Tale of a Forest (2012) - full transcript

Tale of a Forest is a film for the whole family about the unique Finnish forest with its colourful and diverse life. The main characters of the film are the various inhabitants of the forest: the bears and the elk, the snakes and the owls, the ants, the frogs and the flying squirrels, the ancient soul birds such as the Siberian Jay, the Lapland Owl and many, many others.

On one starlit night I went to
watch the skies with my father.

We sat beneath a big tree.

My father told me
that the tree had always been them, -

and little by little a forest
had started to farm around it.

I did not believe him, and so I asked
where the forest was now, -

as there was only one tree left.

Thus my father then began
to tell me tales about the old forest, -

tales about how it had all started
and what had happened in the forest.

Those tales were born a long time ago.


The ancient Finnic people believed
that before the forests were created, -

there existed a lone, big tree that was
growing at the center of the world.

The sky was the lid of the world and it
revolved around the great big tree.

The tree held the sky in place.

It supported and protected the universe.

It was the world tree.

The Siberian jay
was the first to arrive in the forest.

It was quiet and trustful.
Its sound resembled that of a troll -

playing its flute
made of reindeer bones.

In the old tales Siberian jays
were soul birds -

into which the souls
of dead hunters settled.

Seeing a Siberian jay before
a hunting trip brought good luck.

But some thought seeing a Siberian jay
was an omen for bad times.

Indeed, its Latin name
means 'a blabber that brings bad luck'.

The Siberian jay stays near its nest
all the year round.

It comes around to see what kind of
guests have arrived in the forest.

It has its own alarm sound
for each guest.

The forest used to signify
a distant edge or border for people.

It was a strange realm
with its own rules and laws.

There were elves and hobgoblins
living in the forest.

They took care
of the forest's inhabitants.

The forest of the elves
did not belong to humans, -

but in order to survive
people had to visit there.

That is why a permission was required
for passing the forest edge, -

and one had to show respect
in the foreign realm.

The elves either helped or teased
the arrivals.

They were in control
over the luck of the visitors.

Some of the inhabitants of the forest
sleep through the winter -

and others hibernate.

The rest do their best
to survive the harsh cold.

They have only a few bright hours during
which they must gather their food.

The big grouses are only able to
find food on tree branches -

during the winter.

The Black Grouse can eat birch buds -

but the Wood Grouse will have to eat
the needles of a fir tree.

The needles are full of resin
and they taste bad, -

but it is all
that is available for them.

The biggest bird in the forest
was named after its habitat.

It lived in the middle of the forest,
in the big Metsola.

The Wood Grouse, or ''metso'',
was the forest elf's magic bird -

and one was not allowed to mock it.

Squirrels and the
Great Spotted woodpeckers -

eat pine needles or fir needles.

If there aren't many cones to be found,
they might leave their home forest-

and travel to places
where there is plenty of food available.

The tiny Willow Tits have made food
stores for themselves in the autumn.

They have hid seeds, maggots
and insects in the holes in tree bark.

The squirrels
have their hidden stores, too, -

but they don't always
remember their location -

and will occasionally steal food
from other animals' hidden places.

The small weasels also store their prey
to he on the safe side.

They might not even have time
to eat all the voles during the winter.

The Boreal Owl
is also dependent on voles.

If they are not available,
it will not breed the next summer.

People were afraid of some birds
and wanted them to stay away.

Otherwise accidents
were prone to happen.

Owls lived in the dark amongst
witches and hobgoblins.

People believed they hated light.

One could see the owls very rarely, -

and they were able to fly

Maybe that is why people thought
they were mysterious, but also wise.

The Black Woodpecker was also
a jinxed bird, a messenger of death.

People feared it cry,
as it caused rain and thunder, -

if nothing worse.

All other birds took part
in creating the world -

except the Black Woodpecker.

Because it did not want
to partake in the creation, -

it was only allowed to drink water
from the leaf of an aspen.

