Telling Tales 142
Tapio was the leader of the forest väki. You might say he was the haldja of his own People. He would not become another kind of haldja, not like the rest of them, who might shift. I think that the väki are a great deal more fluid than you or I, or many of them are, at any rate. Not Tapio. As the leader, he had different responsibilities.
Sami may have thought himself clever, cutting four of five trees in one season, and then several seasons later cutting four of five of the remaining trees. And maybe a judge would have been impressed with the argument. Maybe a lawyer would have asked, “For how long must this stipulation remain? At what point can the man move forward? It is his land, after all.”
To the väki, these questions suggest bad faith. When you leave the fifth tree, you leave the fifth tree for now and forever. But what if a new farmer comes along, you say, and wants to clear more space? The neighbors would explain that the cutting had already been done and the rest of the trees should remain. That’s what Sami knew from his neighbors and what he gleaned from the haldja on his holding, and yet he pressed ahead with his cleverness. “It is my land, after all,” he said.
But it was not his land. It was the väki’s land and they allowed him to use it.
This is the story of what happens when two come together who do not know one another, do not consider one another, do not respect one another.
Sami truly believed that he owned the land as the one who had cleared it. The väki truly believed that Kareliya was theirs, every part of it. Neither one spoke with the other directly. They worked with unwritten laws that were subject a man like Sami’s cleverness. Am I making a case for lawyers? Not at all. I am making a case for people to talk with one another.
Our Sami planned on defending his land and he knew, going against the rules as he did, that he created danger for himself. That was why he meant to split the väki by inviting in so many haldja. His mistake was fourfold. The first, he thought that there were only a certain number of väki, and that if some where with him they would not be with the others. The second, he thought that väki only meant “People.” That is how I have used it in this story so far and it is true that that is what väki means. But that is not its only meaning.
Tapio had to act against Sami. This was Sami’s third mistake, that the väki had a decision to make. He did not understand that the rules to which he had to abide were the rules that governed how the väki behaved. Act as you should and the väki will be peaceful. Act as you should not and they will not. If you cut me, I will bleed. It is the same principle. Tapio had to act as much as he had to bleed. Sami thought that perhaps he could be reasoned with, or bribed, or that there could be negotiation.
The fourth mistake was in misunderstanding the forest. Sami thought that the forest väki meant “trees” or “wood,” perhaps. Forests are much bigger than that. They are animals and insects and birds and trees and vines and stones. Forests are very large.
And the other meaning of väki is Power.