Tuesday Writing: Traditional Aurorean Folk Songs

“Apolline,” Lucia says weakly. “Sing me a song.”

From the get-go, my plan was that Aurora would basically be RealmgardCanada. Actually working out the history and culture of Aurora, however, I sort of ended up with it being more generally non-Nordic taiga. I had a vague conception of the Tarandarii since early 2020 and as I’ve fleshed them out, they’ve become more like the real-world Sámi — the Indigenous People of Northern Europe (the traditional Sámi homeland is located across the northern parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and northwestern Russia).

Ultimately, because I wanted to do something other than “the line rhyme at the end” with Apolline’s songs, I tried to model them on the Kalevala, the national poem of Finland — compiled from long-standing oral traditions by Finnish scholar Elias Lönnrot in the early 1800s.

Also, names are hard, so I just went with “Nainen” as the name of the Aurorean patron goddess and nainen is the Finnish word for “woman.” That may change as I flesh out the worldbuilding around Aurora, but I’m going for something like how there’s an Ancient Greek goddess whose name is simply “Despoina” and how “Potnia” (an older form of the same word) is used for several Mycenaean goddesses, where the word/name simply means “the Lady” or “the Mistress.”

Shout out to composer Jean Sibelius who was also influenced in a big way by Finnish mythology.

Funnily enough, it turns out that today is Kalevala Day — Finland’s national culture day. Now, I didn’t plan it this way. In fact, I had this scene mostly written back before the New Year and only got to finishing it up today, unaware of the holiday.

Shockingly, I’m not all that well-versed on Finnish holidays…

“How are you feeling, Lucia?” Petra asks.

Lucia looks up at Petra with bleary eyes. The Troll-Amazon is upside-down from Lucia’s position with her head resting on Apolline’s lap.

Lucia moans and pulls her blanket up to her chin.

She’s been sick and miserable for the past few days, but she’s still enough of a cat that part of her enjoys the attention — and the headpats and ear scratches — her friends have been giving her as they look after her.

Even Roland, for all his other faults, has his heart in the right place.

“Apolline,” Lucia says weakly. “Sing me a song.”

The Aurorean sorceress rolls her eyes. “Goodness, Lucia,” she mutters. “You’re acting like a child.”

“Please?” Lucia asks. “I like your songs. And Roland and Alda have never heard an Aurorean song before.”

“I haven’t!” Alda exclaims eagerly.

“Yes,” Apolline says wryly, “because being nice to Roland has always been your major concern.”

“See?” Lucia offers. “Look how sick I am. I’m delirious.”

“Such a child,” Apolline mutters again.

“Please?” Lucia repeats.

Apolline nods and begins to sing:

Now gather round listen to the tale that I shall tell you,
That has come down from our fathers, and the fathers of our fathers.
Dearest friend of childhood, o, dear friend of my bosom —

Roland snorts.

Bosom,” he giggles.

Alda glowers up at him, shushes him and jabs him with her elbow.

“Sorry,” he mutters, even as he continues to suppress his laughter.

Apolline continues her song, ignoring the interruption:

Let us clasp our hands together, let us form a circle,
Let us dance together, til Nainen’s lamp is lighted,
Til all the stars are shining and the moon is brightly kindled.
Let us sing the songs that have come down from our fathers:
Tell the tales of heroes, the ancient ages of Aurora.

“Yeah,” Lucia sighs happily. “That’s nice. Now do the one about the old guy and the fish.”

Apolline frowns down at Lucia.

“That old guy is the greatest hero of my people,” she notes. “Such a child.”

All the same, she gently pats Lucia’s head and begins her next song:

Mighty ran the river, cold and swiftly-flowing
When wily Sauvatonttu came wading through the shallows.
There the fish was snapping, scales like silver gleaming,
Leaping through the water.
Twenty spans it measured, the great fish of the river.

So crafty Sauvatonttu cast his line to water,
Mighty river swiftly-flowing —
Threw a hook of iron down into the water,
Great fish to snare, drag it from the river, pull it from the waters.

Cunning Sauvatonttu hooked the great fish of the river,Snared the master of the water.And so the fish was thrashing,The river churning in its frenzy
As Sauvatonttu and the fish contended,
The great pike and the wizard
While mighty ran the river, cold and swiftly-flowing.

“Yeah,” Lucia yawns. “That’s nice.”

She rolls over, settles more comfortably on Apolline’s lap and drifts off to sleep.

The Aurorean sorceress frowns. “My legs are asleep,” she notes.

She sighs and glances over at Lucia.

“She’s lucky we love her.”

In this context, I decided to lean into the Kalevala influence. Sauvatonttu at this point is basically Väinämöinen, the great Finnish folk hero who is the main hero of the Kalevala — basically a musical wizard.

Incidentally, he also fought a big fish:

FYI: Sauvatonttu is Finnish for “wand elf.” Now, if that sounds familiar, that’s because the Old Norse form of “wand elf” is “Gandalf”, best known as the name of — that’s right, the King of the Dwarves in Norse mythology.

Man, I really am the Rian Johnson of subverting expectations.

That, uh, that name’s probably going to get changed when I get beyond the point of needing a quick placeholder name. And if I ever work this into a real Realmgard story, I’m going to spend the time and energy to make it more like the Kalevala and less a cheap knock-off of the Kalevala.

But this was good practice on working out the metre and rhythm of traditional Aurorean poetry.

This week’s chapter is here:

More of my short practice scenes are here.

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