The Tales by Trees Trilogy Through the Creators’ Eyes
The Tales by Trees books, inspired by the Nordic forest and told from the perspective of trees, make storytelling a true art. The books are gorgeous to look at and haunting to read, and were voted Finland’s most beautiful book series of 2014. Author Iiro Küttner’s storytelling reflects the rich tradition of folks tales behind the books while Ville Tietäväinen’s striking illustrations have been exhibited as art throughout Finland. Together author and artist have crafted something remarkable. But, like many pieces of art and writing, defining these books can be elusive. Perhaps the creators themselves can offer keys to their creation.
Author Iiro Küttner is an award-winning screenwriter, playwright and author. He currently works as the professor of screenwriting at the Aalto University in Helsinki. In interview, Küttner seems a thoughtful character, but with a definite edge of humor. When asked if he has any scars he responds, “Only inside, from outside.” Then there is Ville Tietäväinen, the illustrator, a renowned graphic novelist and artist whose has been published in 6 languages. He comes across as truly dedicated to the refinement of his art and the visual power of great stories. Both are clearly passionate about their craft. What about these two men will help us understand the Tales by Trees book series?
Firstly, their work clearly celebrates a respect for the natural world. The books invite us into the world and viewpoint of trees, those silent sentinels of time, which is a poignant decision by the creators of this series. Tietäväinen’s reverent and nuanced drawings of trees, wood, and natural elements speak for themselves. As for Küttner, not only does nature play a prominent character in his books, he chose to spend his summer break last year planting 500 trees in the Finnish forest—500 new trees! The thought? To replenish the forest in gratitude for the paper used to create these great stories. The books will in fact be printed on FSC certified sustainably producer paper, and each trilogy sold will plant 25 new trees and conserve 5 square meters (about 50 square feet) of old forest, making each purchase net positive for the environment. The care for the natural world is clear for all to see in the pages of these books.
But, it goes deeper than simply a love for the forest or a call to environmental action. Author and artist conceived these books as “fairy tales for grown ups.” The Tales by Trees books, like the folk tales they are inspired by, peer into the minds and hearts of each reader. The nuances of characters, symbols, and scenarios are a psychological journey with ever changing layers of meaning. When asked what message he personally was trying to get across in the books, author Küttner replied, “Where God is always amazingly slow, the devil is always very very fast.” Like the books, take that statement as you will. Perhaps one interpretation is that the Tales by Trees series are a guide in recognizing the difference between “slow” far-seeing wisdom and the quick, short-sighted approach to life that is so in fashion with humanity nowadays. As the books explain, “These tales, you see, tell of people, of you and of me.”
One of the greatest powers of art is to tell a meaningful story that relates to “you and me.” Küttner wryly calls writing a “strange habit,” but evidently knows the importance of words in shaping the world. And as illustrator Tietäväinen points out, “Most people see only the immediate surface without even realizing the deeper levels and ideas that pictures can contain.” Here, author and illustrator have taken from the soul and created a powerful and beautiful collection of books. They have given us great stories and art with an eye to nature’s point of view. They teach us there must be harmony with nature and with each other. The preface of the books reads: “If we are willing, these are stories we can follow to the end.” It’s true. Unforgettable stories like these plant seeds in the reader’s consciousness that may, with time, grow.
Update: Our crowdfunding campaign for the English printing of the book series is now running on Indiegogo. Check out the campaign page!