Under the North Star

Under the North Star

"Under the North Star", in Finnish called "Täällä Pohjantähden alla", is a trilogy by Finnish author Väinö Linna published 1959-1962. It follows the life of a Finnish family from 1880 to about 1950 while simultaneously describing the effects of the important ideals and events of that period (Language strife, Nationalism, Socialism, First World War, Finnish independence, Civil War and Second World War) have on ordinary people. [http://haku.kansallisbiografia.fi/FMPro?-db=umkbnet.fp5&-format=%2fkb%2fum%2f2record%5fdetail.htm&-lay=www&-sortfield=lajittelukentt%e4&-op=eq&cSukunimihaku=linna&-max=40&-recid=32784&-find= Väinö Linna 1920-1992]

The novel shares a few events and one main character, Vilho Koskela, with another novel by Väinö Linna, The Unknown Soldier.

Plot summary

The story opens with Jussi, a farm hand from Häme, clearing marshland to create a croft, which will later be called Koskela. In the first part of the book tension mounts between crofters and land owners. Jussi's son Akseli becomes an active socialist. At the same time the upper classes are concerned with language strife and Finland's relationship with Russia.

In the second part the Finnish Civil War breaks out. The book describes the atrocities committed on both sides, as well as the tensions which lead up to them. The war hits Koskela harshly, for the family loses two sons.

In the third part the community is dominated by the whites, the victors of the Civil War. In Koskela, however, matters improve as crofters are liberated and Koskela becomes an independent farm. Things turn for the worst at the outbreak of the Second World War. Again Koskela pays a heavy price, losing three sons. The last chapters of the book concentrate on the reconciliatory atmosphere created by the joint hardships endured during the war.

Main Characters

* "Akseli Koskela", a commander of the Red Guard
* "Elina Koskela", Akseli's wife
* "Jussi Koskela", Akseli's father, a crofter of the vicarage
* "Alma Koskela", Akseli's mother and Jussi's wife
* "Aleksi Koskela", Akseli's brother, Jussi and Alma's second son
* "Akusti Koskela", Akseli and Aleksi's brother, Jussi and Alma's third son. (Aku for short)
* "Adolf Halme", a socialist and a tailor
* "Lauri Salpakari", a local dean and an employer of the Koskela Family
* "Ellen Salpakari", Dean Salpakari's wife, a politician
* "Otto Kivivuori", a crofter, Elina's father
* "Anna Kivivuori", Otto's wife, Elina's mother
* "Janne Kivivuori", Otto and Anna's eldest son, a socialist
* "Oskari Kivivuori", Otto and Anna's youngest son, a member of the Red Guard (Osku for short)
* "Anttoo Laurila", a crofter
* "Uuno Laurila", Anttoo's son, a member of the Red Guard
* "Elma Laurila", Anttoo's daughter, Akusti's fiancée
* "Kalle Töyry", the master of the Töyry House, an employer of the Laurila Family
* "Artturi Yllö", a judge and a wealthy landowner
* "Antero Mellola", a very fat saw-mill owner
* "Preeti Leppänen", a crofter
* "Aune Leppänen", Preeti's daughter
* "Magnus the Baron", an owner of the Manor, an employer of the Leppänen Family
* "The Baroness", a wife of The Baron
* "The Wolf-Kustaa", a hunter


The book is considered a classic in Finland with print runs into hundreds of thousands. Even most of those who have not read the book recognise the opening words "In the beginning there were the marsh, the hoe - and Jussi".

The second book in the trilogy, "The Uprising", generated considerable controversy over its portrayal of the Finnish Civil War because, for the first time, a novel was published that was sympathetic (on human terms, not politically) towards the Reds. Up until then, all history on the Finnish Civil War had been written by the Whites. "Under the North Star" played a crucial role in starting a discussion in Finland over what really happened in 1918 and in healing decades-old wounds between the two factions.


"Under the North Star" has been translated into English by Richard Impola:
*Vol. 1 "Under the North Star" pub. 2001, ISBN 0-9685881-6-6
*Vol. 2 "Under the North Star 2: The Uprising" pub. 2002, ISBN 0-9685881-7-4
*Vol. 3 "Under the North Star 3: Reconciliation" pub. 2003, ISBN 0-9685881-8-2

Unfortunately these translated publications contain many typographical errors.

See also

* Väinö Linna
* Finnish Civil War
* History of Finland
* The Unknown Soldier
* The Unknown Soldier (1955 film)
* Edvin Laine

External links

* [http://www.uta.fi/~paivi.aalto/CivilWar.html The Finnish Civil War as Depicted in Väinö Linna's "Under the North Star"]
* [http://haku.kansallisbiografia.fi/FMPro?-db=umkbnet.fp5&-format=%2fkb%2fum%2f2record%5fdetail.htm&-lay=www&-sortfield=lajittelukentt%e4&-op=eq&cSukunimihaku=linna&-max=40&-recid=32784&-find= Biography of Väinö Linna and analyzation of his works]
* [http://www.kantele.com/fata/translatedbooks.html Books translated into English by Finnish American Translators Associasion (FATA)]

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