The saga of wolf hill

Foreword

The best stories combine both history and tales which are passed down from generation to generation. This is just one of those stories and it is only in the eye of the reader or the ear of the listener what to believe and what to doubt. We only ask You to spend some time with the saga of Susivuori – The Wolf hill – and let your thoughts take you back centuries in time.

Sources

The first recorded information about Finland’s early history can be found around the year 1100. Twenty different sources are recognised all together. The RomanCuria and the Novgorod chronicles shed light on Finland’s earliest known moments, but there are other sources as well. Iceland’s most famous historian and poet – Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) – wrote Heimskringla, i.e. the sagas of the Norwegian kings, and in these sagas he mentions Finland several times.

Our story begins at the end of the Iron Age, in the fall of 1007. In Heimskringla, it is told how Olaf Haralddson, aka ”Saint Olaf” set sail and went on a raiding expedition to the Swedish coast and lake Mälar. After a profitable expedition and two victorious battles in the following spring, he turned his ships’ prows towards Finland, just at the beginning of summer in 1008.

Third battle of Saint Olaf

”After this they sailed to Finland and plundered there, and wentup the country. All the people fled to the forest, and they hademptied their houses of all household goods. The king went farup the country, and through some woods, and came to somedwellings in a valley calledHerdaler, where, however, theymade but small booty, and saw no people; and as it was gettinglate in the day, the king turned back to his ships. Now whenthey came into the woods again people rushed upon them from allquarters, and made a severe attack. The king told his men tocover themselves with their shields, but before they got out ofthe woods he lost many people, and many were wounded; but atlast, late in the evening, he got to the ships. TheFinlandersconjured up in the night, by their witchcraft, a dreadful stormand bad weather on the sea; but the king ordered the anchors tobe weighed and sail hoisted, and beat off all night to theoutside of the land. The king’s luck prevailed more than theFinlanders’ witchcraft and so he got out to sea.” ~ Heimskringla, Snorri Sturluson 1225

Olaf was able to escape up the coast, although apparently some of the Finns followed them by land.

A thousand-year-old story

Olaf’s journey continued north along the coast of Finlandand one can only guess what went through the minds of the ships’ crews after the severe beating and witnessed witchcraft. In those days, the water level was at a much different height than it is today. The land areas of the Gulf of Pohjanlahti had yet not risen much after the ice age, so the coastline was very different from what we see today. From time to time, the viking fleet stopped to replenish its water and food reserves in more peaceful regions. One of these stops happened at the mouth of an elongated inland bay, and without this coincidence, there would certainly be no Saga of Wolf hill.

The crew of Olaf’s third ship included a young viking whose name is mentioned in the traditional lore as Arne (or Aarne in Finnish) and he was one of the fleets appointedhunters. Seafaring was obviously not his forte and perhaps the forests of Finland, the amount of game and the Finns’ will to fight made an impression, because for some reason he decided to take the hills and go his own way. In the evening – with only a small bag of goods and his weapons – he left the coastal camp in the dark and started his own adventure on the coast of Finland. At that time, it was the beginning of summer in 1008 – so for a long time have the stories in the area of Wolf hill been passed down from generation to generation.

Finding of hill

A lot of information has certainly been lost over the years, but some has fortunately survived to this day. Aarne had jumped off the ship on the coast (almost at the area of present-day Jepua) and started walking towards the inland along the shore of the then narrow sea bay. After a few leisure pace day trips and finding a fishy river delta that stood out from the bay (at the area of present-day Kauhava), he began to explore the surroundings in more detail, looking for a suitable place for a hut.

Just a couple of leagues (approx. 10 km or 6 mi.) north of the river, Aarne found a placethat he thought would be a good place to settle. An area slightly rising from the low ground, on the other side of which grew a truly unearthly, straight and magnificenttrees. The forest teemed with both small and larger game.Because there was also a spring, a pond and a small stream in the area, Aarne didn’t dare go any further. He thanked his gods and took finding a good place as a blessing and a sign of the rightness of his decision to leave.

