Valikko Sulje

The strange rock

A big rock.

Kummakivi [strange rock] in Ruokolahti is an erratic boulder which settled in its unusual spot 10,000-11,000 years ago. The rock is seven metres wide and five metres high, and on its brow grows a decades-old pine tree with twin trunks. The boulder sits on a domed bedrock base and looks as if it is about to topple down at any moment. People have been coming to marvel at it since the 1800s. It was designated a protected site in 1962. It is said that it acquired its name not only due to its strange exterior, but possibly also because when you whack it with a stick, it can sound hollow inside. The rock emits a strange echo.

It had been a long evening out in the village. But it was for a purpose. We had shivered on the corner of the village store until Ketonen had come to the door to lock up. He saw us and called: ”All right lads?” Right as rain, we are. Eki had gobbed a proper wad onto the bike stand. It hung there, a bit like a stalactite. Good job Ketonen was already out of sight.

We hung around for a while longer and then headed for the rock. We had agreed to go there at dusk. The old man had told us to. Said that if you go there after dark and do as I tell you, you’ll be sure to hear it. All we understood was that you can’t do this stuff in daylight. Twilight stuff. Like the old man’s tales of rock knockers.

Eki led the line of bikes, as always. He was in a hurry. Me and Make followed at a slower pace. The red hem of Eki’s jacket flapped in front of us. A gust of wind also caught the spruce trees around us. Their swishing blended with the cawing of crows.

The closer to the rock we got, the more scared I was. Or at least I began to doubt the sense of what we were doing. We all knew the old man’s tales. ”You wetting yourself already?” Eki mocked, and I spotted a small grin on Make’s face too. We chucked our bikes on the side of the track, grabbed the sticks we had brought, and I made a beeline ahead. I thought, I’ll show them. Stick around if you can stand the pace.

Every time it was an equally strange sight. A huge boulder not really held up by anything. And on it, a gnarled tree clinging by its claws on the surface of the rough rock. Waving its antlers high above. Blowing eternal vapours from its mouth.

I stopped, like at a respectful distance. The light dusk had fallen. I squeezed the stick in my hand. It felt soft.

Eki rushed past me and immediately started thumping the rock with his birch pole. Walked in short steps around the rock hitting, hitting, hitting. Here, there and everywhere. Make stopped at the foot of the boulder and reminded us of the old man’s instructions. The blows had to be aimed at a precise spot. Seven-and-a-half centimetres north from the contact point of the rock and its base.

The first booms echoed in the air. Somewhere, something heavy took to the wing with a rustle. At first, we each beat our own rhythm, then in unison, trying to keep the same tempo. Padam-padam-padam. The echo rose to the top of the pine squatting on the rock and sprang from there, with almost a howl, to the surrounding forest. Padam-padam-padam.

The dark shadows grew as the strength began to wane from our strikes. Almost as if the darkness had swallowed us. Eki was the first to throw down his stick, I was next. ”So much for the old man’s drivel,” he said. Make continued to beat a little way from us. The booms were now more subdued. A bit like they were coming from somewhere and not just carrying to somewhere. I was about to say this to Eki when I saw Make’s pale face behind me. Padam-padam-padam, came from some place deep inside the rock.

Pekka Vartiainen
Picture on the top of the page: Anu Nuutinen
Transl. Annira Silver
Location on map

The story and the pictures are a part of Tarinajoki book (River of Stories), made in Rural Explorer project. As part of a culture tourism project, stories arising from the body of folk narratives and history also have a function in relation to the productisation of tourism. The stories are linked to real locations.