Each country has its well-known and loved literary characters whose essence is deeply connected to the identity of a nation or region. This exhibition is about those characters, introducing the fictional world, authors and cultural surrounding of smaller European states. Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg are represented with their literary characters. Learn about the project
Väinämöinen – the leading figure of the epic – is famous for his songs and wisdom. Young Joukahainen from the North becomes envious of him, challenges him in a singing and wisdom contest and is defeated. The angry Väinämöinen uses his magic to make him sink into a swamp. Fearing for his life, Joukahainen promises his sister’s hand in marriage to Väinämöinen. When Aino hears about the promise, she bursts into tears, but her mother is happy about the prospect of a famous son-in-law.
While mourning her fate in the forest, Aino meets Väinämöinen and refuses his proposal. She runs home in panic. Aino’s mother tries to encourage her to dress up and adorn herself. Aino roams the forest in despair, reaches the seashore, glides into the water and drowns. A hare takes the message to Aino’s mother, who begins to cry. From her tears, rivers start to flow, islets are formed, birches grow on them and cuckoos start to call, echoing her sorrow.
Väinämöinen goes to the sea to look for Aino. He catches a fish and is about to kill it, but it turns out to be the drowned girl transformed into a fish. Mocking him for failing to recognise her, Aino returns to the sea.