If there was a long period
without rain, -

the Black Woodpecker
became awfully thirsty.

Then it started shrieking.

The Provider of Water heard its cries,
and soon it started to rain -

and the bird could drink
from the aspen leaf.

A holy place of the old days
was located in the forest, -

and people gathered there
to enjoy festive meals -

and to make sacrifices
to the gods of nature.

Hiisi, the greatest of the forest elves,
lived there.

It set up traps and looked over
the untouched forest-

to make sure that
not a single branch was broken.

Trees were to be respected,
as in their shadow lived the elves -

that protected people's homes.

When a tree was thriving,
it predicted good fortune, -

but when a tree fell,
the elf was left homeless -

and one's house was protected no more.

What happened to the tree
also happened to the people.

The northern coniferous forest
started forming after the ice age, -

approximately 9000 years ago.

Around that time elk migrated
to Finland, among the first mammals.

People followed them,
as elk were important prey for them.

Elk hunting
was the most challenging hunt, -

but it was also the most rewarding.

When one had caught
the biggest mammal of the forest, -

one could be certain his success.

Soon people started painting
pictures of elk on rock walls.

The spring was a promise
of the following summer's fortune.

The Water Spirits that lived
in streams and torrents -

made sure that the water drops
remained clear and clean.

The flowing water was to bring health,
joy and lightness.

Water was the prerequisite for life.

People believed that many birds
spent the winter in the Bird Home, -

where they recovered and
renewed themselves for the coming year.

They enjoyed themselves,
while in the North it was cold and dark.

The Bird Home was a paradise,
an island in the middle of an ocean.

One found its way there
by following the Milky Way -

that was shining up in the sky.

It was the nightly guide
for the migratory birds.

It was also a long-lasting belief
that frogs lived for centuries -

buried inside rocks and tree trunks, -

until they appeared again in the spring
to spawn in the lakes.

In reality frogs dig themselves in the
bottom muds of trenches and lakes -

in the autumn.

Thousands of frogs might gather up
in a good hibernation place.

They breath through their skin
underwater and survive the winter -

if the temperature does not fall
below zero degrees celsius.

Some trees became holy. Pictures
of gods were carved into them, -

and sacrifices were made
in their honor.

The trees were to he worshiped
and appeased.

In addition to the trees, gorges,
clefts in the rocks and caves -

also became
important places of assembly.

The deeper one ventured into the forest,
the easier it was to get lost.

The forest looked chaotic
and even scary.

That was why there was a need for places
that made navigating easier.

The vanishing of the bear in the autumn
was a mystery.

Even more mysterious was
that it appeared back in the forest -

in the spring with its small cubs.

That was why the bear
was of a supernatural origin:

it died in its nest in the autumn,
and was born again in the spring.

Many northern people regarded the hear
as their ancestor.

The bones of a killed bear
were returned back to the nature.

The skull was lifted on a branch
of a pine tree.

The soul of the bear was able
to return to heaven with its mother-

and be born again.

A feast called ''peijaiset'
was arranged for the dead animal.

That was how highly it was regarded.

Another reason
for the sacrificial offerings -

was to apologize for
killing the animal for food.

The ant nest was called
the castle of the forest.

The hobgoblins lived in it.

The hobgoblins were very small,
about the size of an ant.

They built tunnels
under the untouched woods -

so that they could take care of
all the creatures underground.

They took care of the hibernating bear,
among others.

People could make friends
with the hobgoblins -

if they did them favors in return.

But one had to he careful
not to harm or anger them, -

because they easily grew vengeful.

The little creatures seduced people
under their spell -

with their beautiful singing
and playing.

People were carried into
an odd state of mind.

Everything became different
than in our world.

The left turned right,
the right turned left.

The Earth turned the other way round.

One person had fallen into
the cover of the forest.

He disappeared from sight
and could not he found -

although others passed right by him
and called after him.

No one heard his cries for help,
for the cries were mere whispers.

The snakes gathered together
after hibernating.

