Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 536
Elias Lonnrot's Kanteletar, a collection of lyric poems and ballads, was published in 1840-41 as a companion work to the Kalevala. The poems in the Kanteletar , which come from the same oral sources Lonnrot used for his epic work, give a vivid and varied picture of daily life...
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Elias Lonnrot's Kanteletar, a collection of lyric poems and ballads, was published in 1840-41 as a companion work to the Kalevala. The poems in the Kanteletar, which come from the same oral sources Lonnrot used for his epic work, give a vivid and varied picture of daily life in rural Finland: there are laments and jokes; songs of courtship, marriage, and loss; tales of hunters, heroes, women, and children; and much more. Keith Bosley translated one hundred of the Kanteletar poems into English for Oxford University Press's World's Classics series, 1992.
Lonnrot's Old Kalevala (1835) and Proto-Kaleva (c. 1835), along with excerpts from his 1927 university dissertation on Vainamoinen, have been translated into English by Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr., The Old Kalevala and Certain Antecedents (1969).
The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) attempted to imitate the meter and spirit of the Kalevala in his narrative poem The Song of Hiawatha (1855), the tale of a wise and heroic leader of the Ojibway Indian tribe. Controversy surrounding Hiawatha—specifically, whether Longfellow had properly acknowledged the Kalevala as a source—brought the Finnish epic to many people's attention and and led to the first English translation of the Kalevala.
Selections from Eino Leino' s Helkavirsia, a collection of Kalevala-inspired poems written during the period of Russification at the turn of the century, have been translated by Keith Bosley under the title Whitsongs (Menard Press, London, 1978).
Emil Petaja, a Finnish-American author, wrote several science-fiction novels based on the Kalevala myths. Titles include Stolen Sun (1967) and Star Mill (1965).
For information about Finland, consult the FTNFO and Virtual Finland websites at http://www.vn.fi/vn/um/finfo/fmdeng.html and http://www.vn.fi/vn/um/index.html. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland produces these pages and keeps them up to date.
Two Voyagers Ohthere and Wulfstan at the Court of King Alfred (Sessions of York, England, 1984) contains two ninth-century English merchants' accounts of their journeys to northern Norway and Finland. The logs, though brief, are packed with information and firsthand impressions. Explanatory essays accompany the primary sources.
P. H. Sawyer's Kings and Vikings (London, 1982) is a 182-page survey of the Viking Age, with emphasis on Scandinavian society and its links to Western Europe.
Heroic Epic and Saga: An Introduction to the World's Great Folk Epics, edited by Felix J. Oinas (1988) is a collection of fifteen articles on epic literature from the British Isles, Mesopotamia, India, Iran, Russia, Africa, and elsewhere. It also contains a brief and very useful introduction on oral tradition.
Homer's Iliad (c. 800 B.C.) and the Scandinavian Eddas (9th-13th centuries C E.) are works to which Lonnrot compared his Kalevala. The former is the epic of ancient Greece, and the latter are collections of Scandinavian poetry about Norse gods and heroes.
The German Nibelungenlied and the Icelandic Laxdaela Saga, both written in the Middle Ages and available from Penguin Classics, provide interesting contrasts to the shamanistic world of the Kalevala.
Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (Penguin Classics), a thirteenth-century German chivalric romance, features a hero much like Lemminkainen —powerful, yet rash and young. It tells of the quest for the Holy Grail, a mysterious object, somewhat analogous to the Sampo, which magically produces food and drink for its owners.