The Art of Book Design: Mighty Mikko: Finnish Folk and Fairy Tales, Part1

Parker Fillmore. Mighty Mikko: Finnish Folk Tales and Fairy Tales. Illustrated by Jay Van Everen. New York : Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922.

I’m overdue for highlighting Finnish Fairy Tales so our book this week contains a wealth of old Finnish folk stories translated for an English-speaking audience. Illustrator Jay Van Everen breathes life into the stories using graphic, modern drawings with geometric and abstract elements. There is only 1 colour plate in Mighty Mikko, but Van Everen was best known for his bright, colourful abstract paintings. Nonetheless, Van Everen’s black and white drawings for Mighty Mikko are bold and full of interest. The artist uses 2 different styles of illustration in the book – one for the first half of traditional tales and another for the second half of the book which contains the continuing saga of Mikko. Both styles are interesting and worth a good look so I’m going to break this post into 2 parts. Part 2 will be posted next Saturday.


Mighty Mikko, frontispiece

Mighty Mikko, Table of Contents

Mighty Mikko, Table of contents, continued

Mighty Mikko, page 1, The True Bride, an example of the introductory page for each story

Mighty Mikko, page 15, The old king snake has wound himself around Osmo’s arm

Mighty Mikko, page 33, The king thought that if Mikko should see his daughter

Mighty Mikko, page 57, She fitted the key in the lock

Mighty Mikko, page 85, “This last and mightiest battle is for me!”

Mighty Mikko, page 111, Suyettar bewitching Kerttu

Mighty Mikko, page 135, She beckoned to Veikko

Mighty Mikko, page 147, On it flew until it reached the broad ocean

Mighty Mikko, page 161, Ollie and the Trolll’s horse

Mighty Mikko, page 183, From the bones of the cattle he laid three bridges

Mighty Mikko, page 203,”She is under an evil enchantment and I am delivering her!”

Mighty Mikko, page 208, When she got to the middle of the stream

Mighty MIkko, page 214, They were so busy eating and drinking

Mighty Mikko, page 220, They carried home the treasure on their backs


via: The Internet Archive


  1. Ice Swimmer says

    One thing I’m noting that the characters are pretty much always given names in these versions. Back when I was a kid, most characters in traditional Finnish fairy tales and folk tales would be anonymous. The exception would be the fox who is often called Mikko or Mikko Repolainen (repo is the old name for the animal fox, nowadays the word for fox is kettu).

    I feel that in Anglophone culture the names are used much more than in Finnish culture. We pretty much only use proper names for people to avoid ambiguity.

  2. Ice Swimmer says

    The names thing isn’t good or bad. Parker Fillmore stated that he adapted the tales to be more appealing to the English reader.

    Fillmore thanks Lydia Tulonen for valuable assistance. I couldn’t find anything substantial about her, but people with a last name Tulonen tend to be from either near Tampere (the second largest urban centre in Finland) or from Southwestern Finland.

    I like the playing-card style drawings.

  3. voyager says

    Ice Swimmer,

    In your stories were the characters referred to by their designations instead of names? For example, “the farmer”, “the girl”, “the Prince.”
    Names were important in my stories growing up and they were part of the story in a lot of cases. For example Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. I often asked for a story by the name of the character and not the title of the book.

  4. Ice Swimmer says

    voyager @ 3

    Designations were very common. Some characters did have names, for example the aforementioned Cinderella (Tuhkimo, the name is a reference to ashes = tuhka) and Snow White (Lumikki, lumi = snow). I think names were more common in translated fairy tales (for example Hansel and Gretel => Hannu ja Kerttu, Little Briar Rose => Prinsessa Ruusunen (ruusu = rose)).

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