Kalevala Epic

   The Kalevala Epic            

Brian Colless    

The Kalevala is the national epic of Finland. Its title means ‘The land of (the hero) Kaleva’, a person who never makes an appearance in the book. The Kalevala is a compilation of old Finnish poems, made by  Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884), a doctor of medicine; he later became Professor of Finnish at the University of Helsinki. The Kalevala epic first appeared in 1835, as a collection of oral poetry, now put into writing and arranged into a sort of epic. An expanded version was published in 1849. The standard English translation is by William Forsell Kirby (1844 -1913), who was an entomologist.

GLOSSARY OF FINNISH NAMES
Ahti = Lemminkäinen
Ahto, God of the sea and water.  Ahtola, Ahto’s dominions.
Ainikki, sister of Lemminkäinen.  Aino, sister of Joukahainen
Antero Vipunen, a primeval giant, possibly = Kaleva
Hiisi = Lempo = Juutas, the Evil Power  (the Devil)
Iku-Turso, a water-giant (Icelandic thurs, ‘giant’)
Ilmari, Ilmarinen, the primeval smith (still used as a name in Finland)
Ilmatar, ‘Daughter of the Air (Ilma)’; Creatrix of the world; mother of Väinäimöinen (see Luonnotar) [Runo 1]
Joukahainen, Jouko, a young Laplander, aspiring to be a shaman; insolent to Väinäimöinen
Jumala = Ukko, God        Juutas, probably from Judas (betrayer of Jesus); applied to Hiisi and other evil spirits
Kalervo, chieftain, brother of Untamo, father of Kullervo
Kaleva = Osmo, ancestor of the heroes; not in the epic.  Kalevala = Osmola, the name of his land
Kullervo, a hero, son of Kalervo
Kylli, Kylliki, a maiden of Saari (an island of refuge); Lemminkäinen carried her off and married her
Lemminkäinen, a reckless adventurer, a shaman, who descended into the underworld; other names: Ahti, Kauko, Kaukolainen, Kaukomieli, Saarelainen (the Islander)
Lempo = Hiisi, the Evil Power        Louhi, the Mistress of Pohjola (the north country, Lapland?)
Luonnotar, ‘Daughter of Creation’, name applied to Ilmatar (and other celestial goddesses)
Mana =Tuoni, God of the Otherworld, Manala = Tuonela
Marjatta, mother of Väinäimöinen’s supplanter (apparently the Virgin Mary)
Pohja, North.  Pohjola = Sara = Sariola,  the dark country north of Kalevala  (Is it Lapland?)
Saari, an island of refuge from blood-vengeance.     Surma, Death, or the God of Death      SUOMI  Finland
Sampsa Pellervoinen the genius of agriculture (pelto, a field), servant of  Väinäimöinen
Tapio, the God of the forests    Tapiola, the dominions of Tapio
Tiera, Lemminkäinen’s comrade in arms Tuoni = Mana the God of the Otherworld  Tuonela = Manala   the Otherworld
Ukko (Old Man) = Jumala, the God of Heaven, with authority over the clouds
Untamo, Untamoinen  (1) God of sleep and dreams  (2) turbulent chieftain, brother of Kullervo
Väinäimöinen =Osmoinen son of Ilmatar,  primeval minstrel and culture-hero                  VIRO  Estonia         
 
SUMMARY OF THE KALEVALA

Runo 1 is a creation myth, about the beginning of the world.
        Birth of Väinämöinen from Ilmatar
Runo 2  Väinämöinen’s sowing of seeds
Runo 3  Väinäimöinen and Joukahainen
Runo 4  The fate of Aino, sister of Joukahainen
Runo 6  Joukahainen’s crossbow fails him
Runo 7  Väinäimöinen meets Louhi in Pohjola
Runo 8  Väinäimöinen and the maiden of Pohja
Runo 9   Väinäimöinen is healed after recounting the origin of iron
Runo 10  Ilmarinen forges the Sampo (a magic mill) in Pohjola
Runo 11  Lemminkäinen abducts Kylliki, a maiden of Saari
Runo 12  Lemminkäinen’s expedition to Pohjola
Runo 13  Lemminkäinen’s task of catching the Elk of Hiisi
Runo 14  Lemminkäinen’s fatal task of shooting the Swan of Tuonela
Runo 15  Lemminkäinen’s resurrection and return home
Runo 16  Väinäimöinen seeks three magic words in Tuonela
Runo 17  Väinäimöinen finds the words in the stomach of the giant Vipunen
Runo 18  Väinäimöinen and Ilmarinen go to Pohjola to woo the Maiden
Runo 19  Ilmarin performs three feats and is betrothed to the Maiden
Runo 20  Preparations for the wedding (Lemminkäinen is not invited)
Runo 21 -  27  Ilmarin’s wedding celebrations at Pohjola
Runo 28-29   Lemminkäinen takes refuge among the women on an island
Runo 29  Lemminkäinen’s adventures on the island and precipitated departure
Runo 30  Lemminkäinen and his comrade Tiera unsuccessfully attack Pohjola
Runo 31 - 36  Untamo and Kalervo and Kullervo and their enmity
Runo 37   Ilmarin forges a new (unsatisfactory, cold) wife from gold
Runo 38   Ilmarin’s next (unsatisfactory) wife from Pohjola (his wife’s sister) Runo 39   Väinäimöinen and Ilmarin and Lemminkäinen go to Pohjola
Runo 40   Väinäimöinen makes a pike-jaw kantele (musical instrument)
Runo 41   Väinäimöinen plays on his kantele, charming all who hear it
Runo 42   The Sampo is stolen by Väinäimöinen, and he loses his kantele
Runo 43   Louhi fights back, and the Sampo is broken and sunk in the sea
Runo 44   Väinäimöinen makes a new birch-wood kantele
Runo 45   Louhi conjures up epidemics on the people of Kalevala
Runo 46   Louhi sends a rapacious bear against the cattle of Kalevala
Runo 47   Louhi captures the Sun and the Moon and imprisons them in a hill
Runo 48   The recovery of fire from the belly of the fish that swallowed it
Runo 49   The Sun and the Moon are released and Väinäimöinen sings a hymn
Runo 50   The Virgin Marjatta becomes pregnant by a lingonberry (cranberry) and gives birth to a son; Väinäimöinen thinks he should be killed; the baby rebukes him; it is baptized and made king of Karelia; Väinäimöinen sails off angrily, leaving his kantele to Suomi (Finland), and his songs to his people.
 
