Lalli

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For other meanings, see Lalli (disambiguation) and Lali (disambiguation).
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Lalli is an apocryphal character from Finnish history. According to legend, he killed Bishop Henry on the ice of lake Köyliönjärvi in Finland on January 20, 1156.[1][2][3] Lalli is often referred as a first Finnish freedom fighter.

Legend[edit]

The story tells that when Lalli returned home one day, his wife Kerttu informed him that the bishop recently visited their house and had departed without paying for his food, drink, or fodder. When Lalli heard of this, he became enraged and left to pursue the bishop. At Bishop Henry's bidding, his entourage fled and hid in a nearby forest, while Lalli decapitated Henry with an axe.

Lalli killing Bishop Henry. Painting by C.A. Ekman.

Lalli took the bishop's hat from his severed head and cut off the bishop's finger to take his ring. The hat became fused to Lalli's head and when he tried to remove it, it tore his scalp off with it. When Lalli tried to remove the bishop's ring from his finger, it likewise tore his finger off. Afterward, Lalli drowned in the lake Köyliönjärvi. Per the bishop's last wish, his body parts were collected by his servants and transported with oxen. Where the oxen stopped became the site of the first church in Finland.

The legend is enshrined in a famous Finnish folk poem called Henrikin surma ("The Slaying of Henry"). The poem includes such characters as a talking statue of Christ and the lying wife, who falsely accuses Bishop Henry of theft. This negligence was probably seen as criminal at the time of the story's setting, but the poem also presents Lalli as a violent madman. One of the versions of the poem is found in the Kanteletar, a collection of old Finnish folk poetry.

Cultural significance[edit]

Lalli is a well-known figure in Finnish folklore. His name is not common in Finland and may be a form of "Laurentius". He has been depicted as a figure prostrated at the feet of the Bishop Henry in wooden statues. More recently, Lalli has been seen to represent a positive rebellion against oppressive authority.

In the television series Suuret suomalaiset – the Finnish version of 100 Greatest Britons – Lalli was chosen as the 14th greatest Finn.

References[edit]

  1. ^  "Henry (fl.1150)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ Michell, Thomas (1888). Handbook for Travellers in Russia, Poland, and Finland:. J. Murray, [etc., etc.] p. 532. 
  3. ^ Fryxell, Anders Fryxell (1844). The History of Sweden. Original from the New York Public Library: R. Bentley. p. 192.