Monday, October 13, 2008


I mentioned at the dinner table that I'd seen some moose tracks during one of my runs. My dad often free associates words or phrases that he hears and usually comes up with something funny or interesting. So it was that I first heard the Finnish term, "hirvenhiihto". My dad said it translates literally to "skiing of the moose." I Googled for some background since "skiing" and "moose" are two words that I rarely see together in a sentence. I found a reference in the Kalevala, the epic poem of Finland. Lemminkainen, one of the heroes of the story, is given the task of using skiis (or snowshoes) to chase down the moose of the "hiisi", which means "devil" or "goblin". The moose is also referred to as a reindeer or an elk in various sources, so perhaps to the ancient Finns any large mammal with cloven hooves equated to "devil's spawn" - or at least "something good to roast" if you could catch it. Interestingly, "hirvenhiihto" today is used to describe a sport that's very similar (or maybe identical) to the biathlon, which is Nordic skiing while shooting at targets with a rifle.

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