Kalevala : the Epic Poem of Finland — Volume 01 online

. (page 1 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by John B. Hare and Carrie R. Lorenz.














RUNE I. Birth of Wainamoinen
RUNE II. Wainamoinen's Sowing
RUNE III. Wainamoinen and Youkahainen
RUNE IV. The Fate of Aino
RUNE V. Wainamoinen's Lamentation
RUNE VI. Wainamoinen's Hapless Journey
RUNE VII. Wainamoinen's Rescue
RUNE VIII. Maiden of the Rainbow
RUNE IX. Origin of Iron
RUNE X. Ilmarinen forges the Sampo
RUNE XI. Lemminkainen's Lament
RUNE XII. Kyllikki's Broken Vow
RUNE XIII. Lemminkainen's Second Wooing
RUNE XIV. Death of Lemminkainen
RUNE XV. Lemminkainen's Restoration
RUNE XVI. Wainainoinen's Boat-building
RUNE XVII. Wainamoinen finds the Lost Word
RUNE XVIII. The Rival Suitors
RUNE XIX. Ilmarinen's Wooing
RUNE XX. The Brewing of Beer
RUNE XXI. Ilmarinen's Wedding-feast
RUNE XXII. The Bride's Farewell
RUNE XXIII. Osmotar, the Bride-adviser
RUNE XXIV. The Bride's Farewell
RUNE XXV. Wainamoinen's Wedding-songs
RUNE XXVI. Origin of the Serpent
RUNE XXVII. The Unwelcome Guest
RUNE XXVIII. The Mother's Counsel
RUNE XXIX. The Isle of Refuge
RUNE XXX. The Frost-fiend
RUNE XXXI. Kullerwoinen, Son of Evil
RUNE XXXII. Kullervo as a Shepherd
RUNE XXXIII. Kullervo and the Cheat-cake
RUNE XXXIV. Kullervo finds his Tribe-folk
RUNE XXXV. Kullervo's Evil Deeds
RUNE XXXVI. Kullerwoinen's Victory and Death
RUNE XXXVII Ilmarinen's Bride of Gold
RUNE XXXVIII. Ilmarinen's Fruitless Wooing
RUNE XXXIX. Wainamoinen's Sailing
RUNE XL. Birth of the Harp
RUNE XLI. Wainamoinen's Harp-songs
RUNE XLII. Capture of the Sampo
RUNE XLIII. The Sampo lost in the Sea
RUNE XLIV. Birth of the Second Harp
RUNE XLV. Birth of the Nine Diseases
RUNE XLVI. Otso the Honey-eater
RUNE XLVII. Louhi steals Sun, Moon, and Fire
RUNE XLVIII. Capture of the Fire-fish
RUNE XLIX. Restoration of the Sun and Moon
RUNE L. Mariatta - Wainamoinen's Departure



The following translation was undertaken from a desire to lay before
the English-speaking people the full treasury of epical beauty,
folklore, and mythology comprised in The Kalevala, the national epic of
the Finns. A brief description of this peculiar people, and of their
ethical, linguistic, social, and religious life, seems to be called for
here in order that the following poem may be the better understood.

Finland (Finnish, Suomi or Suomenmaa, the swampy region, of which
Finland, or Fen-land is said to be a Swedish translation,) is at
present a Grand-Duchy in the north-western part of the Russian empire,
bordering on Olenetz, Archangel, Sweden, Norway, and the Baltic Sea,
its area being more than 144,000 square miles, and inhabited by some
2,000,000 of people, the last remnants of a race driven back from the
East, at a very early day, by advancing tribes. The Finlanders live in
a land of marshes and mountains, lakes and rivers, seas, gulfs,
islands, and inlets, and they call themselves Suomilainen,
Fen-dwellers. The climate is more severe than that of Sweden. The
mean yearly temperature in the north is about 27°F., and about 38°F., at
Helsingfors, the capital of Finland. In the southern districts the
winter is seven months long, and in the northern provinces the sun
disappears entirely during the months of December and January.

