Legend – Estonian

Estonian Legend- The Spirit of the Lake Elder

In Tallinn, there is a legend saying the reason for why we are always building.  A long time ago, there was never a lake in the center of Tallinn.  Before the lake, there was just a big field with a, uh, a big rock or boulder type stone in the center of it.  This man always used to farm there and was fine with the rock being there, in the center of the field area.  And, uh, one day, this cloud came to the man and told him to stop farming and remove the rock and start building instead.  The man did not listen and the cloud rained and rained until it flooded the field and created a lake.  The man drowned and became known as the Evil Elder of Lake Tallinn.  The Elder then vowed that once Tallinn is done being built, he would flood the city himself. Now on the lightest day of the year, which is think is July 23rd, it is believed that the Elder will walk around the city asking people if Tallinn is done being built.  If anyone says yes, the city will be flooded, so this is why Tallinn is always building because of this Evil Elder.  – Jaak Poldma

When I first asked Jaak to tell me a piece of Folklore, he seemed extremely excited to tell me this legend.  He told me he does not remember exactly where he learned it.  His explanation was that, “It is just something that everyone knows”.  When he told me this, I expected he would not have an answer to my next question of where this story is generally performed, but this is not the case.  He thinks it is normally told when people drive by the lake.  Parents normally teach their children this story when they are young, but he still could not remember the first time he learned it.  He seemed to like the idea of the story, but did not believe it.  He thinks people created it a little over a hundred years ago to create a sense of identity for the people of Estonia.  He said that Estonia was never truly independent, so stories like this brought people together in their way of thinking and belief.

My analysis of the legend is very similar to Jaak’s.  I do not believe people perceive this story to be true, but like the idea of it instead.  As Jaak said, it is a story that everyone knows, which separates Estonians from the rest of Eastern Europe.  Therefore, it creates a sense of identity within the Estonian community.  It gives them a story to add to their own Estonian culture, which makes them a proud group.  To add to his analysis, I also think the story has a separate meaning.  I think it is supposed to motivate Estonians (specifically those from Tallinn) to always build new things.  If they are scared to stop building, the town of Tallinn will continue to be updated and will not fall behind compared to the rest of the European cities.