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


Nummisuutarin Esko


The Nummisuutaris (Heath cobblers: a comedy in five acts) Translated by Douglas Robinson, St. Cloud 1993)) is a play by Aleksis Kivi from 1864. The main character Esko Nummisuutari is one of the most beloved figures of the Finnish literature.

In Esko Nummisuutari and the events of his courting trip contain features, which the Finnish people recognize in themselves and other Finns. Esko is the son of a strict, greedy and selfish Martta and her slightly feeble husband Topias. Esko is a young man with a black-and-white and stubborn character, but he is also honest and sincere and proud of his cobbler’s profession.

Due to her greed, Martta hurries the marriage of Esko, because according to the testament this would mean that Esko would get the heritage instead of their foster daughter Jaana. Because of Topiases and Esko’s simplicity, a misunderstanding occurs and Esko leaves on an excursion of courtship. When Esko arrives at the yard of the intended bride, Kreeta of Karri, he is invited together with his matchmaker to a wedding feast. The disappointment uncovers the deepest recesses of Esko’s character. The pride over his profession that gives him strength: “Not even God in his Heaven makes better boots than I”. Esko suspects that he has been tricked and made a fool of, and because of this he picks up a fight.

During the return trip the matchmaker Mikko Vilkastus offers Esko liquor as consolation. The first drunkenness stirs up the abandon of the otherwise reticent man.

“T’is such fun. The earth and heaven make somersaults and you Antres the tailor roll around in me eyes like some monkey in the market an’ yet I wud lik’ to kiss ye so tenderly. This must be death; an’ I’’ be getting’ a devilish courage. Hih! Now I culd fight a whole legion.”

The negative feelings of the fundamentally good meaning people are dissolved by the just ending: the happiness of Jaana and her fiancé Kristo brings delight even to Esko’s life.


Aleksis Kivi

Aleksis Kivi


Aleksis Kivi (by real name Alexis Stenvall), is Finnish national writer. Kivi’s birthday on 10th October is the Day of Finnish Litterature. The best known works of Kivi are The Seven Brothers and The Heath Shoemakers. The Seven Brothers is the first Finnish novel.

Kivi is an original, poetic personality. He was influenced by among others Cervanteses and Shakespeare’s dramas as well as historic works, non-fiction and newpapers. From Finnish writers Jaakko Juteini has influenced Kivi’s work. Aleksis Kive’s influence on the Finnish language and its’ development is considerable. As genres, the most typical are romanticism and realism. As poet, Kivi is mainly a romanticist, but in his prose more of a realist. He has been an inspiration and role model to several generations of writers.

Kivi’s sources of strength are his astonishing imagination, knowledge of human nature and literary talent. In his works appear the love and compassion for fellow men. Essential in Kivi’s texts are the humor, comedy and tragedy. During Aleksis Kivi’s productive era 1860-1870, Finland lived its’ post-romantic époque and the era of the Finnish theater’s birth.

The best of Kivi’s plays have been an essential part of Finnish theaters’ productions. Films have been made of his works The Heath Shoemakers, The Seven Brothers, Eva and of Kivi’s life. His works have been translated into several languages, for example The Seven Brothers has been translated into over 20 languages.

Several of Aleksis Kivi’s poems and song texts from his plays as well as the song texts in the novel The Seven Brothers have been composed into songs during different times. To mention a few; “Onnelliset” (Felicity: “Now brightens the distant horizon…”), “Keinu” (The Swing), “Metsämiehen laulu” (The Hunter’s Song), “Oravan laulu” (The Squirrel: Sweetly sleeps the squirrel baby…”), “Sydämeni laulu” (The Song of My Heart), “Seitsemän miehen voima” (The Strength of Seven Men: “Now shall everyone sing loudly…”), “Mitä minä huolin” (What do I care).

Back to top