They held a court where they agreed
on the issues of the upcoming summer.

The ceremony was led by
the king of the snakes -

who had a golden crown on his head.

The other snakes had spread out
into a mat in front of him, -

and in the middle
was an oval snake stone.

The snake stone had magic powers.

One could heal
even the worst of diseases with it, -

but few were the ones
that dared to steal the precious stone -

from among the poisonous,
sharp-toothed snakes.

My father called it a virgin forest -

but he told that the old forest
has many other names too.

Natural forest, everforest, backwoods
and wilderness, -

among others.

It had been there forever and ever.

It just stood there
and it had no goals to reach.

Then the same thing happened to it
which always happens to old forests.

What happened
to the animals of the forest?

Did they all die'!

Was that single tree
everything what was left'!

The storm did not cut down
all the trees.

Some of the old forest got destroyed
and some animals fled.

They had to find new homes elsewhere, -

but others came hack
and brought new guests with them.

Chance plays a big part
after a storm or a forest fire.

How will the seeds
of the plants spread -

and which of them will start to sprout'!

Which seedlings will grow fastest?
Which animals are able to adapt?

The small animals usually
get along better than the big ones.

After the trees fall, more light, rain,
warmth and moisture -

gets to the forest ground.

The dead trees will decompose
and many insects and fungi -

will use the rotting trees
as their source of nutrition.

The death of the trees is a natural part
of the forest's circle of life.

The forest can now begin its new,
richer life.

The most generous
of the forest elves was Tapio.

If one wanted to
keep on his good side, -

one had to take care
not to break any promises made to him.

Tapio and his partner Mielikki
were easily offended -

if one made a racket on their land
or mistreated their pets.

Tapio had a beard of moss and
a hat made of pine twigs, -

and sometimes he appeared
by the bonfire for a little chat.

He was the size of a big tree, his head
on level with the tops of the trees.

But when he left the forest
he wanted to be invisible, -

and so he made himself tiny.

The Siberian jay was in alliance
with the forest elves.

Its task was to mislead the hunters -

so that the inhabitants of the forest
could live in peace.

Early in the summer
the mother birds work long and hard.

The small birds need food
and the tits, for instance, -

visit their nests
hundreds of times a day.

They need to have lots of food nearby, -

otherwise they don't have
enough time to do it.

Bigger birds will feed their hatchlings
much more infrequently.

Sometimes only a couple of times a day.

In addition to the food service,
the mother birds have to make sure -

that the nests are clean.

They carry away
the stool of the small birds.

Plants rose from sea to ground
450 million years ago.

Even after that,
it took millions of years -

for the first trees to emerge
on the earth.

I imagined I was in the old forest
during the Carboniferous period.

The trees were huge,
thirty meters high, -

and there were no people anywhere.

What kinds of animals
would have run there?

A giant frog'!

Or maybe a two-meter-long centipede'!

A terrifying viviparous lizard?
A slithering slow worm'!

The most important elf
for the ancient Finns was Ukko.

He walked with big steps
up above the clouds, -

examined the world from above and,
if needed, -

threw lightning
accompanied by the sound of thunder.

He rode on a rocky road with his cart,
whose iron wheels sent sparks flying -

when they hit the rocks.

They were fiery rods
sent as a punishment to Earth, -

and they were to be feared.

People saw Ukko
curled up in a fiery fur.

The trolls, pixies and other
little fiends ran for their lives -

and hid in the shade of the forest
or inside buildings.

People shut their windows
and doors during the thunderstorms, -

because Ukko
threw lightning in their hideouts.

Ukko was respected,
and people bowed to him -

because he created rain.

The rain made agriculture possible,
and it made plants grow -

and flowers bloom.

The plants brought good luck.

Lilies-of-the-valleys were hung upon
walls, on doors and in the barn -

to bring protection
against the curses of spiteful people.

The scent of the flowers banished evil.

If one saw a bracken bloom, -

he would learn the language of the birds
and the skills of a conjurer.

