Friday, December 29, 2006

Dragon Quest

Umbriel has found another dimension door...

Umbriel: Look Haitula, this dimension door opens with the imagination key. Do you want to come and explore with me?

Haitula: Sure. I'm always ready for adventures. And Fafner, too.

On the other side...

Umbriel: This appears to be some kind of Munchkin land... Look at those little people... I think they are in trouble!

Haitula: You are right! A frightened horse! And pink haired princesses in distress!

Umbriel: Let's go and save them!

Princess 1: HELP!

Princess 2: HELP!

Princess 3: HELP!

Princess 4: HELP!

As Umbriel is much bigger than the Munchkin people, it is easy for him to stop the frightened horse.

Umbriel: Easy now...

Haitula: You are safe now, Umbriel has stopped your horse.

Princess 1: No, we are not safe! We are being chased by a fierce dragon! It was the dragon that frightened our horse!

And sure enough, the dragon appears...

Princess 1: It is a dangerous fire-breathing dragon.

Haitula: Never fear, Fafner will take care of it.

Princess 1: But he is so small. The big dragon will burn him in no time!

Haitula: But Fafner is a cold dragon! He won't burn. He breathes ice crystals! Get him, Fafner!

Fafner breathes ice before the big dragon has figured out what to do.

Soon the big dragon is completely enclosed in ice.

Umbriel: That was swell, but how can he be kept frozen? Fafner cannot stay here and keep breathing ice on him forever.

Princess 1: Maybe the King's men can help.

And as soon as the King's men are mentioned, they arrive.

Tuomo: Did someone call us?

Umbriel: Do you know how to keep a dragon frozen?

Tommi: No problem. We'll bury him into permafrost. He'll stay frozen thousands of years if not forever.

Umbriel: But won't it take too much time to dig a cave into the permafrost? Won't he thaw before the cave is ready?

Seppo: No problem. We'll put him into a huge Dewar flask with liquid nitrogen. That will keep him frozen long enough for the cave to be finished.

Jouko: Just help us to lift him onto the cart and we'll drag him to the laboratory

Umbriel: I'll help, I'm the biggest... Uuuh, he feels cold.

Tuomo: Thanks for help! Good-bye now. Call us any time if you need help!

Umbriel: I wonder what happens if some paleontologist digs that dragon up from the permafrost thousands of years from now. I wonder if they can thaw and revive him. Or clone him and fill a prehistoric park with clones of extinct dragons...

Haitula: Umbriel, I think you have watched too much TV. They did not revive that mammoth they dug up from the permafrost, did they?

Umbriel: No, they did not, but he was not frozen by Fafner either.

Meanwhile the princesses have gathered around Fafner...

Princess 1: Oh, Fafner, you were so brave!

Princess 2: Thank you ever so much!

Haitula: Umm... don't you think we deserve some thanks, too. After all I brought Fafner here. And Umbriel stopped your frightened horse...

Princess 2: Oh, sure, thank you very much.

Haitula: Ummm... You're welcome...

Princesses: Thank you, friendly giant!

Umbriel: Umm... My name is Umbriel.

Princess 1: We must leave now. Our father is probably terribly worried. Visit us any time!

All Princesses: Good Bye!

Umbriel & Haitula: Good Bye!

Umbriel: I guess it's time to go home.

Haitula: Do you think we can visit this place again some day?

Umbriel: You did not fall in love with a princess, did you?

Haitula: Of course not! But maybe we can come back and see if the paleontologists have dug up a frozen dragon...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Frost And Winter Sunshine

Haitula reporting:

The temperature is just below freezing. There is still no snow, just a light dusting of frost. Even though it is about noon, the sun is very low.

Look at my shadow! No, the sun is not setting yet, it's about half past noon.

Here's the swamp I visited last summer. It's frozen over now.

The ice is thick enough for me to walk on though it is way too thin for people.

The ice is actually quite thin. I can see fallen leaves through the ice.

Here's a fallen tree. I wonder if I can walk along it. The frost has made it quite slippery...

Ooops! Good thing I'm so small and light. The ice did not break - otherwise I'd fallen into the swamp already second time this year.

The sun is so low that the forest is in shadow.

I have been wondering what my other half is. One half is fairy.

I think the other half is Swamp Monster! I think I would make a good Swamp Monster!

On our way home we stopped to look at the mountain ashes.

The leaves are long gone, but there are still berries in the mountain ashes...

... plenty of berries!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Santa's Visit

In Finland the Christmas celebration starts already on Christmas Eve. After the Christmas dinner has been eaten, the children wait for Santa's visit. Waiting is very hard, even Aniara cannot concentrate on her book. The children are wearing the customary traditional Christmas Brownie hats.

Umbriel: I think I hear something. Maybe they are Santa's sleigh bells.

Aniara: It's just Caliban tinkling the bell on his hat.

