A rock painting at Astuvansalmi, Finland. Photo by Kate Laity (enhanced by me to bring out detail)
As you know, I'm intrigued by Finnish connections. A while back, through the wonders of Technorati, I checked out a link back to my blog from a post called Touching Ancient Finland. The writer was going to Finland to see the Astuvansalmi rock paintings! I learned Wombat's World is the "blog for medievalist K. A. Laity, author of the novel Pelzmantel: A Medieval Tale", who is "Currently working on Unikirja, a collection of short stories based on the Kalevala, Kanteletar, and other Finnish myths and legends." Well, that piqued my attention, so I delved a little deeper and learned that American Kate Laity has Finnish roots. I began to follow her blog for reports on her trip: Terve from Helsinki and Finland recap. Many of the sights she visited were familiar to me, but not the rock paintings in real life, so these excited me the most.
Impatient to see some of her photos, though I knew Kate Laity was busy with a new teaching post this fall, I emailed her to ask if she would be posting any of them. Kate and I have enjoyed some nice "conversations", both being keen about our Finnish connections. Her photos of the boat trip to see the Asuvansalmi rock paintings are now up and I've enjoyed browsing through them several times, reaffirming my desire to make that journey myself! She kindly sent me an essay 'on traveling in search of ancient Finland' that is being published in New World Finn. Here are a couple of excerpts:
"For the past couple years, I have been at work on a collection of stories influenced by The Kalevala, the ancient mythology of Finland. At the back of my mind, however, was a big worry. How could I write about ancient Finland, when I had never been there? [...] How then to get a sense of this lost past? Naturally enough, a visit to modern Finland would be a good place to start. I was fortunate that the generous folks at the Finlandia Foundation found my journey a worthwhile exploration to fund. Their gift allowed me to go in search of the world of Finnish mythology this past August."
"While I would very much enjoy my visit to the National Museum's exhibit on ancient life in Finland, and I was thrilled to find Kivikäs' book at the Academic Bookstore in Helsinki, the memory of the visit to the rock paintings has stayed vividly in my mind. It has sent me back to my stories with a new zeal for authenticity, and it has helped me to reshape some of the narratives to better reflect that glimpse of the ancient past. It may be a world lost to us now, but I hope my stories--buoyed by my taste of ancient Finland--can give readers a window on that distant time."
I'm so happy to have met Kate and I'm looking forward to the completion and publication of her Unikirja (a Finnish word meaning dreambook) and must find her novel Pelzmantel: A Medieval Tale.
By the way, Kate refers to Kivikäs' book, which I also own and wrote about a while ago.
P.S. Off the subject a bit, something else I learned at Wombat's World is about a Finnish/Chinese movie Jade Warrior. According to the gorgeous website, Jade Warrior combines kung fu with the Kalevala, ancient China and modern Finland. It was shown at the recent Toronto Film Festival (it did not get a good review) but does not appear to be at the currently running Vancouver International Film Festival, so the chance that I would ever get to see it seems small.