As a neighbour of forest spirits

Aarne started to build a small cabin and becausefirst-rate construction wood was available, he didn’t have to look any further. Apparently, the forest around Wolf hill has always been flourishing – even in the 1800s, all the construction timber of the surrounding areas was collected from this place, because “there was no such straight and large pine trees elsewhere”. However, the felling of the first tree did not go without problems. The stories tell that the size and beauty of the trees in the area was not a coincidence, but a result of the magic of the gloomy forest spirits known as hiisi (or hiidet in plural) living in the forest’s shelter. Aarne’s axe-wielding attracted the spirits accustomed to silence, to the spot and at first they did not treat kindly the young man who just suddenly entered their area.

However, Aarne wasn’t too startled by hiisi-spirits and as a fair and sincere man of the North, he asked if he could somehow prove his good intentions to these spirits and thus get permission to settle down as their neighbour. The hiisi-spirits, who famously were fond of both treasures and trading, asked Aarne to perform three small quests for them. These quests would then show hiisi-spiritswhich kind of man Aarne really was.

Three quests

The first quest hiisi-spirits pointed Aarne at was to drive away a large wolf pack that had wandered from north and was disturbing peace of the area. The task was not easy, even for a man known to be a good hunter, but using a bow, fireand snares, he was able to convince the herd that there are easier lands to hunt on. According to the story, Aarne even had an encounter with the largest wolf on the pack and killed it by throwing an axe – and since then, not even a glimpse of a wolf’s tail has been seen on the hill. The story of how Aarne drove the wolves away spread later across the lands, which is why Aarne got a nick name ofWolf-Aarne or Wolf slayer and the area was called Wolf hill ever since.

In the second quest Aarne had to move a large rock that a giant, who had long ago gotten angry at the hiisi-spirits, had thrown to block the downspout of the nearby stream, thus raising the surface of the pond up to the home cave of hiisi-spirits. The stone was of such a size that it could not have been removed by the strength of one man. On the ships Aarne had learned to use a pulley wheel and even though the workwas challenging, he got it done. The hiisi-spirits were satisfied and Aarne got an excellent corner stone for his future home.

The third quest was perhaps a proof of sense of humor of the hiisi-spirits, because they challenged Aarne to quaffa drink with them. A massive drinking horn – ”The Mighty horn of Hiisi” was brought the table in thecave. The drink is told to be hissing and bubbling and it was truly strong. The cave made an indelible impression on the guest, because its “walls were full of silver and gold glittered in the corners”. The hiisi-spirits and Aarne sat in the middle of the cave by the bonfire and each took a turn drinkingthe horn empty. Aarne was only by a whisker able to empty the horn in one sitting and recite the drinkin rhyme;

”With the blaze of the flame, with the foam of the horn –
luck is conjured – fortune enchanted
in the flashing of brass and shimmering of silver
may your life be well spent –
and swift your paths end”.

Though Aarne returned to his camp on his own two feet, the drink had been so strong that the next day he did not remember the location of the cave – but he never forgot the bright silver flashes on the cave walls.

Now that the hiisi-spirits were convinced of their new neighbour, an agreement was made – “As long as the hill remains a place of peace, the spirits of nature are respected and forest’s cattle and grain is harvested with fairness and wisdom, neighborliness will remain between the hiisi-spirits and the master of the hill.” This”Wolf hillagreement” is still respected here and lived according to it in the vicinity of the hill.

Everyday life

When Aarne had built his little cottage, began the everyday life in Wolf hill. Hunting and fishing made iteasy to make a living. Fragments of lore reveal that in ancient times, various forest birds, foxes and even moose could be caught in the area. After the wolves disappeared, the forest deer population in the area also grew and there was an abundance of game. Apparently, the hiisi-spirits were good for Aarne, because the numerous deer pits found in the area from different ages tell their own history about the amount of prey.

