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While these excursions into the realm of magic
and descriptions of life on a huge scale have their
interest, it must be admitted that after a time they
become tedious to any but a student of folk-lore.
They create an atmosphere of primitive life, indeed,
but there is too much of it. The most attractive
and interesting side of the poem, apart from its
literary beauties, is the descriptions it gives of the
manners and customs of the primitive Finns.

-/There are many references to agriculture, but the
real interests of the men are rather to be found in
hunting, fighting, magic and love. When Lemmin-
kainen desires the daughter of Louhi in marriage he
is set three tasks: to capture the elk of Hiisi, to
bridle the fire-breathing horse of Hiisi, and to shoot
a certain swan all exploits of the hunter and a
whole runo is devoted to the description of how
.Wainamoinen killed a bear and of the great feast
that followed. Fighting, however, plays a smaller
part than in most other epics and does not seem to
have been regarded with great enthusiasm, but
rather as an unavoidable evil. It is usually an in-
dividual affair, and although one hears of bodies of
men engaged in it, as in the great struggle for the
Sampo, what most interested the audience was evi-
dently the description of single combats. Magic
plays an important part in fighting and is resorted
to where possible as a substitute for physical force.
In fact, war is at least as much a matter of super-
natural as of natural agencies. The heroes are not
ashamed of telling lies to their enemies; indeed, it
seems rather creditable to do so if one is not found



128 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

out. Nor are they ashamed to express their feelings
by weeping. They have a great and almost childish
delight in bright fresh objects, such as axes, swords,
nicely appointed sledges and shields. Take, for in-
stance, this description of a boat built by Waina-
moinen :

There the pale grey boat is lying,
And the boat with red he painted,
And adorned the prow with gilding,
And with silver overlaid it;
Then upon the morning after,
Very early in the morning,
Pushed his boat into the water,
In the waves the hundred-boarded,
Pushed it from the barkless rollers,
Prom the rounded logs of pine-tree.
Then he raised a mast upon it;
On the masts the sails he hoisted,
Raised a red sail on the vessel,
And another blue in colour;
Then the boat himself he boarded,
And he walked upon the planking.
And upon the sea he steered it,
O'er the blue and plashing billows.

Here, again, is a description of a spear:

Then the smith a spear constructed,
Not a long one, not a short one,
But of middle length he forged it.
On the blade a wolf was sitting,
On the edge a bear was standing,
At the joint an elk was trotting,
On the shaft a colt was running,
At the end a reindeer leaping.
Then fresh snow was gently falling,
And a little snow had drifted
As it drifts in early autumn,
White as is the hare in winter.



t

THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS 129

Nor are they indifferent to their personal appear-
ance and to the joy of bright colours, as the follow-
ing description of Ilmarinen dressing for his wed-
ding shows:

Then she brought him finest stockings,

Which, as maid, had wove his mother,

And with these his shins he covered,

And his calves were hidden by them.

Then she brought him shoes that fitted,

Best of Saxon boots she brought him,

And with these the stockings covered

Which his mother sewed as maiden;

Then a coat of blue she chose him,

With a liver-coloured lining,

Covering thus the shirt of linen,

Which of finest flax was fashioned;

Then an overcoat of woollen,

Of four kinds of cloth constructed,

O'er the coat of bluish colour,

Of the very latest fashion,

And a new fur, thousand-buttoned,

And a hundred-fold more splendid,

O'er the overcoat of woollen,

And the cloth completely hiding;

Round his waist a belt she fastened,

And the belt was gold-embroidered,

Which his mother wrought as maiden,

Wrought it when a fair-haired maiden;

Brightly coloured gloves she brought him. . . .

Which his father once had purchased,

When as bridegroom he adorned him.

As regards home-life and family relationships,
the people of Kalevala have an extraordinary affec-
^iion for their mothers. This, indeed, is one of the
most beautiful features of the poems. The bride,
when she is being instructed in her new duties, is
warned never to forget her own mother : =



130 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

For it was thy mother reared thee,
And her beauteous breasts that nursed thee,
Prom her own delightful body,
From her form of perfect whiteness.
Many nights has she lain sleepless,
Many meals has she forgotten,
While she rocked thee in her cradle,
jW"atching fondly o'er her infant.

