Axl Hiidenkivi

All competitors of the first Jukola relay met at the Aleksis Kivi statue next to Helsinki Central Railway Station. Trucks drove them to the starting point. Image and caption: The story of Jukola relay 1949-1988.

In Finland’s western neighbor, Sweden, the Finnish word for refreshment control, juomarasti, tends to be pronounced jouma. Our Jarkko Huovila tends to be Houvila, and above all and most certainly, Jukola becomes Jukkola.

I have a few times tested my foreign orienteer friends whether they are aware where the name of the Jukola relay stems from. The typical answer is that they know it comes from a book that tells about seven brothers, but that tends to be it. In the following I will explain some concepts that surely will come up in the Joensuu-Jukola competition center as well.

The Jukola relay is one of the finest sporting events in the world, also because to it has been successfully connected the framework and the core values of Aleksis Kivi’s novel. This is only natural since our national author Aleksis Kivi is known to have been a great friend of the forest. In his texts wind and air are opportunities, whereas water and soil the realities.

Kari Hotakainen, one of today’s Finnish authors, has said that he considers Seitsemän veljestä to be the first Finnish mind blower in the international level. Kivi’s character description is flesh from our flesh and bone from our bones.

Seitsemän veljestä is read for the first time in school when forced. Second and third times are already voluntary.

Jukola farm, in the south of the province of Häme, stands on the northern slope of a hill, near the village of Toukola. (translation Alex. Matson)

The iconic opening sentence of Seitsemän veljestä gives a clue that Jukola, the brothers’ birth home lies in southern Häme.

The exact location hasn’t been verified, but on the basis of Kivi’s correspondence it is considered fairly certain that Jukola was located in the region of Nurmijärvi, the biggest commune by population at that time. Possibly very close to Kytäjä, where the Jukola relay has been run twice.

Kivi himself was born in the village of Palojoki. The coat of arms of Nurmijärvi depicts seven brothers.

In the same way as Toini Havu disapproved of Tuntematon sotilas (the Unknown Soldier) when it was released, also Seitsemän veljestä got very harsh critique when published. The main criticism came from a prominent literary critic August Ahlqvist. Because of his views the novel was actually not even sold to the public for a few years.

Aleksis Kivi is considered to have been the first Finnish professional author. No regular income, continuous shortage of money, debts, the weak success of his books, Ahlqvist’s critique and living in the countryside unwillingly all lead to severe depression. In the last years of his life Kivi suffered from insomnia and progressive alcoholism. In 1871 he was committed to Lapinlahti mental hospital. It has been suspected that the mental health treatments used at that time period may only have made Kivi’s state worse.

In the early morning of New Year’s Eve 1872 Kivi died at his brother’s house, aged 38. Later it has been deduced that the likely cause of death was borreliosis.

Obviously, the Jukola relay has got seven legs. Just as logically the Venla competition was a personal competition at first.

One will see the names of the seven brothers at least in the street names of the competition center. Juhani, twin brothers Tuomas and Aapo, Simeoni, another set of twins: Timo and Lauri, Eero. The Estonian orienteering champion Sixten Sild has named his two boys, Lauri and Timo – now competing in the strong Koovee team – after Seitsemän Veljestä, in honor of the Jukola relay.

Venla Männistö is the girl from the neighboring farm in Seitsemän veljestä. Juhani and his brothers ask her to marry them in the beginning of the novel, but they all get turned down. Later, as the brothers have mended their ways Venla agrees to marry Juhani.

The organization behind the Jukola relay, Kaukametsäläiset, has gotten its name from a poem by Aleksis Kivi. A great tradition of Jukola is that the Kaukametsäläiset greet some important organization or society with the Message of Jukola. The Message is read soon after the winning team has finished, by a member of the winning team – not necessarily the last leg runner. The Message of Jukola mimics the language and style of Seitsemän veljestä.

In Jukola, one can also encounter Taula-Matti. Aleksis Kivi’s Taula-Matti was a boy from the forest. He usually ended his sentences with “and then we drunk!”

Many teams set their goal on climbing the Hiidenkivi. That’s where the prizes of Jukola and Venla relays are handed over. The brothers of Jukola were saved from the bull herd of Viertola hall by climbing to the safety of Hiidenkivi, a big rock. The original Hiidenkivi has been searched for extensively. One can find several candidates in the Nurmijärvi region alone. One rock was actually even marked with a sign for years, near the old Hämeenlinna-road. Hiidenkivi has been “found” also in Kiljava moors, as in many other places. One agrarian legend suggests that Hiidenkivi was in the lands of Raala hall, but ended up crushed in the stone base of Raala School.

Originally it was planned that the Jukola would be organized around Aleksis Kivi’s day, which is 10th October. The situation changed when orienteers were wanted to attend Suomen Suurkisat, which were organized the same year’s June. It is interesting to ponder how the originally planned date would have changed the nature of the relay. One can say for sure that the meaning of night orienteering would have been even greater. In addition we would have a lot more orienteers who wouldn’t stop training at midsummer.

Aleksis Kivi’s day has been in the official Finnish calendar from year 1950. It is a flag day. 10th October is also the day of Finnish literature.

And what’s great is that among my own favorite teams there is one club that has been named based on Seitsemän veljestä. It is, of course, a club from Nurmijärvi: Rajamäen Rykmentti.  In Kivi’s novel Rajamäen rykmentti was a family that lived and wandered in the region.

Aleksis Kivi, who died young, is claimed to have said “I am alive!” as his last words. And so lives strong and vibrant the Jukola relay.

Hannu Varkoi
The legendary commentator will cover Joensuu-Jukola with his team. We heard them last time in World Orienteering Championships in Vuokatti 2013.
Twitter: @HannuVarkoi