Sámi experts with the developing the story and the characters. Frozen II is also translated into Northern Sámi (Jikŋon II).
Ahto-Hallan, In depths
The way Ahto-Hallan was described in Frozen it actually reminded me of Finnish and Sámi myths about the land of the dead. I don´t know if that was the intention of the film makers but hear me out;
Ahto-Hallan is in far north, a place where the spirits live, home of magic and that is where Elsa finds the spirits of the people who lived before her.
Somehow this connection makes Frozen feel much darker
Ahto/Ahti is the name of the sea god/spirit of the sea and god of the depths in Finnish mythology (Ahtola is the place where all the merfolk lives). Ahto-halla is Finnish. It refers to "ahtojää" packed ice. Halla is also Finnish, it means frost/frozen.
In Finnish mythology there is a place called Pohjola (combined from the words pohjoinen- north and pohja- bottom). Pohjola is the underworld, place where the spirits of the dead live. Pohjola was located in far north in the land of eternal winter. In this old world view, the world was made of three layers. Upper layer (ylinen) was the place where the highest spirits resided, the middle world was the world of the animals and humans, underworld the bottom, was the land of the dead. These worlds were not really seen so much as physical places but different layers of human conscience.
Sámi myths have lots of elements from Scandinavian and Finnish mythology and vice versa. In some Sámi myths, the land of the dead is called as "Rotaimo" and it can be found from the bottom of a bottomless lake. In Lapland there are lots of lakes that are very deep and have fake bottoms (goes back to Ahto being the spirit of depths).
In Frozen II Elsa tames a beautiful water horse called The Nokk. The water horse is a common character in Scandinavian folklore equivalent to Scottish Kelpie. In Swedish folklore it is known as bäckahäst/näcken and in Norway as nøkken.
In the folklore the water horse was usually a large, white and a beautiful horse. It would walk in the shore and lure people to climb on it´s back and then it would drown them. It was possible to tame the majestic horse with tricks but I guess Elsa and the Nokk also have a natural connection since they both have ice magic.
btw this is epic af
Which brings us to the Finnish water horse myth. What it comes to Finnish mythology there is one horse above all others and he is Iku-Tihku. How would I explain his name, Iku comes from the word ikuinen meaning eternal and tihku means dripping water.
A freaking eternal ice horse that drips water! I rest my case!
Here is the story of Iku-Tihku. Iku-Tihku was made inside a mountain by trolls. He was made of fire and ice and he was the first horse ever created. Because he was partly made of ice he could not visit the human world during the summer and the warm months because he would melt. He could however, visit the human world during the winter time and because Iku was partly made of ice, he had the ability to travel between the human world and Pohjola, the north/the underworld and deliver messages from humans to the spirit world.
Not too different to the way Nokk takes Elsa to Ahto-hallan.
I am starting to see why so many non-Finnish speakers consider Finnish language as some sort form of elvish.
Trolls saw that Iku-Tihku was a mighty creature so they used him as a model to create the first horses, but they were not made from ice and fire but from iron, and they could travel between all the worlds and seasons.
Trolls are not very common in Finnish folkore but you can find LOT´S of trolls from Swedish, Norse and Sámi myths. They often live in mountains and are connected to stones and minerals and they are more than often giants.
Here are some sleeping stone giants from Frozen II
Here is a picture from my family´s summer cabin from northern Finland. Do you see what I see?
Mother of Elsa and Anna is Iduna and in Frozen II we find out that she was a northuldra. In Norse mythology Iduna is name of the goddess of health and rejuvenation. Her symbol is the apple and she is connected to autumn season (have you seen the color palette in Frozen II?). I have heard quite a few Americans complaining that Iduna doesn´t look native. (I must say I have hard time understanding the obsession some Americans have with race).
What does a native look like?
I think the most straight forward explanation is the fact that when the first Frozen movie was made, makers were not planning to do a sequel and didn´t though of Iduna´s backstory then.
But even if they did, despite of the fact that Scandinavian countries and Sámi´s have a sad and violent history, there has been many mixed marriages between Sámi´s Finns/Swedes/and Norwegians and you can come across all kinds of looking Sámi´s. There is variety in hair color, skin color and eye color. The the way people look can also vary in different areas. Lapland is a wide place, my friends. Our genetic make up is always a mixture.
Last but not least THE SEITA.
Seita´s are stone formations and ancient worshiping places. The Sámi´s went to the seita to leave gifts for the gods, make requests and meditate. Stone formations are common all over the world (Stone Henge probably being the most well-known one).
They are ancient, and the higher they are, the closer they are to the sky and the spirits.
