“Niskavuoren Heta” is Hella Wuolijoki’s fourth work in the enormously popular Niskavuori pentalogy. The events of the play span from the 1890s to the 1920s. The play begins on the Niskavuori estate where the wedding of pregnant Heta is being celebrated. She is getting married to farmhand Akusti, and the two proceed to move to a small hut in Muumäki. Despite the change of location, Heta is very determined to keep her pride so characteristic of the Niskavuori family, and consequently decides that no guest is to be invited to Muumäki until a new house is built. It takes seventeen arduous years to complete the building, but when it is finished it is crucially a few meters larger than the old Niskavuori estate. Over the years, Heta’s husband Akusti proves himself not only to be industrious, but also a wise and conciliatory man of the house, who time after time manages to expand the estate with clever forest trades. Heta and Akusti have three children, but unlike with the children of a typical family with an estate, Heta prevents the children from attending school and instead keeps them home for labour, so that the wealth of the estate can continue to increase. Disagreements between Heta and Akusti are not infrequent, but begin to deepen as the civil war of 1918 forces both to choose sides. Heta and Akusti disagree over which side their son should fight, and Heta is ashamed that they have not been treated like the other estate owner because of Akusti’s friends who are fighting for the enemy. Regardless, Akusti has gained the respect of all the villagers, and is appointed village counsellor. In the end, Akusti dies. At the distribution of the inheritance, the enormous wealth of Muumäki surprises everyone. Now, it is to be divided among the children. Heta has led a selfish, ambitious and hard-boiled life, but at the end even she bursts into tears. Many suspect that she is mourning all the wealth that is now slipping through her hands, but Heta disagrees: “I mourn what I mourn. It’s my grief. Akusti is gone.” (Tinfo/Sunklo)
The Finnish original premiered at the Theatre of Tampere in 1950.