Boat to the Land of the Dead

The Daughter of Tuoni (Death) acts as a gatekeeper between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

She brings the dead with her boat to the island of Tuonela, Land of the dead.

Bring a boat, Tuoni’s daughter,
Bring a ferry-boat, O maiden,
That may bear me o’er this channel,
O’er this black and fatal river.

The girl is responsible for not letting the living enter the Underworld. She interviews anyone trying to enter. She is not easily fooled. She recognizes the dead by signs like whether they are wearing Tuoni’s hat and gloves, or if their clothes are wet, bloody or burnt as a sign of their cause of death.


The shaman Väinämöinen manages to get to Tuonela, but the inhabitants try to prevent him from leaving. They put him to sleep on a bed of snakes and put nets in the river. The shaman must transform into a snake and swim across the river back to this world.

In old poems, the Daughter of Tuoni also has the role of Death. She rows her boat from coast to coast, enters homes, covers the windows, kills the people inside and leaves with the dead.

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Images by Tero Porthan, text by Tiina Porthan