The Master Builders of Scandinavia

(or ‘How My Church Was Finally Built’)

I have recently had the great pleasure to befriend a band of tiny craftsman, a family-clan of master builders long-forgotten by history, with whom I have developed a working relationship. They are a fiery folk, hale and hearty, but small. I first met them on the road to Inverness. They were sitting by the side of the road and looked to be a ragged and tattered bunch, much beleaguered from their journey thus far. Surprised to see them, so colorfully attired in their traditional garb, I stopped my car and made it my primary objective to refresh them with hot coffee and a muffin, which I just so happened to have on the back seat. As they ate and drank, I gathered the courage to inquire from where they had come, and to where they were travelling.

One of their kin replied that they were from the northern forests of Scandinavia, half-way betwixt the Baltic and the Berent Seas, and just ten kilometers shy of equidistant, as the owl flies, between the Norwegian and the White Seas. Another of their group interjected that they had arrived at our shores upon a small sailing vessel made by his-truly and his brother and several cousins. They were all now in the midst of fleeing their homeland for undisclosed reasons—but along the way, they had suffered a surprise shipwreck, wholly unexpected, which was the reason they were now traveling by land, in search of a new home.

So, as they made their way through my muffin, I decided to ask the glaring question that most intrigued me, but the one I also feared might cause offence. “How is it that you all are so very small?” I asked. For none of them were taller than my shin, and I’d bet good money that none of them, even the tallest, could touch my kneecap on their tippy toes, nor even if they jumped with all their might.

A young lass stood proudly and exclaimed, “We sir, are The Podes! ‘People-Of-Diminutive & Exceptional-Stature’!”

“Oh yes, like Lilliputians!” I returned enthusiastically.

“No!” They all cried out in unison. Those are islanders from the South Pacific. We’re Podes from Finland!”

I considered this silently for a moment. I had never heard of such a people. “Fascinating! So you’re all…Podes. Okay. And what will you do now?”

“Vitta, sir.” The girl answered. “That’s our surname, I’m Analie. Analie Vitta! We’re carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, and painters, anything you like. We build churches. That’s what we’ll do.”

I was astounded. Church builders, I never would have guessed. Maybe doll-houses, but nothing quite so grand, or so large. “Fantastic! I’ve always dreamt myself of building a church. That was my dream, I would love to build a church. Though I never thought I might.” I answered.

“Then you shall build one with us!” They declared as one, with a raising of their mugs and a cheer.

I was flattered. I did in fact have a design for a church that I had created in my earlier years, and secretly, I had always hoped to bring that design out from the world of mere fantasy, out into the wide world of reality. Perhaps they could build my church. I wanted to ask, but sheepishly I kept my hope hidden, deciding to wait for a future moment to expose my secret to them.

After coffee and muffin, I invited them home and set them up in our spare room. When my wife came home from work, she was as surprised as I had been, when she first saw them—about twenty or so little people tucked into our guest bed. They were charming and great conversationalists, even considering English was not their native tongue. They won her over, though later that night she asked me quietly, how long they planned to stay. She was dismayed to hear it might be indefinitely. But she cheered up when I suggested they might build the fence I had never gotten around to, and that we may even ask them to remodel the master bathroom.

Early the next morning we awoke to the sound of our dogs barking. We peered out the back window and saw the whole of them already hard at work. Some were cutting branches from our trees and others were stripping the fallen twigs of their bark. Our dogs pressed their noses against the glass and looked intently at the industrious group as they labored. Already, in one corner of the yard they had a large pile of pebbles gathered, near which one bearded gentleman was crushing lime, adding water and adding the pebbles to create a strong concrete. Just then a group of young men returned from the woods behind our yard dragging several old planks of wood which they immediately went to work on, cleaning off the dirt, and scraping away the outer shell to reveal a very pleasant-colored wood underneath. They stacked the newly minted lumber in rows, organized by dimension and length. Our fire pit had been loaded with logs and a large fire was now burning, into which crucibles filled with metal gathered from who knows where, were boiling and several men were pouring out their contents into molds, creating nails, hinges, and other fasteners, connectors and chains.

It was an extremely impressive show and the four of us, me and my wife and our two dogs, looked on with amazement; though I feared it was hunger our dogs had in their eyes. “No Fritz, Rocco, these are not for eating.” I scolded them preemptively. These are people, we don’t eat them, understand?” They cocked their heads attentively, and then glanced out the window. “Not for eating,” I repeated. They looked up at me sheepishly and I knew they understood me. So we went out to greet our new visitors and I felt confident our boys wouldn’t attempt a quick bite. In fact, it turned out both our dogs were rather frightened by the little people, and preferred to keep a safe distance.

(to be continued)

First photos of the church The Podes are building for me:

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