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  • Skiing Down the Demon Wolf:Redefinition of the Predator in Johan Turi's Sápmi
  • Tim Frandy

In Johan and Per Turi's lesser known collection, Sámi deavsttat or Lappish Texts made up of materials written by Turi in 1908 but not included in his 1910 Muitalus, there lies nested among the more elaborate and plot-driven noaidi tales a brief and memorable selection called "Biilejávrri noaiddi birra" [About the Biilijávri-noaidi], which tells of a noaidi who drives his sledge to church with a wolf as a draught animal:

Son leai maid imaš ja goase ipmašeabbu, go lea goasge gullon. Son leai oktii vuodján girkui návddiin, ja son vujii visot meaddil oppa girkoveaga. Ja de dat, go bohte girkobáikái, de oidne, ahte návdi sus leai vuojánin, muhto de dat láhppui dat su vuoján. Ja go girkoveahka leai vuodjime ruoktot, de dat noaidi fas boðii návddiin ja manai fas meaddil visot olles veaga ja leai ovdal dálus go iežát, ja de dat láhppui fas su vuoján.


(He was a strange one too, one of the strangest people you've ever heard of. Once he drove his sled to church using a wolf, and he sped right past the other church goers. And then when they got to the church, they saw that he had a wolf pulling him, but then it vanished. And when the church goers were driving home, then the noaidi again drove with his wolf, and again he sped right by everyone and arrived home before the others, and then once again his draught animal vanished.)

Turi twice recalls this tale in Muitalus sámiid birra and again in Sámi deavsttat where he uses it as an introductory example to the practice of noaidevuohta (the noaidi-arts) as common noaidi-like behavior. For Turi, this tale's deep resonance demands repetition and scrutiny by his [End Page 545] audience since he changes the story of one noaidi's feats into a task that noaiddit would typically perform.

Though an effective and powerful tale, Turi's choice of the Biilijávri-noaidi to represent the entire complex of noaidevuohta proves unusually difficult to understand. The Biilijávri-noaidi's wolf-sledge motif is the sole occurrence of such feats in Turi's works and only one similar story appears in Qvigstad's Lappiske Eventyr og Sagn (Qvigstad 4:141.1b, 480-2). In any case, it remains at least significantly less common than tales depicting noaiddit flying, healing, divining, or battling. Turi frequently relates instances of noaiddit poisoning enemies with graveyard mould or freezing thieves (or even a steamliner) in its tracks, yet he still selects the wolf-drawn sledge as a central representation of noaidevuohta. This choice aside, the riddles of this tale run considerably deeper. Is the Biilijávri noaidi attending the church to which he drives? If not, how does he spend his time while others are in the church? Though a veiled antisocial and anti-Christian message is relatively unambiguous, what specifically is the noaidi trying to tell the church goers? All these mysteries generate the powerful intrigue of the tale alluding to a history and context essential to understanding the tale. Yet at the heart of this tale lies its greatest mystery, Turi's apparent center of and purpose for the tale: what exactly is the nature of the relationship between the Biilijávri noaidi and the wolf?

This relationship would naturally intrigue Turi. By the time Muitalus sámiid birra was published, he had long since abandoned reindeer herding, in order to "hengav sig helt til sin lyst at kæmpe mod renernes værste jende, ulven" (Demant Hatt v) [devote himself fully to his desire to fight against the reindeer's worst enemy, the wolf]. Turi knew the wolf. He knew how to ski it down, he knew how to wrestle with it, and he knew how it thought. He knew that "go návdi dohppe gihtii, de galgá coggalit gieða návddi njálbmái gitta njielu rádjái ja de čárvet njielu náddagii, de ii n...


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