The Kalevala, the Epic of Finnish mythology

The Kalevala, the Epic of Finnish mythology


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The Kalevala is a epic poetry work written in the 19th century by Elias Lönnrot, considered the Epic of Finland and where we can find a lot of myths about divinities of Finnish mythology.

What is the Kalevala?

It consists of a great compilation of Karelian and Finnish folklore and mythologies, transmitted orally through generations and that Lönnrot himself collected during years of travels throughout the country.

Besides being considered the Finnish national epic, is in turn one of the most important works of Finnish literature, being the main instrument of the development of national identity.

At the same time, it intensified the country's linguistic conflict, which, together with the rise of nationalism, led to the Finland's independence from Russia in 1917.

The first version of the Kalevala (known as the old Kalevala) was published in 1835, while the best known version that is used today is from 1849 and consists of 22,795 verses, divided into 50 popular stories.

Kalevala content

The Kalevala begins with the Finnish creation myth and the origin of the earth, plants, creatures and the sky from the hand of Ilmatar, Väinämöinen's mother.

In the poems we find many stories of spells, songs, lust, romances, kidnapping and seduction, something similar to what happens in many other mythologies.

The protagonists of stories must frequently accomplish impossible or unreasonable feats, which they often fail to achieve, leading to tragedy and humiliation.

The fundamental element of the whole work is the sampo, a talisman or magic item that causes many actions and consequences of the stories, or that it intercedes and interacts with the characters so that they are the ones who initiate them.

The Kalevala Characters

In the Kalevala we find many similarities with other mythologies or folklores, finding as clearer examples the character of Kullervo, whose story is similar to that of the Greek Oedipus, wave virgin Marjatta with the Christian Virgin Mary.

Throughout the poems, various characters are introduced who are the ones who carry out the actions, who sing their exploits or wishes.

In many cases, these characters are usually hunting or casting spells in order to acquire abilities, allowing them to continue evolving.

Main characters

Väinämöinen - The central character, similar to Orpheus in Greek mythology.

Ilmarinen - Is a Daedalus-like hero in Greek mythology, and creator of the dome of heaven, the Sampo, and various magical objects in the work.

Lemminkäinen - Handsome, arrogant and reckless man. Son of Lempi, in the Kalevala echoes the osiris myth.

Ukko - God of the sky and thunder, and main deity of the book. It corresponds to Zeus and to Thor.

Joukahainen - Young man who arrogantly defies Väinämöinen, and after losing to him, he offers his sister Aino.

Louhi - She is the shamanic matriarch of the town of Pohjola, who rivals the Kalevala, being the cause of many of the problems of the Kalevala population.

Kullervo - Vengeful Son of Kalervo

Marjatta - The young virgin of Kalevala, who becomes pregnant after eating a cranberry. When she is about to give birth, she is expelled from her parents' house and looks for a place where she can have her child. Its nature, impregnation and the search for a place to give birth, are an allegory of the Virgin Mary and the Christianization of Finland.

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