I re-read Little Men last summer and I had not read it for ages. It was much more touching than I remembered. Some of the students in Plumfield had disabilities and some of them would probably fit into the Autism spectrum. Children with disabilities did not have the easiest life in the 19th century.
In Little Women, Hummels are Germans and grateful for Marches from all of their help. Yes, Beth catches scarlet fever but Marches never blame the Hummels, and it was not their fault that they are poor and diseases were very common and spread easily. Louisa always writes about them with sympathy.
The lack of conversation is similar to Friedrich and immigration themes. 90% of the conversation still seems to be about why Jo didn´t marry Laurie. It only proves that Louisa May Alcott and her radical acceptance is too radical for modern-day filmmakers. She was an abolitionist, supported orphans and immigrants, a humanitarian.
“Education and self-culture would balance and limit the predatory, expansionist impulse of modern trade and technology of through a turn that would "league” all nations into a global civil society. What Kant called a “cosmo-political state”. Rather than militarize national citizens for expansion and conquest, Kant´s proposed a new ethic of “universal hospitality” would forbid any nation to conquer or assault any other (Kant had in mind French and British empires). This was not, in Kant´s view, a hazy utopian dream, but entirely practical, “a necessary completion of the public law of mankind”.
Following Kant, generations of idealist sought to realize his cosmopolitan ethic. “New philosophy” transformed the American intellectual landscape. Sprouting into informal reading groups. Critics dubbed the most famous of them as “transcendentalists” using Kant´s term to sneer at their strange and foreign ideas. But these very ideas inspired America´s first great movement in literature, philosophy and reform, which in turn carried cosmopolitan thinking around the globe as books by Emmerson, Thoreau, Fuller, Louisa May Alcott and others travelled the Atlantic back to Europe and beyond. Cosmopolitanism offered an ethical response that tried, not to privilege the near and familiar by excluding or demonizing the “Other”, but rather to value the Other and work toward connection and dialogue, even global political solidarity, across national boundaries and differences of race, class and gender.
Jo falls in love with a poor German philosopher, from an anglo-American perspective such choice has seemed bizarre, but from Louisa May Alcott´s transnational perspective it is inevitable. Germany was the fountainhead of the new philosophy, and all of the transnational literature available to Louisa, the German was by far the most important to her. As Christine Doyle has detailed, the influence of German literature on the March trilogy was deep indeed making, as she says “much more explicable the match between Jo March and Friedrich Bhaer”. (The cosmopolitan project of Louisa May Alcott by Laura Dassow Walls)
Something I read today and thought it was perfect.
“While Meg and John are the down-to-earth couple (Meg arguably even more so after John dies), Amy and Laurie are the Romantics, the artists. Jo and Friedrich combine the two. One of Friedrich’s most compelling qualities is that he combines domestic and romantic heroism. - Christine Doyle (Singing Mignon´s song, German literature and culture in the March trilogy)
I am happy and delighted to share my thoughts on Lorraine Tosiello´s brand new book "Only Gossip Prospers".
Lorraine Tosiello read Alcott’s Little Women in the first grade—and re-read it again and again throughout most of her childhood. The book equipped her to set off on a journey of motherhood, traveling, rabble-rousing and work as a physician devoted to medical education and primary care medicine. Rereading Little Women in later adulthood rekindled her Alcott enthusiasm, and years of happy study resulted in her first novel, Only Gossip Prospers. She lives with her husband in midtown Manhattan and at the New Jersey shore.
Only gossip prospers takes place in 1875 and centers around a very little known time period in Louisa May Alcott´s life. A winter that she spent in New York. Book is filled with intriguing references to the Alcott family, historical fiction that intertwines Louisa´s circle of friends and family members, transcendentalist philosophy, cultural and feminist ideas of the time to a cavalcade of fictional and historical characters. It is also a beautiful time jump to the 19th century New York in the peak of industrial revolution.
I enjoyed this book tremendously. Not only it has tons of surprises and plot-twists like the best Alcott novels but this book is quite possibly the most full-rounded and insightful description of Louisa May Alcott as a person that I have ever come across. She was a very complicated woman. Alcott who we meet is in the top of her fame, rich and wealthy but poor in health, deeply dedicated to the humanitarian work that is close to her heart, constantly creating plot-lines for the new stories and at the same someone who feels a constant need to protect her reputation. Louisa is funny and witty. Prone to mood changes. She can be the light of the party and someone who longs her family and misses home dearly. She is international, bold, brave, moody, insecure and thrives in a company that challenges her intellectually.
Tosiello´s background in the medical field gives the reader wider understanding of Louisa´s struggles with her health (most widely accepted cause for her health problems is mercury poisoning. During her American Civil War service, Alcott contracted typhoid fever and was treated with a compound containing mercury). Book is a great glimpse to different holistic healthcare treatments of the time not to mention the mental healthcare practices (or should I say the lack of them).
