1. Zacharias Topelius (the elder)
Fenno-Swedish physician and author. Born 1781, died 1831. Father of Zacharias Topelius (2).
2. Zacharias Topelius
(Also known as Zachris Topelius or Sakari Topelius)
Fenno-Swedish author. Born 1818, died 1898. Son of Zacharias Topelius (1).
Topelius was a multi-faceted cultural personality: as editor of Helsingfors Tidningar he debated the future of the Swedish language, and helped create social reporting as a journalistic genre; as professor in Finland's history, he delved into issues of the nation's historical background; as rector of Helsinki University, he worked for the right of women to become students.
His fairy tales and fairy tale-like plays were inspired by Hans Christian Andersen, but had a more moralistic tone. Published piecemeal, they were eventually collected into Läsning för barn ("Readings for Children", 8 volumes, 1865-1896). In these stories, he taught the Finns to love God, the homeland, and their parents, in that explicit order.
A similar didactic purpose was served by Boken om vårt land ("The Book About Our Country", 1875), which was used for several generations as a reading primer in schools. In it, he presented Finland's geography, history, and poetry in a clear, accessible form.
His historical novels were clearly inspired by Walter Scott, Victor Hugo, and Bernhard Severin Ingemann. Most famous of these is Fältskärns berättelser ("The Field-Surgeon's Tales", published in serial form, 1853-1867), which tells the story of Sweden and Finland from Gustav II Adolf (Gustavus Adolphus) toGustav III. Topelius was also a prolific lyricist and hymn writer.
Along with Johan Vilhelm Snellman, Elias Lönnrot and Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Zacharias Topelius may reasonably be considered one of the authors of the modern Finnish nation, and its national identity.