The inhabitants are strong and hardy, with bright, intelligent faces,
high cheek-bones, yellow hair in early life, and with brown hair in
mature age. With regard to their social habits, morals, and manners,
all travellers are unanimous in speaking well of them. Their temper is
universally mild; they are slow to anger, and when angry they keep
silence. They are happy-hearted, affectionate to one another, and
honorable and honest in their dealings with strangers. They are a
cleanly people, being much given to the use of vapor-baths. This trait
is a conspicuous note of their character from their earliest history to
the present day. Often in the runes of The Kalevala reference is made
to the "cleansing and healing virtues of the vapors of the heated

The skull of the Finn belongs to the brachycephalic (short-headed)
class of Retzius. Indeed the Finn-organization has generally been
regarded as Mongol, though Mongol of a modified type. His color is
swarthy, and his eyes are gray. He is not inhospitable, but not
over-easy of access; nor is he a friend of new fashions. Steady,
careful, laborious, he is valuable in the mine, valuable in the field,
valuable oil shipboard, and, withal, a brave soldier on land.

The Finns are a very ancient people. It is claimed, too, that they
began earlier than any other European nation to collect and preserve
their ancient folk-lore. Tacitus, writing in the very beginning of the
second century of the Christian era, mentions the Fenni, as he calls
them, in the 46th chapter of his De Moribus Germanoram. He says of
them: "The Finns are extremely wild, and live in abject poverty. They
have no arms, no horses, no dwellings; they live on herbs, they clothe
themselves in skins, and they sleep on the ground. Their only
resources are their arrows, which for the lack of iron are tipped with
bone." Strabo and the great geographer, Ptolemy, also mention this
curious people. There is evidence that at one time they were spread
over large portions of Europe and western Asia.

Perhaps it should be stated here that the copper, so often mentioned in
The Kalevala, when taken literally, was probably bronze, or "hardened
copper," the amount and quality of the alloy used being not now known.
The prehistoric races of Europe were acquainted with bronze implements.

It may be interesting to note in this connection that Canon Isaac
Taylor, and Professor Sayce have but very recently awakened great
interest in this question, in Europe especially, by the reading of
papers before the British Philological Association, in which they argue
in favor of the Finnic origin of the Aryans. For this new theory these
scholars present exceedingly strong evidence, and they conclude that
the time of the separation of the Aryan from the Finnic stock must have
been more than five thousand years ago.

The Finnish nation has one of the most sonorous and flexible of
languages. Of the cultivated tongues of Europe, the Magyar, or
Hungarian, bears the most positive signs of a deep-rooted similarity to
the Finnish. Both belong to the Ugrian stock of agglutinative
languages, i.e., those which preserve the root most carefully, and
effect all changes of grammar by suffixes attached to the original
stein. Grimin has shown that both Gothic and Icelandic present traces
of Finnish influence.

The musical element of a language, the vowels, are well developed in
Finnish, and their due sequence is subject to strict rules of euphony.
The dotted o; (equivalent to the French eu) of the first syllable must
be followed by an e or an i. The Finnish, like all Ugrian tongues,
admits rhyme, but with reluctance, and prefers alliteration. Their
alphabet consists of but nineteen letters, and of these, b, c, d, f, g,
are found only in a few foreign words, and many others are never found

One of the characteristic features of this language, and one that is
likewise characteristic of the Magyar, Turkish, Mordvin, and other
kindred tongues, consists in the frequent use of endearing diminutives.
By a series of suffixes to the names of human beings, birds, fishes,
trees, plants, stones, metals, and even actions, events, and feelings,
diminutives are obtained, which by their form, present the names so
made in different colors; they become more naive, more childlike,
eventually more roguish, or humorous, or pungent. These traits can
scarcely be rendered in English; for, as Robert Ferguson remarks: "The
English language is not strong in diminutives, and therefore it lacks
some of the most effective means for the expression of affectionate,
tender, and familiar relations." In this respect all translations from
the Finnish into English necessarily must fall short of the original.
The same might be said of the many emotional interjections in which the
Finnish, in common with all Ugrian dialects, abounds. With the
exception of these two characteristics of the Ugrian languages, the
chief beauties of the Finnish verse admit of an apt rendering into
English. The structure of the sentences is very simple indeed, and
adverbs and adjectives are used sparingly.

Finnish is the language of a people who live pre-eminently close to
nature, and are at home amongst the animals of the wilderness, beasts
and birds, winds, and woods, and waters, falling snows, and flying
sands, and rolling rocks, and these are carefully distinguished by
corresponding verbs of ever-changing acoustic import. Conscious of the
fact that, in a people like the Finns where nature and nature-worship
form the centre of all their life, every word connected with the powers
and elements of nature must be given its fall value, great care has
been taken in rendering these finely shaded verbs. A glance at the
mythology of this interesting people will place the import of this
remark in better view.