             
Finland: Lemminkäinen the lady-killer

The Kalevala is the national epic of Finland. Its title means ‘The land of (the hero) Kaleva’, a personage who never makes an appearance in the book.

The Kalevala is a compilation of old Finnish poems, made by  Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884), a doctor of medicine; he later became Professor of Finnish at the University of Helsinki.

The Kalevala epic first appeared in 1835, as a collection of oral poetry, now put into writing and arranged into a sort of epic. An expanded version was published in 1849.

The standard English translation, which I will be using here, is by William Forsell Kirby (1844 -1913), who was an entomologist (an insectophile, a bug-lover, not an etymologist, a word-fanatic). He worked at the Natural History Museum in London. Kirby had let it be known that he was preparing an English version of the kalevala. . A German translation was made by Anton Schiefner (1852), and Kirby was intending to render this German version into English. Howls of protest arose from such eminent scholars as Andrew Lang and Max Müller, and rightly so. That would have been a travesty [cross-dressing, travesty and transvestite come from the same Latin word; anyone for game of Chinese whispers? Finnish > German > English, there’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip, or the cusp and the lisp]

Kirby crawled back into his insect-hole, suitably chastened, and began to learn the Finnish language.

[The Finnish word for Finland is Suomi, and you will know that already if you are a philatelist; this is one occasion when philately will get you somewhere, not nowhere.]

Kirby also learned the sister language of Finnish, namely Estonian, and in 1895 he published selections from the Estonia’s national epic, Kalevipoeg. Kirby’s Kalevala came out in  1907, in Everyman’s Library.

However, the first English translation of the Kalevala appeared in 1888, the work of John Martin Crawford; he copied the original metre of the Kalevala, and William Forsell Kirby did likewise.

This particular poetic metre is known as trochaic; each line is a trochaic tetrameter, consisting of four trochees; or think of it as a line of eight syllables running in four pairs of a stressed and unstressed component. There is thus a strong rhythm, though no rhyme.
[another case of two words with different meanings coming from the same word, Greek rhuthmos, ‘measured motion, time’, as in “Step in time!”].
Here is Kirby’s rendering of the opening lines (1.1-6)
(Read  it twice, first with strong emphasis. Monotonous?)

    Í am dríven by´ my lónging,        ánd my únderstánding úrges
    thát I shóuld comménce my sínging    ánd begín my récitátion.
    Í will síng the péople’s legends,     ánd the bállads óf the nátion.
And further on (1.37-44)
    These my father sang aforetime,     as he carved his hátchet’s handle
    and my mother taught me likewise  as she turned around her spindle,
    when upon the floor, an infant,    at her knees she saw me tumbling,
    as a helpless child, milk-bearded,    as a babe with mouth all milky.

Where have we heard this rhythmic style before?
Here:
    Ye who love the haunts of Nature,  love the sunshine of the meadow,
    love the shadow of the forest,      love the wind among the branches,
    and the ráin-shower and the snowstorm,  and the rushing of great rivers,
    through their palisades of pine-trees,  and the thunder in the mountains....
   
    Ye who love a nation’s legends,   love the ballads of a people,
    that, like voices from afar off,        call to us to pause and listen,
    speak in tones so plain and childlike,  scarcely can the ear distinguish
    whether they are sung or spoken;  [sing-song style!?]  [Recognize it?]
    listen to this Indian legend,     listen to this Song of || Hiawatha.

From Part 10: Hiawatha’s Wooing

As unto the bow the cord is,     so unto the man is woman,
though she bends him she obeys him, though she draws him, yet she follows,
useless each without the other!
Thus the youthful Hiawatha        said within himself and pondered,
much perplexed by various feelings,   listless, longing, hoping, fearing,
dreaming still of Minnehaha,     of the lovely Laughing Water,
ín the lánd of thé Dacótahs.
(as against:  in the lánd of the Dacótahs  - only 2 stresses, not 4)
[Táke me báck t’the Bláck Hills óf Dacótah (Calamity Jane)]

This is the American epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). He was a professor of modern languages at Harvard University; and he had redd the German translation of the Kalevala (1852). He took a great interest in the history and folklore of the Amerindians (a word used in our time, not his). He wrote in his diary, in 1854, that he had hit upon a plan for a poem on the American Indians ... to weave together their beautiful traditions into a whole”.

