Louisa's Reviews > The Kalevala

The Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot
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it was amazing
bookshelves: mythology, epic-poetry
Read 3 times. Last read January 1, 2013.

Vainamoinen with harp
Väinämöinen with his harp

The Kalevala is a delight; a wonderful rendering of ancient Finnish mythology. The English translation by John Crawford (1888) reads beautifully and follows closely the Finnish cadence with eight syllables in every line. While the male heroes Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkäinen provide most of the action, I thought it was interesting to see how the Finnish world was created entirely by females; the Daughter of the Ether and a seabird that lays golden eggs on her knee. When the eggs fall into the ocean and break, the whole world comes about beautifully:

All the fragments come together
Forming pieces two in number,
One the upper, one the lower,
Equal to the one, the other.
From one half the egg, the lower,
Grows the nether vault of Terra:
From the upper half remaining,
Grows the upper vault of Heaven;
From the white part come the moonbeams,
From the yellow part the sunshine,
From the motley part the starlight,
From the dark part grows the cloudage;
And the days speed onward swiftly,
Quickly do the years fly over,
From the shining of the new sun
From the lighting of the full moon.

Seen how difficult it must have been to collect the fragments and different versions of the epic poem that until the 19th century existed only in oral form, it is admirable how Elias Lönnrot pieced it together and made a wonderful story out of it. I loved how he blended the characters of Lemminkäinen and Kaukomieli smoothly into one while keeping both their names:

How the merry Lemminkäinen,
Handsome hero, Kaukomieli,
Wandered through Pohyola's chambers,
Through the halls of Sariola.

While the story can be brutal at times (Lemminkäinen being chopped to pieces, for instance), it is fascinating to find in the Kalevala the roots of common Finnish names (Tapio, Aino, Sampo) and habits (the "healing baths of vapor" that Väinämöinen prepares to get rid of the diseases sent by Louhi) and the thing that the Fins have with nature. I loved reading this and came away with a better appreciation of the Finnish language and culture.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
Finished Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
March 20, 2012 – Shelved (Other Paperback Edition)
March 20, 2012 – Shelved (Other Paperback Edition)
March 20, 2012 – Shelved as: favorites (Other Paperback Edition)
March 20, 2012 – Shelved as: epic-poetry (Other Paperback Edition)
March 20, 2012 – Shelved as: epic-poetry (Other Paperback Edition)
March 21, 2012 – Shelved as: mythology (Other Paperback Edition)
Started Reading
January 1, 2013 – Finished Reading
May 18, 2016 – Shelved
May 18, 2016 – Shelved as: mythology
May 18, 2016 – Shelved as: epic-poetry

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