Mole’s hole

Issue 1/1992 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from Pikku karhun talviunet (‘The little bear’s winter dreams’, published posthumously in 1974, edited by Mirkka Rekola), prose fragments and fairy-tales. (See commentary by Soila Lehtonen)

Vauveli-Vau had grown up. She went round to Mole Hill and went into Mole’s Hole, so she could work in peace. As there are a lot of Mole’s Holes in the earth, no one had any idea where Vauveli-Vau had gone. They weren’t all that keen to know, as there’s always rather a lot to do in Mole’s Hole: pine cones and branches to be collected, trips to be made to the spring in the forest, an eye kept on Dottypot in the fire-embers, and at night you have to get up to see which bird it is that’s singing in the old rotten tree. But still more laboursome are the thick books in foreign languages and the pile of blank paper.

Quite a few days and nights had gone by before Vauveli-Vau was used to being in Mole’s Hole. During those days a lot of remarkable things occurred. A slug flourished his horns and muttered: ‘Who on earth would want to lie about in his cottage in fine weather like this?’

‘No one. It really is a lovely day,’ said Vauveli-Vau, who was on her way to the Dairy.

On her way back she sat down in a wild-strawberry patch to have a lie down and eat some strawberries. But then she began to look. She looked and listened, for she could hear a padding and pounding and a weird whispering coming from the brushwood. After having a good listen and taking a look, Vauveli-Vau took a still closer look. Then she said: ‘Well I never. I don’t believe this. I don’t believe it at all, but it’s fun anyway.’

It was the Mountain Everlastings. They’d all turned their catsfeet upside down, and dozens of little legs were doing a sprightly dance in the forest clearing.

‘Lovely,’ Vauveli-Vau said, but just then one of the catsfeet stepped on a dry pinecone, and it let out a resounding word.

‘I’d better note this down. Maybe it’s peculiar to these parts, this word,’ Vauveli­Vau said eagerly, digging a stub of pencil out of her pocket, and writing the resounding word down on a piece of wrapping paper, which she then stuck back in her pocket.

Unnoticed by Vauveli-Vau, an adolescent wind chose just then to grab the sheet and went whistling and whirling it along the forest path down to the village.

A little old lady saw it at the crossroads and took it into her safekeeping. This’ll do nicely to light the fire for the coffee, she thought, but, as she went along the high street, she took a more careful look at the bit of paper.

‘Goodness gracious me! Who on earth has dropped this? Maybe I’d better give it back to its owner,’ said the little old lady aloud, horror-stuck. ‘At the same time, I’ll get to know who it is in the village that – ‘, she thought, being a meticulous hoarder of information as well.

So the little old lady showed the bit of paper with the resounding word on it to everyone she met. She asked each one: ‘Is it you who’s dropped this?’ They all looked at it and said hastily: ‘Oh no, it must be your own. Hang onto it, anyway. No one’s going to come asking you for it.’

Feeling rather annoyed, but still no way put off, the little old lady turned onto the forest path and came across Vauveli-Vau. She showed her the bit of paper, too.

‘Oh do tell me what the word means,’ Vauveli-Vau begged eagerly. ‘You must know, since you belong in these parts.’

By this time, the little old lady was well and truly fed-up, and she burst out angrily: ‘Still at it! Here I am, sweating along in the heat with this resounding word, doing my best to find out whose it is. And everyone’s making out it’s my own, though never, in all my life, have I used resounding words.’

Really upset, the little old lady was quickly back at the crossroads and Vauveli-Vau was again staring in astonishment.

This time the little Mountain Everlasting catsfeet had gone back again into their usual positions. All the fun had stopped. The whole clearing seemed to be overwhelmed by the scorching heat. The milkcan was deliberately weighing more than usual, and specially pricky needles were sticking into Vauveli-Vau’s feet. The flies and the mosquitoes were really becoming a nuisance, now that the adolescent wind had cleared off somewhere.

‘Mole’s Hole is all right, but sometimes it’d be nice to sit down at a properly laid-out coffee table,’ Vauveli-Vau sighed, opening the door of Mole’s Hole. At once she was round-eyed with astonishment. The fire was happily burning, Dottypot was sitting on the flame and singing, but the table was set for two. When Vauveli-Vau looked at the other end of the room, her eyes went rounder still.

She was so surprised she couldn’t say a thing, for on the bench at the other end of the room there was a Hairy Creature. Its ears were round, and so was its whole head, and it was somewhat tousled.

‘Isn’t it time we poured out?’ the creature said.

‘Poured out! So who may you be then?’ Vauveli-Vau asked.

‘Time we were dunking our rusks. I’m Pöyröö.’

Vauveli-Vau lifted Dottypot to the edge of the fire and stared at Pöyröö.

‘Oh yes, I’ve heard all about you -when I was small. Also about Pöykeri’s sons. They lived in a field, and I never caught the slightest glimpse of them, to say nothing of Pöyröö. You only exist in folktales, don’t you?’

‘Well, this is sort of fairy-tale, isn’t it?’ Pöyröö said, pouring some coffee out of Dottypot into the cups and pawing up a rusk. ‘Now I’m going to dunk mine. Dunk yours too. And, besides, there are no sons of Pöykeri here, just me, Pöyröö, and for the time being I’m going to stay here a bit.’