The making of the Kalevala epic involved a similar process of combination, though the Finnish compiler, Lönnrot, brought together a host of poems by anonymous bards; he did not compose the poetry himself, as Longfellow did. However, about 600 of the 22,795 lines in the Kalevala were penned by Lönnrot (to join the pieces together, to bridge gaps in the sequence of poems).   

And yet there are still more than two million lines of Kalevala poetry in the archives of the Finnish Literature Society. One-and-a-quarter million lines have been published in thirty-three volumes (Helsinki 1908-1948) as Ancient Poems of the Finnish People (Suomen kansan vanhat runot). The first word (Suomen) says ‘Finnish’, of course, and the ‘runot’are the ‘poems’. The Kalevala has fifty runo’s (Runo 1 -Runo 50).

The Finns have been in the Baltic region for some 3000 years. Both men and women were the singers, and the poets. Men preferred heroic poetry, naturally, while women favoured lyrical ballads.

Four categories of Kalevala poetry have been recognized: (1) MYTHIC   (2) MAGIC   (3) HEROIC   (4) CHRISTIAN

(1) MYTHIC
The mythic poetry is found in Runos 1 and 2, describing creation at the beginning of time, the origins of the world and of living creatures (human, animal, and vegetal).

(2) MAGIC  
Magic, practised by shamans, can be seen in Runo 3, the contest between the venerable sage Väinämöinen and the young and insolent apsiring shaman Joukahainen. Lemminkäinen is another young and reckless shaman: he descends to the underworld (Runot 11-15, 26-27). Women often outsmart men, notably Louhi, Mistress of Pohjola (Runo 7).

(3) HEROIC  
Baltic Finns had contacts with the East Vikings (who went into Russia), and some Finns may have taken part in Viking expeditions. Be that as it may, Lemminkäinen’s adventures include details from tales of Kaukamoinen, a typical home-leaving Viking.
[p.xiii  Teuri (not in Kalevala) leaves his newly-wedded wife on her bed, and rushes out to the boat: The nipples still unfingered| the buttocks unwhipped | the loins untickled. ]

(4) CHRISTIAN
Christianity was established among the Finns in the period 900-1450. Their patron-saint and martyr is Bishop Henry (Henrik, died 1156); legend says he came from England. (See Juutas and Marjatta in the Glossary, as Judas and Mary.)
Runo 1 is a creation myth, about the beginning of the world. There was a brief account of creation in Beowulf, based on Genesis in the Bible.

The widespread idea that the cosmos came out of an egg is in evidence here.
One half became earth, the other half became the sky canopy.
We looked at the beginning of the Kalevala earlier.

1.111    Air’s young daughter was a virgin,    Ilmatar ‘Daughter of the Air’
    fairest daughter of Creation ....        Luonnotar ‘Daughter of Creation’
119    dwelling evermore so lonely,
    always living as a maiden,
    in the Air’s own spacious mansions,
    in those far-extending deserts.
    After this the maid descending,
    sank upon the tossing billows,
    on the open ocean’s surface,
    on the wide expanse of water.    Water is already in existence, and Air (space)
128    Then a storm arose in fury,
    from the East a mighty tempest ...
    and the billows drove the maiden
    o’er the ocean’s azure surface....
    Sev’n long cénturíes togéther
    nine times longer than a lifetime.
    Yet no child was fashioned from her,
    and no offspring was perfected....

We pause to consider how this poetic scheme works. As noted already, we have the same rhythmic movement through each line, namely trochaic metre: four stressd syllables separated by four unstressed syllables.

But there is something else going on: couplets; not rhyming couplets, but lines clustering in pairs. And they show parallelism: each line of a couplet  says the same thing. For example, here again are the first six lines of Runo 1:

 1.1-2    Í am dríven by´ my lónging,        ánd my únderstánding úrges
3-4    thát I shóuld comménce my sínging    ánd begín my récitátion.
5-6    Í will síng the péople’s legends,     ánd the bállads óf the nátion.

This technique is     as old as the Bible, and the ancient epics of Western Asia.
   Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!   Celebrate your God, O Sion (Psalm147.12)
   He gives snow like wool;  he scatters hoarfrost like ashes. (16)
   He declares his word to Jacob;  his statutes and ordinances to Israel (19)

Of course, it is difficult to keep this pattern running continuously, and sometimes the second line of the couplet will simply complete or complement the meaning of the first, not duplicate it.
   He strengthens the bars of your gates;  he blesses your sons within you (13)
   He sends forth his command to the earth;  his word runs swiftly (15)

The second part might say the opposite of the first, or give a contrasting idea:

   The LORD lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground (6)

So, looking again at the lines we saw earlier:

    Then a storm arose in fury,
    from the East a mighty tempest ...      (simple parallelism)
    and the billows drove the maiden
    o’er the ocean’s azure surface....       (merely completes the picture)
    Sev’n long cénturíes togéther
    nine times longer than a lifetime.        (not simple parallelism)
    Yet no child was fashioned from her,
    and no offspring was perfected....    (plain parallelism)

And now on with the show. But keep in mind that sometimes I have broken the poet’s pairing when paring down the size of the poem, hopefully not leaving it pear-shaped by abridging it. An epic is by definition something you can not read in one sitting. Sometimes I also make slight changes to Kirby’s translation (for example I have put ‘looking for’ in place of his ‘seeking for’).