But it really is Santa Claus! In Finland Santa Claus often visits the homes so that the children can actually see him. The role of Santa is often played by the father or an older brother. The children never seem to notice that the father always goes to visit the neighbors just when Santa arrives - or he has to go outside to hold Santa's reindeer. A mask or just a fake beard seems to be enough to disguise a familiar face when the children are expecting to see the real Santa and not some relative. The outfit has often been created by just by wearing a fur-lined coat inside out. A long fur coat is the traditional outfit as in a cold country the winter travel in an open sleigh required warm clothing and a long fur coat was what people expected someone to wear when traveling from house to house in a sled. Even though the Santa Claus is nowadays usually dressed in red, he still usually wears a long coat.

Santa: Good evening and Merry Christmas!

It seems that even in this case the face looks somehow familiar. The eyes look deceptively like Sandy's eyes. I wonder if Mikko and Sandy are related to Santa Claus.

Santa: Are there any good children here?

Umbriel: We have all been very good.

Santa: That's very good. Will you sing me a song, then.

Aniara and Umbriel (singing):
"Joulupukki, Joulupukki,
valkoparta, vanha ukki,
eikö taakka paina selkää?
Käypä tänne, emme pelkää!"

(The translation goes approximately like this:
Santa Claus, Santa Claus,
white-bearded old man,
isn't the burden heavy on your back?
Come here, we are not afraid!)

Santa: My lists show that you have all been good and you get your presents. Here you are

Aniara: Thank you!

Umbriel: Thank you!

Caliban: Kiitos!

Umbriel: I wonder if we all got what we wished for...

Aniara: I got a pretty new dress with snowflakes and stars. Just what I wanted!

Umbriel: I got funky shoes. They look just like my drawing!

Caliban: Olio!

Umbriel: Gee, the thing looks just like Caliban's drawing!

Santa is about to leave. But he notices that there is a small someone hanging around looking a bit disappointed.

Santa: Haitula, you have served so well as a Christmas Brownie that you deserve a present, too.

Haitula: Oh, thank you Santa!

Haitula: I can't wait to see what I got...

Haitula: Look! A woolly hat! I'll need this if I go out this winter...

The children are all very pleased with their presents. But they still don't know what an olio is. Maybe Haitula can offer an explanation.

Haitula: Don't you see? When you think you can't understand what Caliban is saying, he's simply speaking Finnish. As he usually only says one word it may be difficult to figure out what language he is speaking. He seems to have the languages a bit confused and does not always know which language to use.

Haitula: "Olio" means a creature or being, often it means "a strange creature". "Saharan alla" means "under Sahara" or "below Sahara". It appears that the place Caliban came from is somehow located below Sahara. And the place is populated by all kinds of strange creatures, lots of which are unlike anything we see here. As you remember the portal Umbriel used to get to Caliban was opened by the imagination key. So the place is populated by creatures that only exist in our imagination. But for Caliban they are as real as cats and dogs are for us.

Outsider's comment:
The place Saha-ran-alla is not my invention. Some time ago I read a magazine article where a guy told that when he was a kid, they were shown lots of educational posters at school. Those were big printed pictures (originally painted, not photographed) showing different animals and plants. That was obviously before TV and all modern media. The boy was so excited by those pictures that he draw a series of similar pictures of his own - but his animals and plants were nothing like those that exist here on earth. The place where those creatures lived was "Saharan alla" (under Sahara). I remember those educational posters from my own childhood, and when I got bored at school I filled the marginals of my school books by weird, imaginary creatures though it never occurred to me to invent a place for them to live in, they only lived on the margins of my school books.

And then the connection to present day. Finnish crossword puzzles often have hints that are pictorial rather than verbal. And as "olio" is a word that often occurs in Finnish crossword puzzles, drawings of all kinds of imaginary creatures can often been seen among the hints. And those creatures are as alien looking as the creatures the boy used to populate his imaginary world under Sahara. So he said said in his arcticle that he greets the "olio" illustrations in crossword puzzles as old familiar friends that look like they all came from the place Saha-ran-alla.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Poem

It is still a few days until Christmas and it looks like the boys are getting very restless...

Aniara: Mikko, Caliban, if you calm down for a while I'll read you a Christmas poem... What are you doing anyway?

Mikko: We are playing wheelbarrow!

Aniara: And what now?

Mikko: Now we are a centaur!

Aniara: And a hump-backed one at that!

Aniara: Would you please sit down!

Mikko: We are busy playing "Follow the leader"!

Aniara: Look how nicely Nalle and Apina Kapina are sitting. I bet they would like to hear the Christmas poem.

That seemed to work... The boys finally sat down.

"'Twas the night before Christmas,
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse,..."

The boys manage to sit quiet through the whole poem which is quite a feat. Caliban looks very thoughtful afterwards.

Caliban: Not a creature....