This book is so filled with twists and turns and the plot only thickens towards the end I did find it difficult to put it down while reading the last chapters. I especially appreciated the wonderful, rich way author describes Louisa´s inner world with all it´s contradictions. There are multiple references to Louisa´s literal works such as Little Women, Little Men, Eight Cousins and Moods. I did enjoy the wonderful twist in the Fritz/Laurie debate and greatly appreciated how the author points out Louisa´s fascination and knowledge of the German culture (a topic way too often dismissed by the scholars) but it was truly the gender swap themes that took me by surprise.
Five stars and I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested to find more compelling and nuanced takes on this fascinating author.
Check out all my articles about Little Women:
Evolution of Laurie
Quest of Friedrich Bhaer (and why my inner Jo loves him)
Jo, Friedrich and the weekly volcano press aka what it takes to become a great writer
Jo, the adamant
Small umbrella in the rain 2019
Little Women 1970 Amy and Laurie Romance
We Germans Believe in Sentiment
Friedrich Bhaer Aesthetics
Equal Marriage Lost in Translation
Little Women 2019 Trailer (Long Rant)
Little Women 1933
Best Jo and Fritz fanfics you´ve ever read
He was attractive as a genial fire
Little Men and Tender Parenthood
Little Women symbolism of the umbrella
Thoughts on #TeamLaurie and #TeamBhaer
Video is in Finnish. You can get the English subtitles from the lower right corner. Filmed when I was between apartments and stayed couple weeks at my friend´s guest room (thanks Katie, you saved me).
In Finnish folklore one of the most common elements that you can find is that everything in nature is personified. Pakkanen (Frost) or Pakkas-Poika (Frost boy) is one of these things. Within the folklore Frost is a mischievous young boy. His parents are most often told to beLouhi, the goddess of winter and shamans and his father is Puhuri (cold, powerful wind) or Pakkasukko (The Frostman).
Parents of Frost and Frost as a character can also simply work as a metaphor. Back in the days practising of wind magic and shamans who were devoted to that particular craft were very common. This leads back to the shamanic concept of emuu. Emuu is an old Finno-ugric word for a mother (emo is an old Finnish word for a mother but now days it refers to an animal mother, äiti which is modern Finnish word for mother has Baltic origins). but it is also a gender neutral word and refers to a creator. Someone who can light the sparkle of life into non-living things (such as snow, stones, rocks, sunlight).
In Finnish folk magic when a person knew the origins of a disease they had greater chances to heal the disease. When performing the healing ritual they would sing or chant the origin words connected to the disease or the injury they were about to heal.
If a person had severe frostbites they would chant the words of the frost. One could also say the words aloud before they went outside to protect themselves from the Frost. Words were used to scare the Frost and prevent them from touching the person.
Words Against Frostbite
Sharp Frost, the son of Blast (Puhuri), ice crusty, wintry boy, now hast thoug hurt a human skin, hast sorely injured a mother´s son, destroyed a woman´s progency, for sapless has the man become, the stalwart man insensible. Sharp Frost, the son of Puhuri, come now to recognise thy work, to remedy thine evil deeds; if thou hast bitten, heal the bite, if thou hast touched, undo the harm, or else thy mother shall tell, to thy father I shall make it known. Enormous trouble a mother has, when treading her sons footsteps, effacing traces he has left, anointing sores that the he has made.
Sharp cold, the son of Näräppä, hard-frozen wintry boy, where shall I exorcise thee now? Thee do I exorcise forthwith to distant limits of the North, to the flat, open lands of Lapps. There is it nice for Cold to live, for Chilly Weather to abide. There thou will level trampled ground, wilt slay a reindeer out at grass, wilt eat flesh lying close at hand, wilt gnaw the bone that´s near to thee.
Since thou dost pay no heed, thereto, I exercise thee forth into the belly of Pakkanen (sharp cold), the fervid paunch of the frosty blast. As there thou mayst not find a place, depart to where I order thee, flee to the clouds above, thou wintry weather, to the sky, cease injuring a christened man, destroying one that is baptised.
- The Magic songs of the Finns by Elias Lönnrot
As you can see from the poem it has Christian and Pagan elements combined. Time when the chants were collected started rather early on, already in the 17th century and for a very long time different belief systems lived side by side.
Similar characters to Pakkanen can be found from other myths as well. Check my post onJack the Frost.
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Pronounced as Nee-na.
Artist, illustrator, writer, watercolorist and a folklorist. Gryffinclaw. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea and period dramas.
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