1.179    Then a beauteous teal came flying        teal: small freshwater duck, blue-green
    lightly hovering over the water,
    looking for a spot to rest in,   searching for a home to dwell in....
    Then the Mother of the Waters ...
    from the waves her knee uplifted,
    raised her shoulder from the billows, that the teal her nest might ‘stablish.
    There she flew, and hovered slowly,  gently on the knee alighting;
    and her nest she there established,  and she laid her eggs all golden,
    six gold eggs she laid within it,  and a sev’nth she laid of iron.
    O’er her eggs the teal sat brooding, and the knee grew warm beneath her;
    there she sat one day a second, brooded also on the third day;
    then the Mother of the Waters ... felt it hot and felt it hotter ...
    till she thought her knee was burning ...
    so she jerked her knee with quickness ...
    rolled the eggs into the water ... and to fragments they were shattered...
    But a wondrous change came o’er them....
    From the cracked egg’s lower fragment, now the solid earth was fashioned;
    from the cracked egg’s upper fragment, rose the lofty arch of heaven,
240    from the yolk, the upper portion,  now became the sun’s bright lustre;
    from the white, the upper portion, rose the moon that shines so brightly;
    whatso in the egg was mottled, now became the stars in heaven;
    whatso in the egg was blackish, in the air as cloudlets floated....
    When the ninth year hád passed over, and the summer tenth was passing,
    from the sea her head she lifted,  and her forehead shé uplifted,
260    and she then began Creation,  and she brought the world to order.
    Wheresoe’er her hand she pointed, there she formed the jutting highlands...
    Where head the land touched lightly, there the curving bays extended.

And so on....

    Birth of Väinämöinen from Ilmatar
290    Väinämöinen, old and steadfast, rested in his mother’s body
    for the space of thirty summers,  and the sum of thirty winters,
    ever on the placid waters, and upon the foaming billows....

This idea of an inordinately long pregnancy is also found in the Volsung Saga.
There it was King Sigi’s unnamed queen who held Volsung inside herself for six years. She called for a surgeon to end her agony. Here the infant takes it into his own hands to give relief and release to mother and child.

Väinämöinen cried out:
303    “Aid me Moon, and Sun release me....”
    When the moon no freedom gave him, neither did the sun release him,
    then he wearied of existence, and his life became a burden.
    Thereupon he moved the portal, with his finger, fourth in number,
    opened quick the bony gateway, with the toes upon his left foot,
    with his nails beyond the threshhold, with his knees beyond the gateway....
    In the sea five years he sojourned, waited five years, waited six years,
    seven years also, even eight years, on the surface of the ocean....
    On the land his knees he planted, and upon his arms he rested,
    rose that he might view the moonbeams, and enjoy the pleasnt sunlight,
    see the Great Bear’s stars above him, and the shining stars in heaven.
    Thus was ancient Väinämöinen, he the ever famous minstrel,
    born of the divine Creatrix, born of Ilmatar, his mother.
(End of Runi 1, 344 lines)

Runo 2  Väinämöinen’s sowing of seeds

This runo also belongs to the mythic category; it continues the creation theme .
After his eight years in the sea, Väinämöinen comes to a land without trees. He directs Sampsa Pellervoinen, the genius of agriculture, to sow the seeds that will produce forests and grasses.

    Then did Väinäimöinen, rising, set his feet upon the surface
    of a sea-encircled island, in a region bare of forest.
    There he dwelt, while years passed over, and his dwelling he established
    on the silent voiceless island, in a barren treeless country.
    Then he pondered and reflected, in his mind he turned it over:
    Who shall sow this barren country, thickly scattering seeds around him?

    Pellervoinen, earth-begotten,  Sampsa, youth of smallest stature,
    came to to sow the barren country,  thickly scattering seeds around him....

    On the hills he sowed the pine-trees, on the knolls he sowed the fir-trees,
    and in sandy places heather, leafy saplings in the valleys.
    In the dales he slowed the birch-trees, in the loose earth sowed the alders,
    where the ground was damp the cherries, likewise in the marshes , sallows;
    rowan-trees in holy places, willows in the fenny regions,
    juniper in stony districts, oaks upon the banks of rivers....

42     Väinäimöinen, old and steadfast, came to view the work in progress,
    where the land was sown by Sampsa, and where Pellervoinen laboured;
    while he saw the trees had flourished, and the saplings sprouted bravely,
    yet had Jumala’s tree, the oak-tree, not struck down its root and sprouted..

59    Then he saw four lovely maidens, five, like brides from water rising;
    and they mowed the grassy meadow, down they cut the dewy herbage....
    What they mowed they raked together, and in heaps the hay collected.

    From the ocean rose up Tursas,  from the waves arose the hero,
    and the heaps of hay he kindled,  and the flames arose in fury;
    all was soon consumed to ashes,  till the sparks were quite extinguished.