And if one saw the blossom
on midsummer's night, -

the location of a hidden treasure
was revealed to him.

The treasure had to be dug up
at midnight -

from a place indicated by the
flickering flame of a will-d-the-wisp.

When twilight arrived,
the forest started to move.

A bear had been seen to circle the area.

The word "forest"
meant the same thing as a bear.

No one dared to say
the bear's name aloud, -

for people feared
it would hear itself being called.

People gave the bear numerous other
names that it could not recognize.

Teddy, grey-beard, resin-eye, -

thin-hair, nectar-paw,
the apple of the woods, -

bluetail, smoothsnout,
the golden king of the forest.

My father told me how the forest
gets quiet in midsummer.

Soon it will be time for the cubs
to leave their nests.

The shady dweller of the forest,
the stripe-faced rascal, -

sniffs the air carefully
before it rouses itself.

The badger is shy
and its eyesight is weak.

The badger's nest
is an enormous cave system -

which has been passed on from one
generation of badgers to another.

Ten members of a badger family
might live there simultaneously.

In the old times it was believed
that squirrels moved -

from one habitat to another by
sailing with a boat made of tree hark.

The squirrel of the old forest
can also go fetch food -

from near a human habitat.

In its nest there are
eight baby squirrels waiting for it.

It is getting crowded in the nest
of the Northern Goshawk.

The baby birds are training to fly -

and they get into fights
about almost every little thing.

Many small birds nest
near the Northern Goshawk.

Even though the Goshawk sometimes
catches a bird for food, -

it also keeps away the small
predators that are stalking the birds.

The flying squirrel also nests
near the Northern Goshawk.

It has already given birth
to the second litter of the summer.

The babies are leaving the nest, -

and they have to watch out
for owls and pine martens.

A tiny Goldcrest baby
is moving outside its nest-

for the first time.

It looks around in panic,
searching for its mother.

What if the mother
has already abandoned it?

The Long-tailed Tit has
many mouths to feed this summer.

It has ten babies.

The siblings still find safety
in each other's company, -

but soon their mother
will abandon them.

After that they will have to
get along on their own.

The old forest remained the same
for centuries, -

and when one returned there they
could he sure that nothing had changed.

All the phases of life
could he seen in one glance.

The longer one stayed in the forest, -

the easier it was to feel part
of the big cycle of life.

As time went by, people learned
to seek refuge in the forest.

It was a shelter
against the wicked world.

Like a womb, the lap of a mother.

People respected
the animals and the plants -

because they had lived
on the earth longer than us.

They understood human speech -

and had taught us all
the necessary skills back in the day.

The animals had taught us
to talk, to walk, -

to swim, to hunt,
to fish and to gather our food.

Spells, pleas and appeals were
directed straight to the entity -

that one wanted to
discuss with equally.

To the forest, the water,
the wind and the sun.

To the trees and the plants.
To the hears and other animals.

People understood that they had
to live in harmony with the forest.

In the old forest the trees
got to grow to their full length, -

to grow old and to die in peace.

A spruce might have lived for 400 years,
a pine for almost a thousand.

People feared that one day
the world tree would fall.

It would mark the end of man as well.

Ancient Finnish tales tell
that when Väinämöinen -

rose from the sea to the ground,
he looked at the moon -

and gazed at the stars.

There was nothing of interest
on the earth hack then.

He decided to summon an elf
only as tall as a thumb, -

Sampsa Pellervoinen,
and told him to plant some trees.

“Fir-trees sows he on mountains,
pine-trees also on the hill-tops, -

many shrubs in every valley,
birches sows he in the marshes.'

So forests were born.

On one summer's day
I went into the forest with my father.

I walked through the forest, -

climbed up and rose
among the trees tops.

I imagined I was a bird,
a flying squirrel-

or maybe a forest elf.

Then I waited, wondering if the forest's
dwellers would come and greet me.

That was my first trip to the forest.

English subtitles: Samuli Kauppila
Saga Vera Oy