20 Jan: Lalli and the Axe

According to Finnish legend, a peasant farmer named Lalli murdered the Christian missionary Bishop Henry on the ice of lake Köyliönjärvi on January 20, 1156, dispatching him with an axe blow to the head.

It is fair to say things didn’t go terribly well for Lalli after that. He met a gruesome fate that takes various forms depending on the tale you read, but in general Lalli takes the bishop’s mitre to wear and when he tries to remove it, it tears his scalp off. The bishop, meanwhile, fared rather better posthumously, going on to become Saint Henry.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss which bits of the tale are true; explain why the real villain of the story is Lalli’s wife; and discover that the 11th greatest Finn was a four-time Olympic gold medalist, who is also known for his later ill-advised careers as a singer and stripper.  

Further Reading:

• ‘The axe of Lalli and the cap of St. Henry – a view from Finland’ (Routledge, 2020): https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9780429053726-3_26/axe-lalli-cap-st-henry-view-finland-miikka-tamminen

• ‘The Murder of Saint Henry, Crusader Bishop of Finland’ (Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2016): https://books.openedition.org/psorbonne/33154?lang=en#:~:text=The%20so%2Dcalled%20’First%20Finnish,and%20its%20motive%20was%20revenge

• ‘Murdering Bishop Henry – Finland’s First Martyr’ (Finnish Mythology with Antti Palosaari, 2022): 

#Medieval #Strange #Finland