After settling down a while, Aarne started to make small exploration trips both to the coast and inland, and at some point in his travels he also met Finns. After the initial prejudices and grumbling, the excellent huntsman was accepted and the locals found the hides and meats delivered by Aarne to be good. Life in Wolf hill calmed down for a moment.

Life and death on Wolf hill

Local lore tells, that at some point, Aarne found himself a spouse named Rauni from among the local people, and life on Wolf hill took a new turn. The house expanded, love blossomed and offspring were also born when a daughter appeared in the world -she was named Viljakka. Later, a son, Ohto, was also born. Ohto is a nick name for a bear and the boy’s name was later considered an omen, because he sadly died at a young age, after being caught between a bear and her cubs one spring. Karhunmaa – Bear grounds – located near Wolf hill, thus took a sacrificial victim, but as a result, bear hunting went on without problems for years. According to the stories, Viljakka grew up to be a famous sage and herbalist.

There are many small stories about the phases of Aarne’s life, but few of them are as fabled as the finding of Wolf hill. His later events of life consisted mostly of a peaceful life, except for a few small local skirmishes. The agreement made with hiisi-spirits had perhaps paid off, because even though Aarne never found the silver cave again, the good huntin luck had accumulated some wealth for the northerner who had oncechanged life at seas to living in Finnish forest. Aarne and Rauni lived quite a long time by the standards of those times, until “one spring winter, the spirits of cold that arrived with the frost grabbed Rauni and took her with them” (she succumbed possibly to pneumonia). Aarne and Viljakka planted a rowan tree – a symbolic tree of life – on his grave near the hut. Rowan tree was known to ward off evil and call for goodness. That rowan tree has already disappeared from the place over time, but for some reason one can always spot a single rowan seedling still growing on the the spotmaybe telling its own story about the love experienced a millennia ago.

Apparently around the year 1040, beginning of autumn, Aarne went down to the coast on a hide sales trip. When he was leaving the market place, someone tried to get a share of the dividends by force, and in the scuffle, Aarne was wounded in his side. As a tough man he still managed to get home where his daughter could take care of him. However, the herbs and spells no longer helped, and so, with sorrow Viljakka had to escort her father to meet his ancestors in the eternity.

The story goes that before departing from life, Aarne had whispered his last words to his daughter; “This is my home and this is the place of my happiness. I will never completely leave the hill.” That’s how Aarne departed, but the stories remained and it is said that with good luck you might still catch a glimpse of a figure watching the grounds, smiling in the shade of the trees.

Heritage of Wolf hill

Since Aarne’s time, “Ulv berg” – Wolf Hill – has experienced many things. The original pond on the top of the hill has over the ages become swampy and dried up, new streams have flowed and new ponds have been born. There is almost no trace of the old buildings, except for a few corner stones. The stories have been passed from mouth to mouth over the years, gaining perhaps a little colouringfrom each story teller. However, there is a lot of history in the area, and that is exactly what we want to bring out and this is why we tell the saga of Wolf hillto all our guests.

Although the lore is not always very accurate, some interesting details must be pointed out. For example there are a lot of forest deer on Wolf hill, the area is geologically special and the forest is also exceptionally dense. Considering the hunting pits and sacrificial holes in the rock from different ages, it is no wonder that the imagination can easily run wild here.

Thesilver cave of hiisi-spirits has also stayed in local stories, as there are many references in history to silver searches made in the area. For a long time in the old ages a ”tinuri” (silver/tinsmith) often roamed the area, as he was looking for silver at the hill. In his talk he repeatedly told about a silver deposit, “where silver flowed and there was more than you could dream of.” Even at the turn of the 20th century, a gentleman named”Vihtori of Silver mountain”was searching for silver of the Wolf hill, though never did he find it.

Today, Wold hill is growing and developing as a place where stories and myths meet history and the present day.

We would like to welcome you, ourguest – to Wolf hill! While visiting, just follow the ”Wolf hill Agreement” made with hiisi-spirits long ago, and who knows – you might catch a glimpse of Aarne, or maybe you’ll be able to have a drink from the fabled drinking horn.

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