73     Then among the heaps of ashes,  in the dryness of the ashes,
    there a tender germ he planted,  tender germ, of oak an acorn,
    whence the *lovely plant sprang upward, & the sapling grew & flourished....

81    Then the branches wide extended, and the leaves were thickly *spreading,
    and the summit rose to heaven,  and its leaves in air expanded.
    In their course the clouds it hindered, and the driving clouds impeded.
    and it hid the shining sunlight, and the gleaming of the moonlight....

101    Then the aged Väinäimöinen  spoke the very words which follow:
    Noble mother, who hast borne me, Luonnotar, who hast me nurtured,
    send me powers from out the ocean  (numerous are the powers of ocean)
    so that they may fell the oak-tree, and destroy the tree so baneful,
    that the sun may shine upon us,  and the pleasant moonlight glimmer.

111    Then a man arose from ocean,  from the waves a hero started....
126    While he seems a man in semblance,  and a hero in appearance,
    yet his height is but a thumb-length,  scarce as lofty as an ox-hoof....
   
151    Then the man transformed before him, and became a mighty hero;
    while his feet the earth were stamping, to the clouds his head he lifted,
    to his knees his beard was flowing,  to his spurs his locks descended....

Then he sharpened keen the ax-blade, brought the polished blade to sharpness;
    six the stones on which he ground it, seven the stones on which he whet it.

175    With his ax he smote the oak-tree, with his sharpened blade he hewed it;
    once he smote it, twice he struck it,  and the third stroke wholly cleft it....
    and the oak-tree fell before him....

217    When the oak at last had fallen,  and the evil tree was levelled,
    once again the sun shone brightly,  and the pleasant moonlight glimmered,
    and the clouds extended widely,  and the rainbow spanned the heavens,
    o’er the cloud-encompassed headland,  and the island’s hazy summit.

Then the wastes were clothed in verdure, & the woods grew up & flourished;
    leaves on trees and grass in meadows; in the trees the birds were singing;
    loudly sang the cheery throstle; in the tree-tops called the cuckoo.
231
Now the earth brought forth her berries, shone the fields with golden blossoms
    herbs of every species flourished, plants and trees of all descriptions;
    but the barley would not flourish....
251    From a tree there chirped the titmouse:
    Osmo’s barley will not flourish, nor will Kálevá’s oats prosper,
    while untilled remains the country, and uncleared remains the forest,
    *till the fire has burned it over.    *Kirby ‘nor’

257    Väinäimöinen, old and steadfast, ground his ax-blade edge to sharpness,
    and began to fell the forest, toiling hard to clear the country;
    all the *beauteous trees he levelled, sparing but a single birch-tree,
    that the birds might rest upon it, and from thence might call the cuckoo.

    In the sky there soared an eagle, of the birds of air the greatest....

281    Then the bird of air struck fire, and the flames rose up in brightness,
   while the north wind fanned the forest, & the north-east wind blew fiercely;
    all the trees were burned to ashes, till the sparks were quite extinguished.

[Here I give a cry of anguish: Truly all the gods are crazy.]
“The Gods must be Crazy” Hottentot

287    then the aged Väinäimöinen, took the six seed from his satchel,
    and he took the seven smal kernels [which he had found on the seashore]

293    Off he went to sow the country, and to scatter seeds around him,
    and he spoke the words which follow: Now I stoop the seeds to scatter,
    as from the Creator’s fingers, from the hand of him Almighty,
    that the country may be fertile, and the corn may grow and flourish.
    Patroness of lowland country,  old one of the plains, Earth-Mother,
    let the tender blade spring upward,  let the earth support and cherish ...
    that the ears may grow by thousands,  yet a hundredfold increasing,
    by my ploughing and my sowing,  in return for all my labour.
    Ukko, thou of gods the highest,  Father, thou in heaven abiding.
    thou to whom the clouds are subject, of the scattered clouds the ruler,
    all thy clouds do thou assemble ...
    send the light rain forth from heaven,  let the clouds distill with honey,
    that the corn may sprout up strongly, and the stalks may wave and rustle.

And that is what happened! But at what cost! Slash-and burn agriculture rules!

MAGIC POEMS
Involving shamanism and the use of magic.

Runo 3 Väinäimöinen and Joukahainen

Väinäimöinen increases in wisdom and, as the culture hero and primeval minstrel, he  composes songs (1-20).

The youthful Joukahainen, a Laplander, seeks to contend with him in magic skill; but he cannot overcome him, so he challenges him to a duel; Väinäimöinen becomes angry, and by means of his magic songs he sinks the young upstart in a swamp (21-330).

In great distress  Joukahainen offers his various possessions as a ransom: two crossbows, two boats, two stallions, a golden helmet, a hat filled with silver, his fields, and his barns. The old sage rejects all these offers, because he already has plenty of crossbows, boats, horses, silver, gold, fields, and stacks of corn. In desperation the youthful Jouhakainen promises his sister Aino, to sweep and dust his home, weave and wash his clothes, and bake honey-cakes for him. Väinäimöinen, old and steadfast, accepts this offer of a bride to look after him in his old age; he releases young Joukahainen (331-476).

