In the 19th century vast amounts of Finnish proverbs recorded from the rural commoners were collected by academic upper-class students or by those few members of land-owning peasantry who were literate, all of whom were inspired by nationalistic fervor.Today, the largest proverb collections are preserved in the Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society and in the Institute for the Languages of Finland. Most of their proverbs were collected between 1885 and 1950 at the time of Finland being poor, rural and backward. The people behind the proverbs were mainly from individuals outside the ruling groups.


For the early folklorists such as Kaarle Krohn and Stith Thompson, the stress was on collection, classification and preservation of text and the interpretation of folklore was not included. The challenge of the old proverb collections in the Archives is that they are often mere texts referring to the poor rural ways of life. Moreover proverbs include words and metaphors that are no longer in use today. This appears a problem for the contemporary researcher interested in oral culture from the past. In order to analyze the old proverb texts dealing with peasant working culture we need a deeper understanding about the past peasant cultures, that is, a new methodology concerning proverbs as historical testimonials from the past societies.