Monday, November 2, 2009

The Inner Teeny-Tiny Ski Patrol

My research leads me to suspect that inside every Silent Finn there is a teeny-tiny ski squad. There's even a Finnish word for this quality [of having an inner teeny-tiny ski patrol]: sisu. It comes from the word for inward, but it's more like "gutsy" than "inner child."

The Greek word for gutsy, which is all I remember from translating bits of the Iliad, is thumos. (Being Greek, thumos is warmer than a ski patrol. Maybe more like an inner teeny-tiny cliff diver, bronzed and covered in olive oil.)

Right: "Finnish soldiers patrolling on skis, December 1, 1939," Photographer: Carl Mydans/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

It's stupid to glamorize war. So lets pretend that these ski patrollers aren't actually soldiers from a country with 32 tanks (that would be Finland) taking on Stalin's 2,514 tanks during the winter of 1939-40, when temperatures fell to a record -45 degrees.
Let's say they are a metaphor for calling up our inner courage and stick-to-itiveness when caught between a rock and a hard place.

I'm sure that's what appealed to Americans when they read about The Plucky Finn in the Winter War:
"The Finns have something they call sisu. It is a compound of bravado and bravery, of ferocity and tenacity, of the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win. The Finns translate sisu as "the Finnish spirit," but it is a much more gutful word than that. Last week the Finns gave the world a good example of sisu by carrying the war into Russian territory on one front while on another they withstood merciless attacks by a reinforced Russian Army. In the wilderness that forms most of the Russo-Finnish frontier between Lake Laatokka and the Arctic Ocean, the Finns definitely gained the upper hand."
—Time Magazine, January 8, 1940
They lost, of course, eventually, though that's a relative term. I mean, compared to Estonia, Finland won--after World War II, they still had their independence.


Anonymous said...

ooohhhh... I hope this is not tooo late: if you don't choose to use it, you can always keep it on file for a laugh. This is the longest joke/riddle thing I've ever memorized--(in terms of words, that is!)!


BECAUSE: They have four wheels and eight personnel. Four and eight make twelve. Twelve inches make a foot. A foot is a ruler. A mighty ruler was Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth was the greatest ship to sail the seven seas. [Well, except for that new, monstrous Finnish one, if it doesn't create its own mess for being so huge! My editorial remark. Of course, I couldn't resist!] The seas have fish. The fish have fins. The Finns are always fighting the Russians. The Russians are Red. [At least most of 'em usedta be until the dismantling of the Soviet Republic, but hopefully they still are Red inside!] Fire engines are always rushin' and that's why they're red.

Hope you enjoy this an iota as much as we enjoyed Yasmin Levy in concert last night. Thanks for the postcard. You are such an inspiration, too: Plucky, creative, responsible Fresca! i want some time with you when you can.

Hey! I wonder if that ancient Greek word, "THUMOS" is related to the demotic word "TIMI", which means honor. I'll have to explore this and talk to my dear classics scholar friend, Avaren, if you don't know and I can't find out through googling. Anyway, here comes rosy-fingered dawn to provoke a warmish Monday!

Love and Happy Finnishing! [Sorry about the weak pun; on Monday, before 8 a. m., it's irresistible and inevitable. I am now possessed by brackets, but that is another conversation...]


Fresca said...

Thanks, Stef--that joke goes nicely with the non-sequitur "Who's on first/nice axe" jokes.
(Btw, that giant cruise ship is not Finnish-owned, it just sailed from there.)

I [Fresca] too am fond of brackets. : )

bink said...

That new ship didn't just sail from Finland, it was built there. One of the bridges it will have to pass through to get out to the ocean will only have one foot of clearance after the ship lowers it's telescoping smokestacks. It was built in cubes and then put together like legos...which is pretty cool. It sounds like a dreadful place to vacation, but I'd love to see it nonetheless.

Fresca said...

Side-bar! Side-bar! I'm writing that up for the book.
But still, Finland doesn't own the ship---it belongs to the Florida-based Norwegian/U.S. company Royal Caribbean.
(It sounds an absolute hell to me.)