Kalevala Characters
by Elias Lonnrot

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Kaleva, the ancestor of all heroes. Although he never appears in the poem, he is one of the unifying principles of this saga, which is put together from the Finnish folk tales of many generations.


Väinämöinen, the singer-hero, who is the Son of the Wind and the Virgin of the Air. Seeking a daughter of Louhi, the witch, for his wife, Väinämöinen is required to furnish the mother with a magic Sampo that grinds out riches. He provides the Sampo, but the daughter chooses another man for a husband. A large part of Väinämöinen’s story is then concerned with his efforts to recover the Sampo and the catastrophic results of his theft.


Ilmarinen, the smith-hero and forger of the sky and of the Sampo required of Väinämöinen by Louhi. He is in love with Louhi’s daughter and is chosen by her over Väinämöinen.


Lemminkäinen, a warrior-hero, who seeks as a wife a daughter of Louhi.


Joukahäinen, a young man defeated by Väinämöinen in a duel of magic songs.


Aino, Joukahäinen’s sister, who is won in a song duel by Väinämöinen. She drowns herself rather than marry him.


Louhi, a witch, the ruler of Pohjola, and the mother of beautiful daughters sought as wives by Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen, and Lemminkäinen.


Kyllikki, the flower of Saari, who is abducted by Lemminkäinen.


Vipunen, a giant who swallows and disgorges Väinämöinen.


Tiera, Lemminkäinen’s warrior companion.


Kullervo, a sullen, powerful slave who kills Ilmarinen’s wife and ravishes his own sister. In despair, he falls on his sword.


Untamöinen, Kullervo’s uncle, who carries off Kullervo’s mother. When Kullervo grows up, he kills Untamöinen.


Kalervo, Kullervo’s father.


Ukko, the supreme god.


Marjatta, a holy woman and virgin who gives birth to a son in a stable.

The king of Carelia

The king of Carelia, Marjatta’s wise son.