Joukahainen returns home distraught, and tells his mother what has happened, and expresses his grief:
    I myself must weep for ever, and must pass my life in mourning,
    for my very sister Aino,  she my dearest mother’s daughter,
    I have pledged to Väinäimöinen, as the cosnsort of the minstrel,
    to support his feeble footsteps, and to wait upon him always (477-524).

However, by contrast, the mother is overjoyed, clapping her hands and rubbing them together, at the prospect of a marriage alliance she had long hoped for (525-534).

For her part, Aino is inconsolable; she falls to weeping unceasingly (535-580).

Runo 4  The fate of Aino
1-36    In deep distress Aino goes into the woods to gather bath-whisks. Väinäimöinen finds her there and converses with her. He asks for her conmmitment (usually the other way round?):
    Maiden, do not wear for others,  but for me alone, O maiden,
    round thy neck a beaded necklace, and a cross upon thy bosom;
    plait for me thy beauteous tresses,  bind thy hair with silken ribands.

Aino replies curtly that it is not for him or for anyone else that she wears a crosslet. Indeed, she removes her cross, necklace, rings, and ribands, and throws them into the bushes.

37-116    Aino hurries home in tears, and reports to her father, then to her brother, and finally to her mother (we have now heard the same story four times).

117-188    Aino’s mother, who still thinks the marriage would be a good thing, tells Aino to be happy and to adorn herself.

189-254    But Aino continues her long lamentations, refusing to take an old man as her husband.

255-370    Sorrowfully she wanders in the wild woods; she comes to a strange lake, in which she bathes, and eventually sinks to her death.

371-518    The animals of the forest commission the hare to carry the bad tidings to her family:
    So he hastened to the sauna, and he crouched upon the threshhold;
    full of maidens is the bath-house, in their hands the bath-whisks holding.
Scamp, come here, and shall we boil you, or, O Broad-eye, shall we roast you?

Thus the message is delivered; the mother reproaches herself, and mourns the death of her daughter.

Runo 5  Väinäimöinen searches for Aino

The Aino cycle of poems (Runot 3-5) was composed by Lönnrot by combining authentic lines from two separate types of poetic sources:
(1) Christian writings denigrating the senile Väinäimöinen (also in Runo 50). (Notice the crosslet that Aino wears.)
(2) Lyrical epic poems performed by women (possibly in protest against arranged marriages, ignoring their own choice of husband).

Incidentally, Lönnrot invented the girl’s name Aino, and it became fashionable. Thus, Aino was the name of the faithful wife of Jean Sibelius. Note also that the name Aino is not used in this runo (5): she is ‘Joukahainen’s sister’ or ‘dearest child of Ahto’ (god of the waters, as distinct from Ahti = Lemminkäinen).

Väinäimöinen grieves over the the loss of the maiden Aino, and goes fishing (for therapeutic purposes). with his line he catches a beautiful fish. He is intent on cutting it open for eating, but it slips into the lake and escapes. It is Aino, transmogrified. She rails at him, branding him as ‘a pitiful old creature, void of wisdom’. (Some of us could feel strong sympathy and empathy with ‘Väinäimöinen, old and steadfast’, and take umbrage over this insult, which impugns our healthy senility.) 

144    Väinäimöinen, old and steadfast,  pondered deeply, and reflected,
    what to do, and what was needful.
    Quick he wove a net all silken ...
    drew it through the quiet waters,  through the depths beloved by salmon,
    and through Väinöl(a)’s deep waters,  and by Kaleval(a)’s sharp headlands,
...    and through Joukola’s great rivers,  and across the bays of Lapland.

The places mentioned are Väinöla (Väinäimöinen’s realm), Kalevala (the land of the primeval hero Kaleva, who never makes an appearance), Joukola (the land of Jooko, that is, Joukahainen, a Laplander), and Lapland (the land of the Lapps).

Väinäimöinen catches many fish in his silken net, but never Aino. So he asks his mother (Luonnotar, Ilmatar), in her watery grave, what he should do. She advises him to ‘seek out the maids of Pohja’ (the North), who are ‘twice as lovely and six times nimbler’ than ‘Lapland’s fat and sluggish daughters’.

Runo 6  Joukahainen’s crossbow
Seething with hatred, Joukahainen lies in wait for Väinäimöinen, who is riding to Pohjola. With his crossbow Jouko shoots poison arrows at Väinäimöinen. The horse is killed, and Väinäimöinen is swept out to sea in a tempest. Jouko is exultant, but his mother rebukes him.

Runo 7  Väinäimöinen meets Louhi in Pohjola
Väinäimöinen was in the sea for several days, but the eagle, to show his gratitude for the sparing of the birch-tree as a perch-tree, rescues him and carries him to Pohjola. He is received hospitably by Louhi the Mistress of Pohjola. When Väinäimöinen complains of homesickness, Louhi gives him a colt and a sledge to take him back, and in return he promises to send the smith Ilmarinen to forge a Sampo for her, if she will give him her daughter (the ‘Pohjola’s daughter’ of Sibelius’s tone-poem).