If she forgets her mother the daughters of the
kingdom of death will reproach her:

Why hast thou forgot thy mother,
Or despised thy dearest mother?
Great the sufferings of thy mother,
Great her sufferings when she bore thee,
Lying groaning in the bath-room,
On a couch of straw extended,
When she gave thee thy existence,
Giving birth to thee, the vile one!

Wainamoinen, hero and sage as he is, turns to his
mother for comfort in his distress, saying :

Would my mother now were living,
And my aged mother waking!
She would surely tell me truly
How to best support my trouble,
That my grief may not overwhelm me,
And my sorrow may not crush me,
In these weary days of evil,
In this time of deep depression.

Even the rascally Lemminkainen pities his mother
when he realizes how all her children are scattered
and remembers

How like flowers we gathered round thee,
In one homeland, just like berries.



THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS 131

He turns to her for aid in every scrape. One of
the finest episodes in the "Kalevala" is that in which
Lemminkainen's mother, learning of her son's
death, goes in search of his body, rakes the water of
the cataract in which he has been drowned until
she has collected all the scattered fragments and
joined them into a whole, and restores him to life
with the help of magic and the gods.

The formidable position occupied by the mother
in a household is seen from the instructions given
to the bride as regards her attitude to her mother-in-
law. The newly married couple did not have a
separate establishment, but lived patriarchally in
the house of the bridegroom's parents, and the
mother-in-law could, if she chose, make herself re-
markably unpleasant to the young bride and give
her all the hard work. An old woman warns the
bride of her own sad experiences in this respect
saying :

Fodder gathered I in summer,
Winter worked I with the pitchfork,
Even as a labourer toiling,
Even as a hired servant,
And my mother-in-law for ever,
Evermore for me selected
"Worst of all the flails of threshing,
Heaviest mallet from the bath-room,
From the beach the heaviest mallet,
In the stall the largest pitchfork.
Never did they think me weary,
Nor my weakness e'er considered,
Though my work had wearied heroes,
Or the strength of foals exhausted.

Old women were often powerful magicians, and



132 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

this, no doubt, accounts in part for the respect in
which they were held. The young wife, on the
other hand, seems to have been very much kept
in her place, and going to a new home was almost as
delicate an operation for her as walking on eggs.
The instructions given her are of real interest,
throwing much light on the life of that time. For
instance :

If you see the Great Bear clearly,
With his front to south directed,
And his tail extending northward,
Then 'tis time for thee to rouse thee
From the side of thy young husband,
Leaving him asleep and ruddy,
Fire to seek among the ashes,
Seeking for a spark in fire-box,
Blowing then the fire discreetly,
That from carelessness it spread not.

After lighting the fire there are the cattle to be
attended to, and by the time that is done the baby
will be crying, and she must return home "like a
blizzard " to comfort it. The room has to be done,
so she comes along with a bucket of water, a besom,
and a pine-chip, and has to be kind even to other
people's babies who may interrupt her:

Sweep thou then the floor to cleanness,
Sweep thou carefully the planking,
And upon the floor pour water,
Not upon the heads of babies.
If you see a child there lying,
Though thy sister-in-law's the infant,
Up upon the bench then lift it,
Wash its eyes, and smooth its hair down,
Put some bread into its handles, .



THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS 133

And upon the bread spread butter;
But if bread perchance be wanting
Put a chip into its handies.

