of the best loved stories in Estonia is about
a mute child born to a village wood cutter.
The child grew up without speaking at all and
hardly noticed by anyone. One day his father
took his grown son into the forest, and began
to saw down the first tree. As the tree began
to topple over, the boy shouted out, 'Watch
out! It's falling!' His father was astonished
and asked, 'Why did you never speak before?'
His son replied, 'I never needed to until now.'
Many similar stories reflect the quiet and reserved
character of the Estonians.
Estonia lies on the northeast coast of the Baltic
Sea, south of the Gulf of Finland and north
of Latvia. The Estonians are possibly the oldest
inhabitants of Europe, having lived here for
between 10,000 and 15,000 years, yet not until
the period between the first and second world
wars did they enjoy their first brief taste
of independence. For many centuries the country
was dominated by German landowners, later coming
under the rule of Sweden, and in 1710 passing
into Russian hands.