Finland – The Lapps

Finland-The Lapps


There are few peoples in the world that have been portrayed as often in literature as the Sámi, or Lapps. These portrayals have been influenced by the real conditions of the Sami, but certainly also by the different backgrounds of the writers themselves. From the start, knowledge and myths mixed and piled up in the literature on Lapland. Even the writings of ancient Roman writer Tacitus were full of cliches that were used to describe tribal peoples. He wrote about the Fenni who were primitive hunters, but still “happy in their simplicity” because they did not know about heavy agriculture. Other ancient writers who portrayed the Lapps – or Sami – were Prokopios and Jordanes (550 A.D.), Paulus Diaconus (795), the Norwegian Ohthere (894), Adam of Bremen (1070), and Saxo Grammaticus (1200). These writers gave new details to the picture: the Sámi were “skrithiphinnoi”, and they lived in a country where the sun did not set at all during summer. And the Lapps were masters of sorcery. Many mythical and curious elements were repeated by the authors up through the ages, thus strengthening the wrong picture of the Sami. The work “Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus”, published by Olaus Magnus Gothus in the mid-1500s, brought a new type of information on Lapland. Olaus Magnus based his writings on his own experiences. He had travelled as far north as Tornio. With the new administrative and missionary activities led to an enormous increase in the amount of information about the northern regions. The classic work “Lapponia” by Johannes Schefferus in 1673 started a more scholarly way of thinking about the Lapps.

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