Runo 8  Väinäimöinen and the maiden of Pohja
On his way homeVäinäimöinen encounters the maid of Pohja sitting on the rainbow, ‘clad in robes of dazzling lustre’. He invites her into the sledge, but she rejects his advances. Then she sets him a task, to gain her favour: he must make a boat out of the fragments of her spindle, and launch it without touching it. In the process Väinäimöinen wounds his knee with his ax, and he cannot staunch the flow of blood. He comes to a house and asks:
    Is there any in this household, who can heal the wounds of iron,
    who can check this rushing blood-stream, & can stay the dark red torrent?
 An old greybeard responded to his plea.

Runo 9   Väinäimöinen is healed after recounting the origin of iron
Väinäimöinen narrates the legend of the origin of iron; the old healer reviles iron, and utters spells and applies salve for the closing of the wound. Väinäimöinen thanks Jumala for his merciful assistance.
    Gazing up to God most gracious, lifting up his head to heaven (he said):
    Praise to Jumala most gracious, praise to thee O great Creator,
    that thine aid thou hast vouchsafed  me, granted me thy strong protection,         when my suffering was the greatest,  from the edge of sharpest iron.

Runo 10  Ilmarinen forges the Sampo (a magic mill) in Pohjola
Väinäimöinen urges the skilful Ilmarinen to go to Pohjola, woo the maiden, and produce a Sampo. He is reluctant but the wizard sends him there on a stormy wind.  Not without difficulty and setbacks the Sampo is made.
    Thereupon smith Ilmarinen, he the great primeval craftsman,
    welded it and hammered at it,  heaped his rapid blows upon it,
    forged with cunning art the Sampo: on one side there was a corn-mill,
    on another side a salt-mill,  and upon the third a coin-mill.

When Ilmarinen requests his reward, the maiden says she is not ready to leave her home, with its duties and pleasures.

Runo 11  Lemminkäinen abducts Kylliki, a maiden of Saari
‘Now it’s time to speak of Ahti’ [that is, Lemminkäinen, Kaukamoinen, Kauko].
He lives with his mother.
    Kauko fed himself on fishes, Ahti was reared up on perches ...
    and his head was very handsome, and his form was very shapely;
    yet he was not wholly faultless, but was careless in his morals,
    passing all his time with women, wandering all around at night-time,
    when the maidens took their pleasure in the dance, with locks unbraided.

Lemminkäinen, against his mother’s wishes, travels to  Saari islandto woo Kylli(kki), the Flower of Saari. He ingratiates himself with all the maidens of Saari (Sibelius composed a tone-poem on the subject). However, Kyllikki (who had been desired by the sons of the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars) rejected him.
So, when the girls were all out dancing, he rode into their midst, pushed her into his sledge, and abducted her. He ignored her sobbing pleas to let her go, and so she exclaimed:
    Well then I have five strong brothers, and my uncle’s sons are seven.

To no avail. Finally, they reach an agreement: she will wed him if he swears to renounce fighting; and she promises to stop going out dancing. His mother is actually glad to welcome her new daughter-in-law.

Runo  12  Lemminkäinen’s first expedition to Pohjola
A time came when Kyllikki breaks her promise and goes out dancing.  Lemminkäinen is angry and decides to divorce her. He sets off to woo the Maiden of Pohja. When he gets there he binds with his spells all but one of the men (a wicked herdsman, who will seek revenge) .

Runo 13  Lemminkäinen’s task of catching the Elk of Hiisi
In order to win the daughter of the old woman, the hero must capture the Elk of Hiisi (the evil power). He succeeds, but the elk escapes and his spear (or ski-staff) and one of his snowshoes (or skis) are broken.

Runo 14  Lemminkäinen’s fatal task of shooting the Swan of Tuonela
He succeeds agaiin in capturing the Elk, and then completes his second task of bridling the fore-snorting horse of Hiisi. His third labour takes him to Tuonela, the Otherworld, where he is to kill the Swan (Sibelius has two tone-poems on this subject: Lemminkäinen in Tuonela, and The Swan of Tuonela). The offended herdsman waylays him there, and tosses him into the river. The son of Tuoni cuts the body into pieces.

Runo 15   Lemminkäinen’s resurrection and return home
Lemminkäinen’s mother retrieves all his body-parts, and by spells and salves she retores him to life and takes him home. The story now turns to the exploits of Väinäimöinen and Ilmarinen.

Runo 16  Väinäimöinen seeks three magic words in Tuonela
Väinäimöinen orders Sampsa Pellervoinen to collect timber for building a boat; but he still needs three magic words to complete the vessel. He searches for them in Tuonela, and is fortunate to get out of the hellish place alive.

Runo 17 Väinäimöinen finds the words in the stomach of the giant Vipunen
Väinäimöinen awakens the giant Antero Vipunen and enters his belly to torture him, until he reveals the three magic words. He goes home and finishes his boat.

Runo 18  Väinäimöinen and Ilmarinen go to Pohjola to woo the Maiden
Väinäimöinen voyages in his newboat, and Ilmarinen rides on horseback to Pohjola, as rival suitors for the Maiden. The young woman prefers Ilmarinen, who had provided the Sampo.

Runo 19  Ilmarin performs three feats and is betrothed to the Maiden
Ilmarin is assigned three (or four) tests, which he accomplishes: he ploughs a field full of serpents; he subdues the Bear of Tuoni and the Wolf of Manala; he catches a huge fearsome pike in the river of Tuonela. The Mistress of Pohjola betroths her daughter to him. Väinäimöinen returns home disconsolate.

