Markus's Reviews > Kalevala: The Land of the Heroes

Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot
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it was ok
bookshelves: 2014, mythology, classics, fantasy, pillars-of-fantasy, nordic-culture, poetry

Let me first clarify that the two-star rating is based solely on my experience with this book, and not on its overall quality.

There were two reasons why I started reading the Kalevala a while ago. Firstly, because it was one of Tolkien's major inspirations in his writing career. Secondly, because it seemed like a classical version of sword & sorcery mixed with old poetry. And that's amazingly enough just what it is.

The negative part is that the story is incredibly boring, filled with endless repetition of every single line, no rhyme and a poor rhythm. I expected a collection of beautiful poems about heroes rescuing maidens with swords and magic. What I got was a lame story about fishing, courtship and singing contests. I don't know whether to blame the faults of the Kalevala on the original folk stories, Elias Lönnrot's recounting or the English translation, but either way, there it is.

Again, I would like to say that my rating of this great work should not dissuade anyone from reading it. It is, after fall, the Finnish national epic and an important part of Nordic cultural heritage. It just wasn't meant for me, apparently.
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Reading Progress

April 25, 2014 – Started Reading
April 25, 2014 – Shelved
May 3, 2014 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I had a similar problem with the Mona Lisa. I expected a beautiful erotic nude. What I got was a lame face shot of a clothed woman.


Markus Lol! Expectations can ruin everything when they're not met, but when a book feels like a waste of time I won't give it a good rating simply because it's old.


Suden I'd like to point out, for completeness, that the original version supposedly has flawless rhythm. So does the metric Dutch translation that I read -- it was painstakingly carved into the orginal's cadence, which therefore forces it to take some 'poetic' licence with logic, Dutch grammar and technical readability. However, for me, this did help much with overall readability and atmosphere.
(I think the original has no rhyme, or at least not flawless; and neither does the Dutch translation.)
So, the translation might have something to do with it... and it might not.
In any case, although I love everything Kalevala (even the Koru), I respect your candid review and opinion -- and I can understand it. I think it helped, too, that I came prepared with realistic expectations, because I had already learnt much of its contents (through the lyrics of Amorphis) before I opened the book.


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