Although the international fame of Elias Lönnrot (LUHN-rawt) rests primarily on the compilation of Kalevala and his extensive contributions to collecting, editing, and popularizing Finnish folklore, he is also recognized as a prominent linguist and literary scholar who helped secure for the Finnish language and oral culture the status of a national language and culture. Lönnrot assembled a massive Finnish-Swedish dictionary. His contributions to the Finnish hymnal are equally copious. Interest in his field trips to eastern Finland and Russian Karelia and Ingria triggered numerous posthumous publications of his travel accounts, diaries, and letters.
Since its publication in 1835, Elias Lönnrot’s Kalevala has continuously provided both national and international validation for Finland’s cultural heritage. Widely acclaimed for having laid the foundations of Finnish as a literary and national language, Kalevala has been translated into forty-seven languages. It has inspired works in literature, the fine and performing arts, design, and architecture, both in Finland and abroad. In Finland, writers, playwrights, and poets Aleksis Kivi, Zacharias Topelius, Lauri Haarla, Juhana Erkko, Eino Leino, Veikko Koskenniemi, and Paavo Haavikko; composers Johan Filip von Schantz and Jean Sibelius; painter-sculptor Akseli Gallen-Kallela; and photojournalist Into Inha all found fruitful source material in Kalevala. Abroad, the work inspired American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Swedish painter Johan Blackstadius, and Swedish sculptor Carl Sjöstrand, among others. Finland celebrates February 28 as Kalevala Day, thereby granting Lönnrot’s epic formal recognition as a national symbol.
Bosley, Keith. The “Kalevala,” an Epic Poem After Oral Tradition by Elias Lönnrot. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Includes a translation of Kalevala, introductory materials, and a bibliography concerning Finnish literature.
Collinder, Björn. The Kalavala and Its Background. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1964. A study of Lönnrot’s use of his sources.
DuBois, Thomas. Finnish Folk Poetry and the “Kalevala.” New York: Garland, 1995. Uses ethnopoetics to explore the relationship between Lönnrot’s epic and Karelian and Ingrian folk poetry. Includes a very good bibliography.
Honko, Lauri, ed. Religion, Myth, and Folklore in the World’s Epics: The “Kalevala” and Its Predecessors. New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1990. A collection of essays focusing on the Kalevala’s mythological significance.
Jones, Michael Owen, ed. The World of the Kalevala. Los Angeles: UCLA Center for the Study of Comparative Folklore and Mythology, 1987. A collection of essays in honor of the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Kalevala, written by folklorists.
Pentikäinen, Juha. Kalevala Mythology. Translated by Ritva Poom. Rev. ed. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1999. A study by an important Finnish folklorist.