The cleaning of the room is a really formidable
affair, but she must never venture to get tired or
rest; for her husband will be coming in from his
work and she must take him a basin and towel and
be nice to him. And then there is her mother-in-law
to help. Water has to be fetched, the dough has to
be kneaded, the corn must be ground in a handmill,
logs have to be taken to the bakehouse, the oven
heated and the baking done. She must not linger
with her bucket by the water, lest her father-in-law
or mother-in-law imagine that she wishes to see her
charms reflected there, which would never do. She
must make no noise when she gets the wood, because
they might think she was flinging it about in a tem-
per. When she does the washing-up she must be
careful to count the spoons and dishes, for there are
dogs, cats and birds about and "the village swarms
with children." Then there is spinning and weav-
ing to be done, for the family requires thick woolen
garments, and there is also ale to be brewed. The
young wife must be careful to stir the ale with her
hands and not use a stick, and when she has to go
out at night to look after it she must not be afraid
of the wolves. In the evening her father-in-law will
want his bath, and she must go out to the bath-house
and prepare everything. And she must be quick
about it, or her parents-in-law will imagine she is
wasting her time, "on the bench her head reclin-
ing."



134 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

When a stranger comes she should not resent
it:

For a well-appointed household
Always has for guests provision:
Scraps of meat that are not needed,
Cakes of bread the very nicest.

She must amuse him with her conversation, but
when he goes she must not accompany him farther
than the house door, lest her husband should be
angry or gloomy. If she wants to go into the village
she must ask leave first, and be careful what she
says when she gets there. Thus, if asked whether
her mother-in-law allows her butter, she must an-
swer that she gives it to her by the spoonful, and
must never let on that she only does it grudgingly
about twice a year.

From other parts of the poem one infers that the
mother-in-law was not always as black as she is
painted for the bride's edification. There is, indeed,
a special element of heightening or exaggeration in
the long description of the marriage in the "Kale-
vala" which shows that we have to deal with a
rather elaborate form of ritual prescribed for the
occasion. The bride is required to weep bitterly on
account of the breaking with her old life. She is
then comforted and instructed in her duties, after
which an old woman frightens her by recounting
the terrible experiences she herself had as a wife.
Then the bridegroom is instructed in his turn, after
which the farewell is said and the two drive away
and receive a tremendous welcome at the bride-



THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS 135

groom >s home, the bride being greeted in words
such as the following :

Noble damsel, fairest aamse.,
With thy beautiful complexion,
In the house wilt thou be honoured,
As in f ather's house the daughter,
All thy life shalt thou be honoured,
As in husband's house the mistress.

The bridegroom's duties are unfortunately not
given so fully as those of the bride, the chief em-
phasis being laid on good treatment of the wife.
If she proves thoroughly recalcitrant, however, he
is recommended to use physical force but only after
he has tried every other means :

Bridegroom, give thy bride instruction.
And do thou instruct thy apple,
In the bed do thou instruct her,
And behind the door advise her;
For a whole year thus instruct her,
Thus by word of mouth advise her.
With thine eyes the next year teach her,
And the next year teach by stamping ;
If to this she pays no heeding,
Nor concerns herself about it,
Choose a reed where reeds are growing,
From the heath fetch thou some horse tail,
And with these correct the damsel,
In the fourth year thus correct her.
With the stalks then whip her lightly,
With the rough edge of the sedges,
But with whip-lash do not strike her,
Neither with the rod correct her.
If to this she pays no heeding,
Nor concerns herself about it,
Bring a switch from out the thicket,
In the dell select a birch-rod,
Underneath thy fur cloak hide it,



136 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

That the neighbours may not know it,

Let the damsel only see it;

Threaten her, but do not touch her.

If to this she pays no heeding,

Nor concerns herself about it,

With the switch correct the damsel,

With the birch-rod do thou teach her,

But within the room four-cornered,

Or within the hut moss-covered.

Do not beat her in the meadow,

Do not whip her in the cornfield,

Lest the noise should reach the village,

And to other homes the quarrel,

Neighbours' wives should hear the crying,

And the uproar in the forest.

One does not find in the "Kalevala" a very high
ideal of love, and throughout the poem the mother
seems more highly venerated than the wife. The
sexes are very free in their relations, and there is
little trace of chivalrous feeling between them.
Most of the heroes seem to regard women as their
fair prey. Even Wainamoinen, the most sympa-
thetic of them, hardly shines in his pressing of his
suit upon the girlish Aino. Marriage by capture
seems common. Lemminkainen, after having en-
joyed the favours of every woman but one in the
village which he visits, finally carries off that one by
force. Ilmarinen, also, wins one of his wives in a
similar manner, only to turn her into a seagull when
she persists in being hostile to him. Irregular rela-
tions are not, indeed, approved of in theory, but are
so common in practice that the theory seems almost
a dead-letter. No doubt, however, the heroes en-
joyed a greater license in these matters than the
common herd and are not to be taken as entirely



THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS 137

typical of the latter. Faithfulness to a past love
seems to enter no one's head.

