Klabautermann is a character who can be found from Germanic and Baltic folklore. He is a little elf who lives on in shipsn )O( Enjoy
When we think of genies image that first pops into mind is the genie of the lamp that Aladdin found but the origins of the genie goes far and wide. Did you know, that genies aren´t too different from angels or fairies.
Hinzelmann, the German castle fairy from the tales of Brothers Grimm.
Spirits around us
World view of the ancient Finnish tribes was animistic and it was believed that everything in nature had it's own soul and spirit. Nature was filled with invisible spirits and many of them had ability to effect to the lives of men therefore respect for the nature and it's powers was essential in order for people's survival. Fairies in Finnish folk tales are not small, winged pretty ladies but they come in all shapes and sizes.
Daughters of Nature
In Finnish mythology different phenomenon's in nature were often personified as feminine entities. Nature itself was a goddess called "Luonto" and it literally means nature in Finnish. Daughters of Luonto were group of maidens called luonnottaret. According to the legend maidens were moving grains on a misty cape in a foggy island and making it into hay. After spreading it out sea monster Tursas burned it into ashes. As it happened maidens were out of ash for they had to wash the face of the sun's son (Paiva the day) but before they could collect the ash wind of the north east whished it away to the banks of a holy stream and from it splendid oak sprang. This myth is similar to Baltic story about three goddesses of faith who were ploughing hay when a man rose from the sea. He cut a giant tree which hid the sun.
Spirit of Air and Fire
Primordial Finnish god of the air was called Ilma. Female personification of the air was Ilmatar but the relationship between the two is unclear. Nunnus was daughter of the air. Her job was to bring frost, ice and freezing breeze. Ismo was the bringer of rain. Kapo was a little girl who was the spirit of the rainbow. She was also maker of salves and shamans would call her to heal injuries. Sumutar was daughter of the mist and she recited in dark murky swamps. Auteretar was the goddess of dawn. Panutars were spirits of the flames. They were daughters of Panu spirit of the fireplace.
Each tree species was believed to have their own haltija the protector spirit. Spirit of juniper was called Katajatar (kataja = juniper). They were told to be the most beautiful and kind hearted of all tree spirits. Havutar was spirit of conifer trees. Hongatar was spirit of pine trees (honka is old Finnish meaning a dead pine tree or an extremely tall pine tree). Pihlajatar was the spirit of rowan tree (pihlaja = rowan). Tuometar was spirit of bird cherry (tuomi = bird cherry). Often tree spirits were considered to be daughters of Tapio the forest god and huntress goddess Mielikki. Tree worship was very common among Finno-Baltic and Saami tribes. Families had special trees in the yard called haltijapuu a fairy tree. There was a spirit living inside the tree and during major holidays and life event family members would leave food and other sacrifices under the tree. Haltijapuu was planted when family moved into the house or when a child was born.
Idea of a small, winged fairy did not appear into Finnish story telling until the beginning of 20th century through Victorian children's book illustrations. In Finnish folklore nature spirits rarely had wings. They were described to look exceptionally beautiful women. Finnish word for fairy "keiju" is derived from Keijungainen. It was a small winged creature who's body was all covered with either black or white fur. They lived in cemeteries and best time to see them was during Kekri (all hallows eve) when they were dancing upon the grave stones. Folk tales tell that when a person was about to die they might see Keijungainen flying around them.
In Finnish mythology there are several species of elves. Most well-known ones are tonttu's. Word tonttu is derived from the word tontti which means an estate or a place of a building. Tonttu was a protector spirit of a building. They were connected to ancestral worship and according to legends person who build the house became the guardian spirit of it after they had passed away. Same way the first person who took a bath in the sauna became the spirit of the sauna in the afterlife. Tonttu's were also found from granaries, stables and cowsheds. Tonttu was usually described to be a small older man or a woman. Male tonttu had long white beards. Most common tonttu's in modern Finland are joulutonttu's the Christmas elves who live in Lapland working for Santa Clause.
Gnomes were known as maahinen or menninkainen. They were little people who lived underground. Maahinen is derived from Finnish word maa meaning earth. It was believed that land of the maahinen was similar to human world but everything there was upside down. When it was daytime in the human world it was midnight in the land of maahinen. Menninkainen's were similar to maahinen but they were more closely connected to the forest, plants and animals. Magic of elves was ancient and powerful. It was dangerous business for men to disturb them.
Check out my up-coming course on Finnish mythology and folklore )O(
Keijungainen in Finnish Mythology Video
I am working on children book about elves so I've been doing lot's elf research.
There is lot's of folklore and elf fairy tales in Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
Unfortunately in Finland there isn't that much written knowledge about elves. Most of the elf folklore are from pre-Christian times and Finnish written language was born in 16th Century and country was going trough religious reformation by the Lutheran church and church fathers did not approve local folklore and peoples beliefs for multiple nature spirits.
Finnish word for elf is tonttu and the word's etymology comes from the word tontti that means the living area or place of a building. Finnish mythology is filled with different kinds of nature spirits. They are called haltija. Haltija is another name for an elf. Haltija can be any kind of spirit. Tonttu is a character that is always connected to a certain area.
In Sweden and Denmark tonttu's are known as tomte and nisse.
