Statue of the national writer

Of the seven brothers

11.2.2020 09:26
Seven brothers is a book about the importance of literacy.

We lived before, even though we were behind the ditch.

"They fell silent, threw themselves from the window to the hill and quickly ran across the potato field of the locker. Small stones rattled on the sand, lumps of soil flew high into the air, and soon they disappeared into the dense thicket behind the others. Then the locker rushed in with a terrible form of anger, brandishing a stout stick of sea-reeds in his grip. In a high, screeching voice, he shouted for the deserters, but in vain."

It was the first steps of Jukola's seven brothers towards literacy. Lukkari didn't teach them multiliteracy with word art, but with a stick and a potato.

Aleksis Kivin's Seven Brothers appeared 150 years ago. It wasn't immediately declared a classic, but the crushing criticism of the professor and critic August Ahlqvist, who already hates Kivea, drove both the book and its naughty author to the ground. Ahlqvist's anger hastened the early death of Kive, who was limping without a support network. History now knows Aleksis Kivi as Finland's national writer, but Ahlqvist only as a hate speaker and goal-scorer of his time. Ahlqvist's anger was so deep that even after Kive's death he wrote a mocking poem about it.  

Seven brothers is a story about how literacy changes a person. The meaning of the word is that the brothers have no school education, but they become socially competent and respected citizens only with the ability to read. The book's message is at least as relevant today as it was in 1870. The clock of history is frighteningly turning in the direction of blindly believing the loudest shouter. The value of education and researched knowledge is underestimated, the information society has become an opinion society. Veikko Huovinen summed up the current mood already in the 1970s in his book Veitikka: "The nation is like a big, gaping hole," concluded Hitler. When you tell it straightforward things, it lets out an approving roar from the high security...”

I didn't have to "in an independent homeland to read Kive", as Teemu Keskisarja says in his excellent Saapasnahka-torni book, but I only read it as an adult. I tried to read already in elementary school, but I didn't finish. I felt some kind of antipathy towards the work because of Riitta Nelimarkka's animated film, because it was poorly drawn in the opinion of a child raised by Walt Disney and Tex Avery. Now, more than forty years later, judging by the pictures, it's not as bad as I thought it was as a child, maybe it would be a place for rethinking.

When I finally read Seven Brothers in my twenties, I was amazed not only by its compelling plot, but also by how many sayings that are still in our everyday language. And how much, for example, Väinö Linna owes to Kive. The unknown soldier even received a somewhat similar treatment in criticism as the Seven Brothers in its time, although Linna also had enough defenders. The Seven Brothers is part of our nation's collective memory, whether you've read it or not. I used to read Seven Brothers to my children as a bedtime story. It is no coincidence that their names are Venla and Tuomas. Even if they don't hurt others, I think it left some kind of mark on their self-image.

Jouko Turkka interpreted Seven Brothers in a television series in 1989. Its reception was somewhat the same as the book itself at the time. Mauri Kunnas has successfully educated children with Seven Dog Brothers for two decades. Not once or twice has a middle school student come to the library to ask for it. When "should read about the Seven Brothers for tomorrow".

The domestic novels that had the greatest impact on me as a young man are, in order of reading, Havukka-aho's thinker, Häräntappoase, Untematon solitas, Täja Pohjantähten alla and Seitsemä veljesset. Reading them has been not only entertainment for me, but also lessons about history and different cultures. Fortunately, after ten years of hiding in Impivaara, the Jukola brothers also took a spoon in their beautiful hand and admitted that reading and understanding it is the most important civic skill.

"The brothers diligently practiced reading again, and their skill increased, albeit gradually. They were already reading well enough from inside, and now they went to the wood to learn the monkey's songs by heart: they were now aiming for the cock with the squeals and snorts in every corner."

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