In the earliest age of Suomi, it appears that the people worshiped the
conspicuous objects in nature under their respective, sensible forms.
All beings were persons. The Sun, Moon, Stars, the Earth, the Air, and
the Sea, were to the ancient Finns, living, self-conscious beings.
Gradually the existence of invisible agencies and energies was
recognized, and these were attributed to superior persons who lived
independent of these visible entities, but at the same time were
connected with them. The basic idea in Finnish mythology seems to lie
in this: that all objects in nature are governed by invisible deities,
termed haltiat, regents or genii. These haltiat, like members of the
human family, have distinctive bodies and spirits; but the minor ones
are somewhat immaterial and formless, and their existences are entirely
independent of the objects in which they are particularly interested.
They are all immortal, but they rank according to the relative
importance of their respective charges. The lower grades of the
Finnish gods are sometimes subservient to the deities of greater
powers, especially to those who rule respectively the air, the water,
the field, and the forest. Thus, Pilajatar, the daughter of the aspen,
although as divine as Tapio, the god of the woodlands, is necessarily
his servant.
One of the most notable characteristics of the Finnish mythology is
the interdependence among the gods. "Every deity", says Castren,
"however petty he may be, rules in his own sphere as a substantial,
independent power, or, to speak in the spirit of The Kalevala, as a
self-ruling householder. The god of the Polar-star only governs an
insignificant spot in the vault of the sky, but on this spot he knows
no master."

The Finnish deities, like the ancient gods of Italy and Greece, are
generally represented in pairs, and all the gods are probably wedded.
They have their individual abodes and are surrounded by their
respective families. The Primary object of worship among the early
Finns was most probably the visible sky with its sun, moon, and stars,
its aurora-lights, its thunders and its lightnings. The heavens
themselves were thought divine. Then a personal deity of the heavens,
coupled with the name of his abode, was the next conception; finally
this sky-god was chosen to represent the supreme Ruler. To the sky,
the sky-god, and the supreme God, the term Jumala (thunder-home) was

In course of time, however, when the Finns came to have more purified
ideas about religion, they called the sky Taivas and the sky-god Ukko.
The word, Ukko, seems related to the Magyar Agg, old, and meant,
therefore, an old being, a grandfather; but ultimately it came to be
used exclusively as the name of the highest of the Finnish deities.
Frost, snow, hail, ice, wind and rain, sunshine and shadow, are thought
to come from the hands of Ukko. He controls the clouds; he is called
in The Kalevala, "The Leader of the Clouds," "The Shepherd of the
Lamb-Clouds," "The God of the Breezes," "The Golden King," "The Silvern
Ruler of the Air," and "The Father of the Heavens." He wields the
thunder-bolts, striking down the spirits of evil on the mountains, and
is therefore termed, "The Thunderer," like the Greek Zeus, and his
abode is called, "The Thunder-Home." Ukko is often represented as
sitting upon a cloud in the vault of the sky, and bearing on his
shoulders the firmament, and therefore he is termed, "The Pivot of the
Heavens." He is armed as an omnipotent warrior; his fiery arrows are
forged from copper, the lightning is his sword, and the rainbow his
bow, still called Ukkon Kaari. Like the German god, Thor, Ukko swings
a hammer; and, finally, we find, in a vein of familiar symbolism, that
his skirt sparkles with fire, that his stockings are blue, and his
shoes, crimson colored.

In the following runes, Ukko here and there interposes. Thus, when the
Sun and Moon were stolen from the heavens, and hidden away in a cave of
the copper-bearing mountain, by the wicked hostess of the dismal
Sariola, he, like Atlas in the mythology of Greece, relinquishes the
support of the heavens, thunders along the borders of the darkened
clouds, and strikes fire from his sword to kindle a new sun and a new
moon. Again, when Lemminkainen is hunting the fire-breathing horse of
Piru, Ukko, invoked by the reckless hero, checks the speed of the
mighty courser by opening the windows of heaven, and showering upon him
flakes of snow, balls of ice, and hailstones of iron. Usually,
however, Ukko prefers to encourage a spirit of independence among his
worshipers. Often we find him, in the runes, refusing to heed the call
of his people for help, as when Ilmatar, the daughter of the air,
vainly invoked him to her aid, that Wainamoinen, already seven hundred
years unborn, might be delivered. So also Wainamoinen beseeches Ukko
in vain to check the crimson streamlet flowing from his knee wounded by
an axe in the hands of Hisi. Ukko, however, with all his power, is by
no means superior to the Sun, Moon, and other bodies dwelling in the
heavens; they are uninfluenced by him, and are considered deities in
their own right. Thus, Paeivae means both sun and sun-god; Kun means
moon and moon-god; and Taehti and Ottava designate the Polar-star and
the Great Bear respectively, as well as the deities of these bodies.

