Where the red fox runs

Earlier on in this blog we’ve told you about the science behind the Northern Lights. However, in the history of mankind, the scientific explanation for the Auroras has been available only for a fraction of a time. Before that, people had to rely on their instincts and imagination. Living in the modern day, with all the information no further than a single click away, we can only try to reflect on where our ancestors thoughts must have taken them when seeing the sky lit up in flames. Through centuries, by bonfires on different corners of the world, from one generation to the next, the most marvelous stories have been created to explain the magical, colourful curtains vividly dancing on the North sky.

One of the beauties of the Finnish language lies in the origin of some of the words. The Finnish word for the Northern Lights is ”revontulet”, translating in English to ”the fires of the red fox”. The old legend tells a tale of a red fox running up a snowy hill. As its tale touches the snow, it creates sparkles that eventually lit up the fire on the sky. There is a similar kind of a story in the northern parts of Canada, only there the story is starred by a moose called Edthin, not a red fox.

In Greenland the Eskimos would believe the Northern Lights are the souls of dead children, playing and gamboling on the sky. The indigenous people of North Europe, the Samí, also had a similar kind of a belief – one should never whistle under the Auroras as their ancient stories tell the Northern Lights to be the souls of the dead or even gods, wandering across the night skies. Whistling to them was considered to be highly disrespectful. If you were to wave to the Lights, they might visit the ground just long enough to grab you with them to the high skies. In Scotland, where the Auroras are occasionally seen as well, the stories presented the Northern Lights as a group joyous men dancing on the sky, the ”merry dancers”.

In the southern corners of Europe, where the Northern Lights might be seen only once in a century, they were for a long time seen as an ominous sign of something bad happening: people bleeding on the battlefields, ships sinking in fierce storms or a war arising. In some corners of the world the Lights are, even nowadays, seen as a chance to create something beautiful – in Asia the legend tells that a child conceived under the Northern Lights would be born fortunate beyond limits. The Vikings celebrated the Lights as well, believing they were earthly manifestations of their gods.

There are hundreds of stories to be told related to the Northern Lights. What is truly fascinating is that some of the stories, born on completely different sides of the world, are very similar to each other. It is natural for the human mind to create an explanation to something we can’t fully comprehend, but what is the power that makes two people, thousands of kilometers apart, come up with an almost identical story? This, we will never know. Maybe the Northern Lights are whispering their tale in the debated sounds some people say they make. Wherever the truth lies, we all have our favourite story. Mine, without a doubt, is the one of the red fox.




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