The amusements of the primitive Finns consisted
largely in feasting, bathing, and singing. One of
the most spirited descriptions in the "Kalevala" is
that of the great wedding banquet. All is on a
gigantic scale. The ox, which is of middle size only,
is so big that a swallow cannot fly between the tips
of its horns in a day and a squirrel takes a full
month to run from its neck to the tip of its tail, and
the house was of such dimensions that

If a cock crowed at the smoke-hole,
Underneath they could not hear it;
If a dog at end was barking,
At the door they did not hear it.

(The speeches, alas! are on a similar scale.) The
hostess, however, feels called upon to reply to the
bridegroom's compliments on the splendid hall in
the following terms :

Hail, all hail to thee who enters
In this room of small dimensions,
In this very lowly cottage,
In this wretched house of firewood,
In this house of pine constructed.

The singing of the heroes is frequently described.
A harp was used, the singer accompanying himself.
Wainamoinen's singing was especially wonderful,
and there is a fine detailed description of how all
the creatures of earth and air and water came to
hear him and grouped themselves around him as
he sat on the singer's stone,



138 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

On a hill all silver-shining,
From a golden heath arising,

and how the emotions of the singer swept through
his audience and moved them to tears.

Of the bath-house and its ancient ritual some
description has already been given. Here it is de-
scribed in verse. His sister prepares a bath for
Ilmarinen :

Annikki, whose name was famous,
Heated secretly the bath-room,
With the boughs the wind had broken
And the thunderbolt had shattered.
Stones she gathered from the river,
Heated them till they were ready;
Cheerfully she fetched the water,
From the holy well she brought it,
Broke some bath-whisks from the bushes,
Charming bath-whisks from the thickets,
And she warmed the honeyed bath-whisks,
On the honeyed stones she warmed them;
Then with milk she mixed the ashes,
And she made him soap of marrow,
And she worked the soap to lather,
Kneaded then the soap to lather,
That his head might cleanse the bridegroom,
And might cleanse himself completely.

Then the smith, e'en Ilmarinen,
Went to take the bath he needed;
There he bathed himself at pleasure,
And he washed himself to whiteness;
Washed his eyes until they sparkled,
And his temples till they glistened,
And his neck to hen's-egg whiteness,
And his body all was shining.
From the bath the room he entered,
Changed so much they scarcely knew him.
For his face it shone with beauty,
And his cheeks were cleansed and rosy.



THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS 139

Of the religion of the ancient Finns it must suf-
fice to say that it seems to have been an extraordi-
nary mixture of animism and magic, with mono-
theism occasionally breaking through in noble
appeals to the Supreme God. Amid much that is
on a very different level of holiness we also find such
passages as the following:

God does not forsake the worthy,
Does not ruin those that trust Him,
Never are the good forsaken,

and this precept :

Do not walk in thine own virtue,
Do not walk in thine own power,
Walk in, strength of thy Creator;
Do not speak in thine own wisdom,
Speak with tongue of mighty Ukko.

Christianity has begun to cast its shadow over the
old deities and to modify the old animistic concep-
tions, and the close of the poem shows "Wainamoinen
leaving his country in sorrowful anger after the
Virgin Marjatta has given birth to a boy who is
baptized as King of Karelia, and whom the old bard,
like Herod, desired in van to destroy. He puts off
in his boat, but promises to return again. Meanwhile
he leaves his kantele and his songs with his people.