The Sun and the Moon have each a consort, and sons, and daughters. Two
sons only of Paeivae appear in The Kalevala, one comes to aid
Wainamoinen in his efforts to destroy the mystic Fire-fish, by throwing
from the heavens to the girdle of the hero, a "magic knife,
silver-edged, and golden-handled;" the other son, Panu, the Fire-child,
brings back to Kalevala the fire that bad been stolen by Louhi, the
wicked hostess of Pohyola. From this myth Castren argues that the
ancient Finns regarded fire as a direct emanation from the Sun. The
daughters of the Sun, Moon, Great Bear, Polar-star, and of the other
heavenly dignitaries, are represented as ever-young and beautiful
maidens, sometimes seated on the bending branches of the forest-trees,
sometimes on the crimson rims of the clouds, sometimes on the rainbow,
sometimes on the dome of heaven. These daughters are believed to be
skilled to perfection in the arts of spinning and weaving,
accomplishments probably attributed to them from the fanciful likeness
of the rays of light to the warp of the weaver's web.

The Sun's career of usefulness and beneficence in bringing light and
life to Northland is seldom varied. Occasionally he steps from his
accustomed path to give important information to his suffering
worshipers. For example, when the Star and the Moon refuse the
information, the Sun tells the Virgin Mariatta, where her golden infant
lies bidden.

"Yonder is thy golden infant,
There thy holy babe lies sleeping,
Hidden to his belt in water,
Hidden in the reeds and rushes."

Again when the devoted mother of the reckless hero, Lemminkainen,
(chopped to pieces by the Sons Of Nana, as in the myth of Osiris) was
raking together the fragments of his body from the river of Tuoui, and
fearing that the sprites of the Death-stream might resent her
intrusion, the Sun, in answer to her entreaties, throws his Powerful
rays upon the dreaded Shades, and sinks them into a deep sleep, while
the mother gathers up the fragments of her son's body in safety. This
rune of the Kalevala is particularly interesting as showing the belief
that the dead can be restored to life through the blissful light of

Among the other deities of the air are the Luonnotars, mystic maidens,
three of whom were created by the rubbing of Ukko's hands upon his left
knee. They forthwith walk the crimson borders of the clouds, and one
sprinkles white milk, one sprinkles red milk, and the third sprinkles
black milk over the hills and mountains; thus they become the "mothers
of iron," as related in the ninth rune of The Kalevala. In the highest
regions of the heavens, Untar, or Undutar, has her abode, and presides
over mists and fogs. These she passes through a silver sieve before
sending them to the earth. There are also goddesses of the winds, one
especially noteworthy, Suvetar (suve, south, summer), the goddess of
the south-wind. She is represented as a kind-hearted deity, healing
her sick and afflicted followers with honey, which she lets drop from
the clouds, and she also keeps watch over the herds grazing in the
fields and forests.
Second only to air, water is the element held most in reverence by the
Finns and their kindred tribes. "It could hardly be otherwise," says
Castren, "for as soon as the soul of the savage began to suspect that
the godlike is spiritual, super-sensual, then, even though he continues
to pay reverence to matter, he in general values it the more highly the
less compact it is. He sees on the one hand how easy it is to lose his
life on the surging waves, and on the other, he sees that from these
same waters he is nurtured, and his life prolonged." Thus it is that
the map of Finland is to this day full of names like Pyhojarvi (sacred
lake) and Pyhajoki (sacred river). Some of the Finlanders still offer
goats and calves to these sacred waters; and many of the Ugrian clans
still sacrifice the reindeer to the river Ob. In Esthonia is a
rivulet, Vohanda, held in such reverence that until very recently, none
dared to fell a tree or cut a shrub in its immediate vicinity, lest
death should overtake the offender within a year, in punishment for his
sacrilege. The lake, Eim, is still held sacred by the Esthonians, and
the Eim-legend is thus told by F. Thiersch, quoted also by Grimm and by
Mace da Charda:

