Star Wars: Even Die-Hard Fans Don’t Know These 4 Surprising Finnish Connections
(No spoilers, I promise!)
With the release of The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth Star Wars movie in the third trilogy (and, if my math is correct, eleventh film overall) across more than four decades, a lot of fans are proud of how much they know about the saga, but even the most die-hard of fans probably don’t know all of these.
Here are four ways you probably didn’t know that Finland is connected to Star Wars:
Princess Leia’s Necklace
When George Lucas was preparing to shoot the last big scene of the first movie (what oldies like me call the “real” Star Wars and younger folk call Episode IV or A New Hope), he wanted jewelry for Leia to wear during the awards ceremony that looked fit for a science fiction movie set in space.
He discovered jewelry designer Björn Weckström of Finland and determined that he wanted something from Weckström for the film.
According to the website of Lapponia, Weckström’s company, Lucas’s secretary called from where they were shooting in London to ask if any of Weckström’s work was available locally.
Sure enough, a Lapponia store was in London, and Lucas went over and found both the Planetoid Valleys necklace and Darina’s Bracelet, which Carrie Fisher wore in the film.
In the 90s, the necklace was given a limited re-release in honor of the film franchise.
As of November 2019, the necklace is on display at the Finnish National Museum in Helsinki.
An Invented Alien Language
You might have seen this video, which went internationally viral several years ago. Saara Forsberg has an unusual knack for picking up languages and accents. In the video you’ll find below, she sounds as if she’s speaking different languages, but it’s all gibberish.
What’s particularly crazy is listening to her mimic your own language. When she does American English, my brain hurts; I feel like I should know what she’s saying, but it doesn’t make sense. It just sounds like American English!
When the video went viral, people kept asking what her native language was, because she was so good at mimicking others that no one could tell. However, if you’re familiar with Finnish (raising my hand here), her first name was a big clue, and if you follow her on Instagram, her home country is pretty clear: she’s definitely Finnish!
Someone on George Lucas’s team saw the video and reached out to Saara. The end result? She invented an alien language for The Force Awakens. She received the English lines the aliens were supposed to say, came up with what they would sound like in her made-up language, and recorded herself saying the lines so the actors would be able to say them well.
Watch the video that led to it all and be amazed.
Hey, now, you might be thinking. Chewie was played by Peter Mayhew!
Yes, Chewie used to be played by Mayhew, who carried the role for decades. He was the actor in the suit for the original trilogy as well as the the prequel trilogy.
But then came The Force Awakens. Once again, Mayhew reprised his role, but this time, his double was none other than Joonas Suotamo, who was born and raised in Espoo, a Finnish city just west of Helsinki.
After that movie, Peter Mayhew retired his Wookie suit and Suotamo was officially given the mantle of the lovable, tall friend covered in fur.
Joonas Suotamo has since played and been billed as the actor behind Chewie for Solo, The Last Jedi, and now, The Rise of Skywalker, along with some smaller in-between works, such as the Lego Star Wars video game.
A relatively little-known part of World War II was the Winter War, a 105-day conflict that erupted on November 30, 1939 when the Soviet Union invaded Finland.
(I swear this will return to Star Wars!)
Stalin’s excuse (which no one in the world bought) was that gee, he needs more land to protect Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).
He thought that with the massive strength of his military, he’d quash the little group of rugged Finns, and he’d have another country under his control, all in a few days, a week at most.
(He clearly didn’t know about the Finnish quality of sisu!)
Many countries promised aid, including the U.S. and the U.K. but very little arrived, and none of any significance except for a decent number of men from neighboring Sweden.
In the end, an estimated 25,000 Finns died during the Winter War, which was devastating. But considering their tiny army, their lack of weapons and supplies, and more challenges, it’s amazing that they survived at all. Soviet deaths are estimated to be TEN TIMES that of Finnish deaths, at 250,000.
Finland became the only European country bordering Russia to never fall to Soviet rule.
Here’s the Star Wars part:
During the Winter War, about 30 men from England volunteered to help. They were assigned patrol duty and didn’t experience combat themselves, but over the course of a couple of weeks, they did see plenty of the atrocities anyway.
One of those soldiers, an eighteen-year-old young man, went on to be a world-renown actor, knighted by the Queen of England, and beloved by many. He was known for his amazing voice in roles such as Sarumon in The Lord of the Rings and (here’s the Star Wars connection!) as terrifying Count Dooku.
That’s right! Christopher Lee, years before his Count Dooku years, went to Finland as a volunteer in the Winter War!
Check out THIS article in a Finnish newspaper about it!
(I love him even more knowing that!)
Want to learn more about Finland and/or about the Winter War?
Check out The Girl in Gray, a new historical novel set during the Winter War.
Or Tailor Made, a historical romance set during the Grand Duchy era, when Finland was under Russian control in the 1800s.
Prefer mythology and fairy tales? Don’t miss Song Breaker, a retelling of the Aino myth from the Finnish Kalevala.
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