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Friday, 30 April 2010

An alternative history of Finland:Act One


A few years ago I decided to write an alternative history of Finland as a subject matter for my Finnish studies. I wrote four playlets, each centred on an alternative history. I inveigled fellow students into reading the script aloud, a cunning ploy I later replicated when I presented a different project based on the 18th century literary satire by Xavier de Maistre, titled: ”Voyage autour de ma chambre "

The first Act of  my Alternative history of Finland begins in England in 1558. Elizabeth Tudor, having only recently succeeded to the English throne receives yet another marriage proposal from Eric, Duke of Finland. In two years time, he too will be monarch of his own respective Protestant nation, Sweden. Eric’s pursuit of Elizabeth started when she was still only the heir presumptive and subject to the capricious whims of her Catholic half-sister Mary, which veered from loathing to fear to eventual acceptance of their joint father’s, Henry VIII’s will and Elizabeth’s place in the succession.

My playlet has Elizabeth asking her lady-in-waiting, a woman coincidentally also called Caro R, all about the language, country and cuisine of the Finnish Duchy she might one day rule over, should she accept Duke Eric’s hand in marriage. (This also gave the real Caro R a chance to show off her vocabulary touching these areas). After her lady-in-waiting has satisfied the Queen’s curiosity, she asks Elizabeth if she will marry him, upon which Elizabeth retorts in derision: Don’t be silly! Have you seen his portrait?”

Since writing that playlet I have revised my opinion of Eric and decided that, were it not for the beard he would have been quite a comely young  man.  Sadly for him, his brief reign ended in ignominy. Within less than two decades he was deposed, imprisoned and possibly murdered, a fate in stark contrast to the glorious one awaiting “that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth of most happy memory” or so the dedication in the King James Bible styles her. The compliment is somewhat back-handed as they go on to describe her successor King James, who authorised that edition of the Bible, as being the sun in full strength to Elizabeth’s mere star.

In my alternative universe Elizabeth marries Eric on the condition that the Duchy of Finland reverts to the English crown on his death. He agrees and thus Finland becomes a part of the United Kingdom. In reality Elizabeth eventually tired of Eric’s protestations of love and in 1560 she finally wrote him a letter spelling out that she could never think of marrying him, even if she happened to meet him in person. Using the royal plural she ends her letter “we do not conceive in our heart to take a husband, but highly commend this single life, and hope that your Serene Highness will no longer spend time in waiting for us.” A sentiment I wholeheartedly endorse. Elizabeth had been wise not to marry Eric in more ways than one. In later life he gave way to the madness that had afflicted his father, his half-brother and his own son in turn. 

I have included my playlet in Finnish below. For those fluent in my mother’s tongue I apologise for the errors. In mitigation it was composed on an English keyboard which insisted on trying to correct my Finnish into proper English.

Hampton Courtissa vuonna 1558

Elisabet Tudorin (1558-1603, isä Henrik VIII ja äiti Anne Boleyn) aikana toteutettiin uskonpuhdistus ja siirryttiin anglikaaniseen kirkkoon, jonka oppi on pääasiassa protestanttinen. Caro R oli aatelisnainen ja hovinainen Tudorin palatsissa.


Caro R: Mitä asiaa? Tarvitsisitteko Te jotakin, teidän Ylhäisyytenne?
Elizabeth R: Lue tämä kirje.
Caro R: Erik, suomen herttua haluaisi olla teidän kosija. Hän haluaisi mennä naimisiin.
Elizabeth R: (Hän hymyilee)Totta kai! Minä olen Elisabet kruunata Englantiin, Walesiin, Irlantiin. Onko suomi vaikea kieli?
Caro R: Ei ole. Suomi on erilainen kieli.
Elizabeth R: Joko minä puhun englantia, ranskaa, latinaa, kreikkaa, italiaa ja vähän espanjaa.
Elizabeth R: Minkälainen maa Suomi on?
Caro R: Suomea nimitetään usein tuhansien järvien maaksi.
Elizabeth R: No mitäs muutakaan? Millainen ilmasto Suomessa on?
Caro R: Talvi on pitkä. Usein on kova pakkanen. Sataa lunta. Päivälläkin on pimeää. Minusta, talvi on Suomessa aika kaunis. Kesä on lyhyt.
Elizabeth R: Miltä suomalainen ruoka maistuu?
Caro R: Ensimmäkseen hyvältä. Se on liian suolaista ja rasvaista. Minä rakastan suomalaista leipää ja pullaa. Jossakin, minulla on resepti.
Elizabeth R: Oletkohan sinä innokas ruoanlaittaja?
Caro R: Silloin tällöin
Elizabeth R: Ovatkohan he katolisia?
Caro R: He eivät ole. He ovat protestanttisia. Menisitteko Te naimisiin?
Elizabeth R: Älä ole hassu! Katso Erikin muotokuvaa. Erik ei ole tarpeeksi komea!.

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