"Savage, evil men dwelt by its borders. They neither mowed the meadows
which it watered, nor sowed the fields which it made fruitful, but
robbed and murdered, insomuch that its clear waves grew dark with the
blood of the slaughtered men. Then did the lake Him mourn, and one
evening it called together all its fishes, and rose aloft with them
into the air. When the robbers heard the sound, they exclaimed: 'Eim
hath arisen; let us gather its fishes and treasures.' But the fishes
had departed with the lake, and nothing was found on the bottom but
snakes, and lizards, and toads. And Eim rose higher, and higher, and
hastened through the air like a white cloud. And the hunters in the
forest said: 'What bad weather is coming on!' The herdsmen said: 'What
a white swan is flying above there!' For the whole night the lake
hovered among the stars, and in the morning the reapers beheld it
sinking. And from the swan grew a white ship, and from the ship a dark
train of clouds; and a voice came from the waters: 'Get thee hence with
thy harvest, for I will dwell beside thee.' Then they bade the lake
welcome, if it would only bedew their fields and meadows; and it sank
down and spread itself out in its home to the full limits. Then the
lake made all the neighborhood fruitful, and the fields became green,
and the people danced around it, so that the old men grew joyous as the

The chief water-god is Ahto, on the etymology of which the Finnish
language throws little light. It is curiously like Ahti, another name
for the reckless Lemminkainen. This water-god, or "Wave-host," as he
is called, lives with his "cold and cruel-hearted spouse," Wellamo, at
the bottom of the sea, in the chasms of the Salmon-rocks, where his
palace, Ahtola, is constructed. Besides the fish that swim in his
dominions, particularly the salmon, the trout, the whiting, the perch,
the herring, and the white-fish, he possesses a priceless treasure in
the Sampo, the talisman of success, which Louhi, the hostess of
Pohyola, dragged into the sea in her efforts to regain it from the
heroes of Kalevala. Ever eager for the treasures of others, and
generally unwilling to return any that come into his possession, Ahto
is not incapable of generosity. For example, once when a shepherd lad
was whittling a stick on the bank of a river, he dropped his knife into
the stream. Ahto, as in the fable, "Mercury and the Woodman," moved by
the tears of the unfortunate lad, swam to the scene, dived to the
bottom, brought up a knife of gold, and gave it to the young shepherd.
Innocent and honest, the herd-boy said the knife was not his. Then
Ahto dived again, and brought up a knife of silver, which he gave to
the lad, but this in turn was not accepted. Thereupon the Wave-host
dived again, and the third time brought the right knife to the boy who
gladly recognized his own, and received it with gratitude. To the
shepherd-lad Ahto gave the three knives as a reward for his honesty.

A general term for the other water-hosts living not only in the sea,
but also in the rivers, lakes, cataracts, and fountains, is Ahtolaiset
(inhabitants of Ahtola), "Water-people," "People of the Foam and
Billow," "Wellamo's Eternal People." Of these, some have specific
names; as Allotar (wave-goddess), Koskenneiti (cataract-maiden),
Melatar (goddess of the helm), and in The Kalevala these are sometimes
personally invoked. Of these minor deities, Pikku Mies (the Pigmy) is
the most noteworthy. Once when the far-outspreading branches of the
primitive oak-tree shut out the light of the sun from Northland, Pikku
Mies, moved by the entreaties of Wainamoinen, emerged from the sea in a
suit of copper, with a copper hatchet in his belt, quickly grew from a
pigmy to a gigantic hero, and felled the mighty oak with the third
stroke of his axe. In general the water-deities are helpful and full
of kindness; some, however, as Wetehilien and Iku-Turso, find their
greatest pleasure in annoying and destroying their fellow-beings.

Originally the Finlanders regarded the earth as a godlike existence
with personal powers, and represented as a beneficent mother bestowing
peace and plenty on all her worthy worshipers. In evidence of this we
find the names, Maa-emae (mother-earth), and Maan-emo (mother of the
earth), given to the Finnish Demeter. She is always represented as a
goddess of great powers, and, after suitable invocation, is ever
willing and able to help her helpless sufferers. She is according to
some mythologists espoused to Ukko, who bestows upon her children the
blessings of sunshine and rain, as Ge is wedded to Ouranos, Jordh to
Odhin, and Papa to Rangi.

Of the minor deities of the earth, who severally govern the plants,
such as trees, rye, flax, and barley, Wirokannas only is mentioned in
The Kalevala. Once, for example, this "green robed Priest of the
Forest" abandoned for a time his presidency over the cereals in order
to baptize the infant-son of the Virgin Mariatta. Once again
Wirokannas left his native sphere of action, this time making a most
miserable and ludicrous failure, when he emerged from the wilderness
and attempted to slay the Finnish Taurus, as described in the runes
that follow. The agricultural deities, however, receive but little
attention from the Finns, who, with their cold and cruel winters, and
their short but delightful summers, naturally neglect the cultivation
of the fields, for cattle-raising, fishing, and hunting.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21