Finnish children stories have a long history but weren’t really distinguished from the general story-telling tradition to begin with. Storytelling has long traditions in the Finnish culture and history and stories were told for children and adults alike. Stories and myths have been told for as long as the history can look back to but the Finnish children’s literature can be seen to have begun on 1543 with Mikael Agricola’s Abckiria – book.
Historically children’s stories were traditional Finnish folklore and mythology. Stories were also used to teach children what’s good and what’s bad and to be obedient and respect their parents. One of the most famous Finns, the Santa Claus who still lives in Northern Finland, has also a long tradition in children’s educational stories. Finnish children have always been taught to be nice and obedient, or else Santa Claus won’t bring them gifts at Christmas!
Finnish children stories have got their influence from the Bible, nature, history, famous European storytellers and especially Kalevala, the Finnish national epic which had great impact on developing Finnish national identity. Unsurprisingly, nature and its creatures have played a big part in the stories. Traditionally Finnish children stories have also had a taste of reality in them and fantasy literature is still quite new in Finland.
(One of the best known and most beloved fantasy stories is “Pessi and Illusia”, a fairytale by Yrjö Kokko, who wrote the story as a Christmas gift to his children when he was fighting in World War II. It’s a story of the troll Pessi and fairy Ilusia. Pessi´s father, the Great Pessimist, believed that people are too blindly trusting of the future. Illusia´s father, the Grand Illusionist, on the other hand, wove a web of hopes and dreams from people´s imaginations. Without that web of hope, no one would dare to live a single day on the earth. From the love of Pessi and Illusia was born a new human, who was neither a troll nor a fairy, giving hope to the people during the war.)
The most famous children’s stories in Finland are the Moomins, created by the Swedish-Finn Tove Jansson. Moomins are a carefree and lovely family of trolls, living in the Moominvalley who with their various friends and neighbors get into all sorts of adventures. Their charm has enchanted large audiences and the stories with their very human message have also been filmed many times. Nowadays the moomins can be visited in a fantasy team park Moomin World in the city of Naantali in Finland.