Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Joke - How the Finns Came to Finland

Lovely as Finland can be at times, I have always wondered why the Finns chose to settle in that inhospitable northern corner of Europe – back in the days before central heating, double-glazing, cars, snowmobiles, GORE-TEX®, winter holidays in Thailand and other such things.

If the original Finns arrived in the winter, were they not put off by the freezing cold weather and the lack of light? If they arrived in the summer, how come the swarms of mosquitoes, horse-flies and moose-flies didn’t drive them away? And surely, when they noticed that the ground was full of stones, making it close to impossible to cultivate, they must have thought: “OK, THAT-IS-IT, let’s find some other place”?

I trawled the Web, and eventually found a nice humorous theory (possibly of Russian origin) about how the Finns came to Finland. That theory also neatly explains why they have linguistic brothers in Estonia and cousins in Hungary:

Thousands of years ago a group of people living somewhere very far in the east, beyond the Ural mountains decided to go west in search of new land. So they set off on their long arduous trek.

Eventually, somewhere near what is now Poland, they came to an intersection with two signs:

SOUTH – fertile land, lovely climate

NORTH – land impossible to cultivate, cold and horrible climate

Those who could read went south and eventually settled in the land now called Hungary. Those who were uneducated went north.

By the time the north-bound people reached the shores of the Baltic sea, some of them had learned to read. The group stopped at a sign that said:

!!! Warning: weak ice !!!

Heeding the warning, the literate ones went no further and settled there. They became known as Estonians.

The Finns, however, continued their journey, across the ice. Half of them drowned but rest actually enjoyed swimming in icy water and survived until they reached the other side. There, they found an empty, hostile land which was 40% covered by lakes; 40% by wet mosquito-infested swamps and bogs; and 20% by rocks, rocks and more rocks, with mighty forests growing on top of these.

For thousands of years, without pausing for thought, the Finns dug up the swamps, cleared the forests and carried the rocks away – by hand. After much toil, they managed to create some small patches of land where they could grow a few potatoes and some carrots – only to find that, more often than not, the unpredictable frosts in the summer made all their efforts pointless.

And so they lived happily ever-after, without knowing they could have chosen differently.
I don’t know about you, but that theory makes sense to me. It further explains why modern Finns, having now had the opportunity to discover the world, and indeed sample the delights of Hungarian wine, have decided to become one of the most highly educated people in the world: “Never again will we take the wrong turn!”


  1. Alternative theory (sorry, no translation)

  2. At least we can conclude that they learn from their mistakes. ;)

  3. I've wondered where comes an aphorism about Finn goes thru a grey stone. Now I know. :)

  4. ... and Finns avoided many wars and other things we Hungarians had to live through just because we live where we live....
    Plus, they have free education, etc because they can afford them. We can't

    Who chose right, thn? :)