Lalli is an apocryphal character from Finnish history. According to the legend, he killed Bishop Henry on the ice of lake Köyliönjärvi in Finland on January 20, 1156.[1][2][3]


The story begins with an expedition of one of the first Christian missionaries in Finland, Bishop Henry. In midst of travelling, him and his entourage stop by a local dwelling. Only the matron of the house, Kerttu is home. Bishop Henry asks for food and hay for the horses, but the matron refuses him. Bishop Henry and his men in their hunger then take the food and hay forcibly but leave payment before continuing on with their journey. After they are gone, Lalli, the husband of Kerttu returns and hears of what has happened. In most versions of the story, Kerttu leaves out the part of the payment entirely. When Lalli hears of the bishop ransacking his home, he becomes enraged and leaves to pursue the bishop. Lalli then catches up to the bishop on top of a frozen lake, storied to be Köyliönjärvi. At Bishop Henry's bidding his entourage flees and hides in a nearby forest. The bishop tries to calm the angered man, but Lalli strikes and kills Henry with an axe.[4][5]

There are numerous versions as to how Lalli then met his own gruesome fate, but in general Lalli takes the bishop's hat to wear it pompously and cuts off the bishop's finger to snatch his valuable ring. But the hat becomes fused to Lalli's head and when he tries to remove it, it tears his scalp off with it. When Lalli tries to remove the bishop's ring from his finger, it likewise tears his finger off. Lalli runs off to the woods, where mice or rats corner him to a tree. Lalli falls from the tree into a pond and drowns. The bishop's body parts are collected by his servants and transported with oxen towards the south. Where the oxen stopped became the site of the first church in Finland.[5]

The legend is enshrined in a famous Finnish folk poem called Henrikin surma ("The Slaying of Henry"). The poem includes such characters as a talking statue of Christ. One of the versions of the poem is found in the Kanteletar, a collection of old Finnish folk poetry.

Cultural significance

Lalli is a well-known figure in Finnish folklore. His name is not common in Finland. It may be a form of "Laurentius". He has been depicted as a figure prostrated at the feet of the Bishop Henry in wooden statues.

In the television series Suuret suomalaiset – the Finnish version of 100 Greatest Britons – Lalli was chosen as the 14th greatest Finn. Lalli used to be generally viewed as an evil-doer along with his wife, but in the 20th century he also became viewed as sort of a rebel pagan against imperialism and forced conversion of the Northern Crusades.[6]


Although often considered a fictional story as there are no records of a Bishop Henry (as pointed out in research by historian Tuomas Heikkilä),[7] new research by linguist Mikko Heikkilä claims that Bishop Henry was in fact a German missionary named Heinrich. He claims to have found records that state a missionary by the name of Heinrich (or "Heinärikki" as called by Finns) was slain in the early 12th century, only a few decades before the Bishop Henry of legend. According to him the fictional character of Bishop Henry was mostly based on Heinrich but was then conflated with the legend of Eric IX of Sweden, who is also storied to have met his end gruesomely murdered.[8][9][10] Tuomas Heikkilä doubts this version of the events and states that Mikko Heikkilä combines different sources liberally.[11]


  1. "Henry (fl.1150)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  2. Michell, Thomas (1888). Handbook for Travellers in Russia, Poland, and Finland:. J. Murray, [etc., etc.] p. 532.
  3. Fryxell, Anders Fryxell (1844). The History of Sweden. Original from the New York Public Library: R. Bentley. p. 192.
  4. Helminen, MInna. "Legenda piispa Henrikistä ja Lallista". Otavan Opisto. Archived from the original on 2019-02-09. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  5. "Puoli seitsemän: 2 Legendat - Piispa Henrik ja Lalli". Yle Areena. Yle. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  6. Heininen, Simo. "Talonpoika Lalli - Paha pakana vai vihainen viljelijä?". Tiede. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  7. Peuhkuri, Lea. "Historiantutkija kyseenalaistaa piispa Henrikin olemassaolon". Turun Sanomat. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  8. Heikkilä, Mikko K. (2016). Kuka oli herra Heinäricki? - piispa Henrikin arvoitus. Tampere University Press. ISBN 978-952-03-0305-1.
  9. Tapio, Ilari (25 January 2017). "Ratkesiko 900 vuoden takainen murha? – talonpoika Lalli tappoikin ehkä saksalaisen Heinrichin". Turun Sanomat. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  10. Nuuttila, Sakari (21 January 2017). "Uusi tutkimus: Lalli ei surmannutkaan piispa Henrikiä, vaan herra Heinärikin - historialliset kaimat ovat menneet legendassa sekaisin". Iltalehti. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  11. Manninen, Tuomas (27 January 2017). "Tappoiko Lalli piispan sijaan saksalaisen lähetyssaarnaajan? Uusi tulkinta Suomen kuuluisimmasta surmasta". Iltasanomat. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
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