There is many kinds of elves. Guarding of the home is house-elf, kotitonttu. Guardian of the sauna is saunatonttu. Guardian spirit of the stable is tallitonttu. You might even find church elf from the church, kirkkotonttu. In Turku's castle there lives famous linnatonttu, castle-elf. Boat-elf, laivatonttu lives in a boat. There is also forest elves, metsätonttu's living in the forests. Most well-known elves are joulutonttu's, Christmas elves.
Nordic elves remind old men and women by their appearance. Usually elves are about the same size as five year old children. Male elves have white or gray long beards. Female elves have friendly faces and gray-ish hair.
Tonttu's are strongly connected to our ancestors. According to belief person who build the house also became the house-elf and the protector of the area and building. Just like first person who ever entered to the sauna became saunatonttu.
One of the main tasks of saunatonttu was to watch that people behaved well in the sauna. There is expressions in Finland that tell people to behave very respectfully in a sauna since it is just as holy place as the church. Tonttu's were respected as ancestor and guardian spirit. Going to sauna is still big part of Finnish celebrations through the year and in the old times during every big festivals they also warmed and prepared sauna for the elves and spirits.
Guardian spirit of the house and home was respected as bringer of good luck. Tonttu might also get mad for the family and even set house on fire or make cows milk sour if people weren't behaving well. If this happened family tried apologize the elf by leaving good food for them or clean clothes (clothes have different' meanings for Nordic elves than elves in the world of Harry Potter).
Finnish elves usually have similar ears than humans and not pointy ears like celtic elves.
In Denmark and Sweden there are two kinds of elf tribes. There is Nisse and Tomte elves that usually more masculine and then there is Pixie-like elf tribe (Älven). That are more feminine and look more like elves from the Lord of the Rings. Nisse and Tomte are more closely connected to human world and älven are more connected to wild nature.
Stable elf, tallitonttu got along very well with animals. Tallitonttu was also thanked and praised when animals were feeling well. People rarely saw tonttu, because tonttu could turn itself invincible.
Because of their long age and magical powers tonttu's can easily be irritated by modern day people and many tonttu prefers to live in an old building and doesn't enjoy modern cities.
In Finland and other Nordic countries you can find many people with strong elf-beliefs
pretty much same way there is strong belief to fairies in the UK, America, Australia and New Zealand.
Most common elf belief these days is the idea of elves living in the arctic circle and working for Father Christmas making toys and Christmas gifts for children.
I've never really liked the idea of Father Christmas / Santa Claus. Character launched by Coca-cola and represents this culture of consumption that modern day Christmas seems to be most of the time.
I'm more found of stories about elves in folklore and also folklore stories and legends about all the characters that modern day idea of Santa is based (God Odin in Nordic mythology, myths about St.Nicholas from Asia Minor, Finnish Kekri Santa and Krampus from Germany).
On the other had modern day consumption culture and franchising Santa and the elves have partially helped old stories to survive 'till today.
In Nordic countries habit to leave food (often plate of porridge) for elves is still alive and well especially among children. This custom is thousands years old in Finland and other Nordic countries.
I have once seen an elf. Some years ago I lived in the country side (literally behind god(des)(s) back).
There wasn't lot's of people and it' was long way to the nearest city. It was early autumn night and I was walking home and I passed this old wooden bridge. I saw a small man there. He had beard that was same color as the grass, red hat and blue suit. I stared at him for few minutes and he stared back at me with big curious eyes then he disappeared.
I know many people who have experiences with elves. My Danish friend often speaks about the elf who makes noise in her house. Another friend of mine lives in the heart of Helsinki. Tonttu there enjoys city life and has decided to stay to the old apartment building where my friend's family lives.
Check out my course on Finnish mythology and folklore )O(
In Finnish fairy is called Keiju.
Keiju comes from the word Keijungainen and keijungainen is a creature in Finnish mythology.
It was described as a small creature with wings. Keijungainen was usually black or white. Keijungainen's were very much related to death. You might find them dancing in the cemeteries and sometimes they were considered to be the spirits of the ancestors and people who had passed away.... spirits who haven't been able to move on.
Beside the creature Keijungainen there isn't other creatures in Finnish myths similar to the modern fairy image (cute, childlike with wings).
We do have personifications for every single growing plant and tree in nature.
Also for all the things in the skies.
Image of modern fairy (Tinkerbell type) came to Finland just about 200 years ago from Victorian England through first translated children's books. When first Finnish children book authors like Topelius and Anni Swan started to write their own stories they didn't want to use this creature Keijungainen because it was so dark. They took the word Keiju and influences from the Celtic and Irish Fairy folklore. These folk tales got mixed with the Finnish folklore and that is how small winged fairies arrived to Finnish mythology and folklore.
I often get asked the way I see fairies.
There are people who consider fairies as light creatures such as angels and unicorns.
I never had this kind of ideas and probably because of my years of research on fairy folklore.
I believe angels and unicorns are very angelic creatures. Made from pure love and light.
Almost like they are neutral for every other emotions.
Fairies I see as very human like creatures. One of my favorite fairy descriptions is from Peter Pan where Tinkerbell is described so small she can only hold a one feeling at the time.
She can be sad, happy, angry whatever she wants.
Capacity to feel just like humans make fairies more approachable for me to work with them and create fairy art.
First of all I see fairies as nature protectors and nature guardians.
That being said the ancient Finns who had personifications for everything in nature and the modern Finns who respect the old habits are in fact always surrounded by fairies while spending time in nature because after all fairy means a nature spirit.
Check out my course on Finnish mythology and folklore )O(
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.