Three 100-word stories that combine modern urban legends and old rural Finnish folklore. Not The Kalevala. Some of the sources for these can be found in Risto Pulkkinen’s Suomalainen kansanusko (2014).
Warning: Horror fiction – deals with domestic abuse and graphic murder.
Waste Not, Want Not
Marta washes the corpse of her cousin, plaiting her locks against her scalp. Death’s folk gathers around like thick fog, attracted by the smell of still firm meat.
Your Guardian must be powerful to bear their touch, they say; men make the best wizards, they say; and yet it’s old women who wash the corpses.
Marta wraps the dead woman in a fresh clean shirt. Her clothes, heavy with magic, are folded on the bench. She picks up the underskirt and bundles it into her bag of tools. Women can be wizards too.
Hungry eyes follow her out the door.
Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t
The women of the farm know each others’ every scar, every mole, from scrubbing each others’ skin to bright healthy pink twice a week. They all smell of the same tar and smoke and bitter birch leaves. Every woman but Augusta.
She hides her black and blue skin, her ugliness, in the dark.
They say the Keeper comes at midnight to claim his turn at the sauna.
Let him, thinks Augusta, scratching at the stains of her husband’s hands. Let him strip me off this skin. Let him hang it on a peg like discarded clothes. Let them all see.
The thing was hairy like a rabbit but round as a ball, with no eyes or ears that Eeva could see. It whined and hissed with a man’s voice as it fought to pull one of its three legs out of the trap.
“Aren’t you an ugly thing!” Eeva murmured as she cut it loose. She had two rabbits from her other snares, and she’d not want to eat such a strange, stinky thing. It bolted, leaving behind a trail of pale slime.
The demon returned to old man Eld with empty paws and a mouth full of black blood.