1977. In Helsinki mum, dad, and both brothers were visiting dad’s family.
Dad took us all into the Kalnuun Puukko shop and we spent the afternoon each choosing a Puukko. After Puukko’s were purchased we went off into the woods around Helsinki to find fallen wood to wittle. We wittled together. All good family fun. Result? Lots of pointy small sticks left in the woods. My psyche was forever scarred by this experience and I’m now totally undatable.
When asked for some clarifying points on this ”knife’ aquiring experience Dad described the social-cultural significance of a Puukko beyond my constrained concept of a ‘knife’:
Knife in Finnish is veitsi â€“ You should never call a puukko a knife â€“ it is much more than that â€“ it is the basic survival tool that you should have when you venture into the forest or into nature at wintertime or summertime. Its very name is associated with its prime use puu is tree or wood and kko implies a thing associated with the former â€“ a woodworking tool. With it you can build a shelter in the forest, make a spear for spearing fish, use as an ice pick to drag yourself out of broken ice and much more. It does not weigh you down â€“ it is essential in hunting and fishing. The original puukko had handle made of tightly woven young birch bark which often had a spell written on it before it was applied. This had to be replaced regularly â€“ the modern puukko often has a solid handle often simulating the old type. Taken into cities and suburbia it becomes a weapon rather than a tool and it loses its basic character. In the Finnish â€“ English dictionary the puukko is described as a sheath-knife as English does not have a separate word for a woodworking knife . It can and is used for stabbing by roughs and the verb puukottaa means stab with a puukko and the stab (noun) is puukonisku. The blade of the puukko is puukonterÃ¤. The man who makes it is a puukonseppÃ¤ ( a smith) A true puukko should be bought from the man who makes it and you should visit him so that he can choose the right blade for you â€“ However mass production does not allow for these old niceties and a tourist shops in the city is the source nowadays.
I wonder what equivalent stories with socio-cultural significance will be handed down to our next generations…