Runo 20  Preparations for the wedding (Lemminkäinen is not invited)
An enormous ox is slaughtered and ale is brewed, in preparation for the wedding.  Lemminkäinen is left off the guest-list.

Runo 21 -  27  Ilmarin’s wedding celebrations at Pohjola
The wedding guests are entertained, and Väinäimöinen makes a contribution as singer and orator.  Eventually Ahti arrives as a gate-crasher, and misbehaves.

Runo 28-29   Lemminkäinen takes refuge among the women on an island
Ahti’s mother advises him to avoid the revenge of the people by fleeing to a distant island, where his own father once took refuge.

Runo 29  Lemminkäinen’s adventures on the island

29.135    Said the lively Lemminkäinen, asked the handsome Kaukomieli:
    Is there room upon this island, on the surface of the island,
    space where I my songs may carol, space where I may sing my ballads?
    Words within my mouth are melting, and between my gums are sprouting.
    Said the girls upon the island, and the island-maidens answered:       
Yes, there is certainly space where you may intone your splendid verses,
    while you sport among the greenwood,
    while you dance among the meadows.
And so he did.
    Then the island maidens wondered, and the girls were all astounded
    at the songs of Lemminkäinen, and the craft of this great hero.

Eventually he was allowed into houses and halls, and on the tables he found:
    Dishes filled to overflowing.
    In the pots was beer in plenty, and the mead in covered tankards,
    butter too in great abundance, pork was likewise ther in plenty,
    for the feast of Lemminkäinen, and for Kaukomieli’s pleasure.

222 Then the Lively Lemminkäinen, roamed about through every valley.
    for the island-maidens’ pleasure, to delight the braidless damsels,
    and where’er his head was turning, there he found a mouth for kissing,
    wheresoe’er his hand was oútstretched, there he found a hand to clasp it.
    And at night he went to rest him,  hiding in the darkest corner;
    there was not a single village | where he did not find ten homesteads,
    there was not a single homestead | where he did not find ten daughters.
241    Thus a thousand brides he found there, *lay down with a hundred widows.
....    Thus the lively Lemminkäinen | lived a life of great enjoyment,
    for the course of three whole summers | in the island’s pleasant hamlets,
    to the island-maidens’ rapture, *and contentment of the widows.

This cannot go on much longer! And indeed one night as he wandered about:
    There was not a room *in sight where he did not see three heroes,
    and he saw not any hero, with a sword-blade left unwhetted,
    sharpened thus to bring destruction   on the head of Lemminkäinen.
It’s time to leave. He goes home to find his house burned down; his mother has fled to a hut in the forest.

Runo 30  Lemminkäinen and his comrade Tiera unsuccessfully attack Pohjola
When Ahti and Tiera mount an expedition against Pohjola, the Mistress of Pohjola sends the Frost against them. This freezes the boat in the sea, and the heroes almost freeze to death; but they walk over the ice to the shore and after much hardship they go home.

Runo 31 - 36  Untamo and Kalervo and Kullervo and their enmity
Kullervo, son of Kalervo the brother of Untamo, is the subject of Sibelius’s five-movement Kullervo Symphony (Opus 10), including soloists and choir, singing extracts from Kalevala 35 and 36.

Twice we have the killing of a family and the burning of their home.

Kullervo survives to become a servant of Ilmarinen, and suffers under his spiteful wife (she has not been a valuable prize, after all, and she is torn to pieces by bears and wolves) (32).  Kullervo returns to his parents, who are still alive, but his massive strength makes him unsuitable for household duties, because he wrecks everything he touches. His father sends him to pay their taxes. On the way home he seduces a girl, who turns out to be his lost sister. She flings herself into the churning river (35). 

Kullervo goes and kills Untamo and his family and burns their house to ashes; he returns home to find his family all dead. He goes to the place where he seduced his sister, and falls on his sword (36).


Runo 37   Ilmarin forges a new (unsatisfactory, cold) wife from gold
Runo 38   Ilmarin’s next (unsatisfactory) wife from Pohjola (his wife’s sister) Runo 39   Väinäimöinen and Ilmarin and Lemminkäinen go to Pohjola
Runo 40   Väinäimöinen makes a pike-jaw kantele (musical instrument)
Runo 41   Väinäimöinen plays on his kantele, charming all who hear it
Runo 42   The Sampo is stolen by Väinäimöinen, and he loses his kantele
Runo 43   Louhi fights back, and the Sampo is broken and sunk in the sea
Runo 44   Väinäimöinen makes a new birch-wood kantele
Runo 45   Louhi conjures up epidemics on the people of Kalevala
Runo 46   Louhi sends a rapacious bear against the cattle of Kalevala
Runo 47   Louhi captures the Sun and the Moon and imprisons them in a hill
Runo 48   The recovery of fire from the belly of the fish that swallowed it
Runo 49   The Sun and the Moon are released and Väinäimöinen sings a hymn
Runo 50   The Virgin Marjatta becomes pregnant by a lingonberry (cranberry) and gives birth to a son; Väinäimöinen thinks he should be killed; the baby rebukes him; it is baptized and made king of Karelia; Väinäimöinen sails off angrily, leaving his kantele to Suomi (Finland), and his songs to his people.