Tar elf Toivo

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Päivi Honkakoski & Ludi Wang: Tar elf Toivo

The events of this story take place in Northern Finland. Finland is a Nordic country, bordered by the Baltic Sea. The population of Finland is around five and a half million, but it is also the home of many elves and other fairytale characters.

An elf is a fundamentally Finnish character. In Finland, there have always been house elves, sauna elves, barn elves, forest elves and, of course, Christmas elves. Elves are not magicians or spirits. They live in peaceful harmony with human beings, although often hidden away from them. Despite this, there have always been interactions between elves and humans. Elves are smaller in size than humans. Depending on the type of elf, their size can vary from around twenty centimetres to the size of a human child. The tar elves in this book are only a bit shorter than human beings.

Tar elves produce aromatic tar from pine trees using a traditional method. In Finland, people have been making pine tar for hundreds of years. It was the first major product that this Northern nation sent around the world and it opened Finland up to trade and relationships with other countries. Villages and communities have been burning pine tar in large ”tar kilns”, both for their own use and for trade. The city of Oulu used to be the largest pine tar export city in the world. From there, Finnish tar has been transported all around the world.

The tar trade was particularly booming during the years when wooden ships were in active use, because tar made them more waterproof. Tar has also been used to protect the roofs of buildings, fences and wooden tools. Furthermore, you can find tar in medicine, in tar candles and as a scent in Finnish saunas. Nowadays, the use of pine tar is no longer so common. However, the traditions associated with pine tar are still very much alive in Finland. Every summer, you can spot smoking tar kilns here and there around villages and in the forest.

If you are lucky, you might spot a tar elf there, too!

9789523154025 | hardcover A4, 48 pages | illustrated |