Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Aino Kallas: The Wolf's Bride

I read this small classic of Finnish literature for the first time last week. It was originally published in 1928 and has been practically the only classic werewolf story written in Finnish language. Many friends of the book don't necessarily see it as horror. I should say it fits the genre bill, but I won't force my view down anyone's throat. The most important aspect of the story is that it's a love story, a story of a forester's wife, called Aalo, who can assume a wolf's shape and is killed in the end by her husband's silver bullet.

In Sudenmorsian/The Wolf's Bride Aino Kallas (the link is in English) uses archaic language of the 17th century and the story takes the form of a ballad, seen by an outsider, who shares his/her theological views on the side. The narrator seems to be well-educated, since he/she (most certainly "he") can talk about werewolves and the studies that's been made on them. Kallas's language and narration make a two-fold statement: while the narration and the use of old language could've been possible only in the modernist era, it also makes sure that The Wolf's Bride isn't easily dated. It still feels fresh and packs quite a punch. It's also a very beautiful story of an unfulfilled love.

The story was translated in English as early as 1930, by Alex Matson, a Finnish literary scholar and world-traveller, but the first (and only) edition from Jonathan Cape seems to be very rare: there's only one copy for measly 550 dollars on Abebooks. You can read the more current translation easily in The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy where the whole story is contained in. Most highly recommended. (Especially since the Dedalus book contains Mika Waltari's great early sword-and-sorcery story "Island of the Setting Sun" from 1926 that could've easily been published in the pages of The Magic Carpet or The Weird Tales.)

The picture above is from a high-literary paperback series called Delfiini (Dolphin) in 1979. I believe the cover illo is by Kosti Antikainen, will correct if turns out I was wrong.


Marko Susimetsä said...

The first Finnish language werewolf story - to my knowledge - is Matti Kurikka's Vironsusi, so Kallas' story is surely not the only classic one. Would be interesting to know if there are any more of them around, however.

jurinummelin said...

Yes, I know, I picked the story up myself to the anthology "Kuun pimeä puoli" :)

Marko Susimetsä said...

Ah! I should have recognised your name - I have the book on my bedside table and am using the foreword to pick up classic werewolf stories to read and review for my blog. :D

jurinummelin said...

Truth be told, I didn't know about Kurikka's story when I read this. There were some years interim.

Marko Susimetsä said...

I actually knew about Matti Kurikka (I had read a book about his failed Sointula utopia in Canada) and knew that he was a writer but did not know that he had written a werewolf story before I read Kuun Pimeä Puoli - even then it was kind of a "that's a familiar name..." moment before I realised it was the same writer.