‘If you’re thinking of staying here a bit, I’d better warm up the sauna, I think.’

‘Oh good, a nice sauna’ll be a treat’, Pöyröö said, delightedly. ‘Like coffee and rusks, a proper sauna’s something fabulous. It’s quite a bit since I had a good bath and a sweat. It’s not everyone that’s friendly. Aren’t you scared of me, then?’

‘Not really,’ Vauveli-Vau said. ‘The wind’s been rattling the doors and window­panes at nights. Creatures have been coming out of the forest and walking on the roof and the steps outside. Why should I be scared of you?’ Besides, when I was a child, they told me: “Pöyröö doesn’t do anything, he just looks”.’

‘Oh, so that’s what they say about me, is it?’ groaned Pöyröö. With incredible speed he darted outside and came back carrying a whole stump. ‘This is just for a start. So Pöyröö doesn’t do anything? Well, we’ll see.’

And Pöyröö looked and did things, and Vauveli-Vau read and did things. The sauna smoked, and Dottypot sang. In the town no one caught the slightest glimpse of them all that time.

After about a week Pöyröö brooded: ‘This won’t do. When I saw logs and split blocks it’s as if I were sawing and splitting my own stomach.’

Shaggy and stooped, he went into the living room, pressing his paws to his stomach.

Vauveli-Vau was so upset, she packed her bags and took Pöyröö to town, even though it was pouring with rain.

Then she ran to Mr Tube’s, the chemist’s, and bought a painkilling medicine he recommended. When that was no good, she called in Doctor Icepack and Doctor Hotbottle, but they disagreed with each other entirely.

‘It’s all because I’m too small,’ Pöyröö brooded.

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Pincio

In November the soul shrivels up in you and hibernates, seeing nightmares, while the body, in its gloom, does whatever it can to shorten the period of grey days. But think: at the beginning of April someone will find the first spring buttercup. Isn’t that wonderful? To come across a buttercup after all that winter. Do you find it incredible too? And the sea will have melted. Soon a time will be on us when we can have a whole bunch of flowers. Wild flowers, to take to someone as a sign of spring, if there’s someone to take them to.

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Work helps, work’s the only medicine. Only there must be no blank moments. If any blank moment comes, I’m done for. But there can’t be a blank moment for someone who’s consulting with herself. There’s no time for it, when every moment your hands aren’t busy is a tight rehearsal for the future. Even on the stairs up to the flat, about five flights, time can be put to proper use. You have to wipe your feet, and then climbing the stairs is a good thing in itself. Keeps your knees in working order. Even downstairs, I start pulling my gloves off while I’m still walking. I think ahead all the time, each hand has something in it that needs attention. What that is depends on the sort of thing it is. You have to go about it differently with, say, bags of potatoes or a milkcan. You can hold a briefcase in your teeth. The keys are always in my right-­hand pocket. And then, if I open the door with my right hand, while I’m carrying something in my left, my left hand won’t be free to switch the light on in the hall. The switch is on the right, you see. If I’m coming up with someone else, then the other person’ll have to wait, too. That’ll make me feel horribly clumsy. Especially if the other’s tired. Better if she only notices she’s tired when she’s inside – then she can rest. So there’d better not be any hanging about on the stairs or at the door. Better get a move on. At the same time I’m listening to what the other person’s saying, as you’re listening to me now. People have so many problems. Who’s going to get a new dress, that’s a real problem if there’s not much money in the family. Another person’s just lost a relative, for instance. And death comes very expensive, you know. It’s so ridiculous all that – Yes, people do come to see you if they’ve got worries, or they need something. But excuse me. That death business sets me off laughing so much – listen, are you all right there, quite comfortable? – it’s that living and dying are both so expensive. The cities and the cemeteries are so full up – Do you think we’ve got enough air here? I’ll open the window. Where was I? I’ve never managed to get this window-opening business right, no system. What are you looking at? My collar? Well, it does look a bit sloppy, but for some reason I don’t seem to be able to keep the button fastened. I’ve done my best, but my hand keeps going to it and opening it without my noticing, though I don’t want it open myself. Want, want. That’s the big issue, wanting. Everything depends on that. Getting out of bed in the morning. Washing, putting your clothes on, eating, moving your hands, the whole living-­business. Life is wanting and subjugation of your rebellious nature. Wanting and work. Work is the only medicine. Leave even a minute bland, and you notice the void filling up with that peculiar mental picture full of resentment and revolt. What did you say? Excuse me I didn’t hear you properly. Did you say something about joy in living? Yes, joy in living – even the most joyful people I’ve ever met admit that we’re not here to be joyful. It belongs to the nature of life: all the time, unknown to ourselves, we’re doing some harm to others. So all that’s left is to go on living doggedly from moment to moment, because death, as well, would bring sorrow and inconvenience to others. Yes of course I admit it, it is incomprehensible, everything, but you can’t let your mind dwell on that. Above all, don’t think, or you’re done for. In any case, we live in delusion: all our conceptions of what it’s all about are completely wrong. The only absolute is pain, but even that’s relative. Relativity reminds me of reasonableness. I’ve good reason to be content. I’m probably one of those rare tenants who have a reasonable rent. A mere 150 small loaves a month.

Translated by Herbert Lomas

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