Judged purely as literature, the "Kalevala" suf-
fers from the variety of its composition. It con-
sists, as we saw, of a great number of runos
composed by different singers, which have been
combined into a whole. Such an origin implies a
considerable lack of unity, which is well illustrated



140 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

in the person of the Maiden of Pohjola. One singer,
treating of her in her maiden days, represents her
as a beautiful, proud and cold girl. Another repre-
sents her as a bride, but she has become shy and
timid to a degree that is almost pitiable. A third
represents her as a wife, and she has become hard
and ruthless and cruel. To this lack of unity must
be added other defects already referred to, a certain
inhumanity in the characters, and a weariness aris-
ing from long-winded description and repetition,
and from the extremely primitive nature of the
world in which the action takes place.

Against this we have to set considerable literary
beauty, the charm of a primitive atmosphere that is
genuinely refreshing, provided we do not stay in it
too long at a time, the fascination of something that
comes out of the very heart of the people, naked and
unashamed, and with the charm of antiquity upon it.

Breath that is the spirit's bath,
In the old beginnings find,

are words that apply to the "Kalevala" when all
that can be urged against it has been said.

The literary quality of the "Kalevala" is per-
haps best seen in the tragic story of Kullervo, which
also illustrates the darker side of the national char-
acter. The incident, save for an entire canto de-
voted to the recitation of charms for the protection
of cattle, is admirably condensed and concentrated.
Kullervo is brought up as a slave. His parents 1
home was destroyed by enemies, and he believes
them to be dead. From his very birth he is alone



THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS 141

and unfortunate. When, after his terrible and
weird murder of his wicked mistress, he escapes and
finds that his parents and brothers and sisters are
alive after all, still worse tragedy than murder
awaits him. For soon after he is reunited to his
family he meets and ravishes a maiden, whom he
afterwards discovers to be his own sister, long since
lost and given up for dead. When the girl discovers
who he is, she throws herself into a torrent and is
drowned. He then, too, determines on suicide, but
first goes out to be revenged on the people who had
enslaved him. He returns to find his home deserted,
and, wandering into the forest, he comes to the place
where he had the fatal meeting with his sister :

There the tender grass was weeping,
And the lovely spot lamenting,
And the young grass was deploring,
And the flowers of heath were grieving,
For the ruin of the maiden,
For the mother's child's destruction.
Neither was the young grass sprouting,
Nor the flowers of heath expanding,
Nor the spot had covered over,
Where the evil thing had happened,
Where he had seduced the maiden,
And his mother's child dishonoured.

i

There he dies on his sword.

NOTE. The translation used in this chapter is that of
W. Kirby, published by Messrs. Dent in "Everyman's Library."



CHAPTER VIII

THE LANDMARKS OF FINNISH LITEEATUEE SINCE
EUNEBEEG

I. KIVI

BETWEEN the "Kalevala" and the Finnish
literature of to-day there is a great gulf, con-
sisting of many hundred years. The reasons for
this should be apparent from preceding chapters
and need not be repeated here. But when writers
began once again to make use of the Finnish lan-
guage they took up, as it were, a broken thread.
Story-telling had been the joy of the ancient poets
and it is to story-teling that modern Finnish writers
instinctively turn. They are the true heirs of the
bards who wove their tales in the light of the flicker-
ing pare, when Finland was still Suomi and the
Finns were still pagan. In those days their country
must have seemed to the poets as vast as the cosmos
and as self-sufficing. Foreign lands were remote and
dim, lying on a far horizon. And when the spirit of
the race once more incarnated itself in stories, these
stories seemed to come direct from the soil, uninflu-
enced by grafting from the outside world. They
sprang not from the cultured people who live in
towns, but from the very heart of Finland. It is this

142



LANDMARKS OF FINNISH LITERATURE 143

which gives its chief interest to Finnish literature.

The first figure in the history of the Finnish novel
is also the greatest.

Alexis Kivi was the son of a tailor who lived at
Nurmijarvi, in the province of Nyland. His real
name was Stenvall, but he is known almost exclu-
sively by his pseudonym, Kivi. He was born in 1834,
and at the age of twelve was sent to school in Hel-
singfors and afterwards became a student at the
University. During both his school and student
years, and indeed throughout his short life, he suf-
fered acutely from poverty, which contributed to the
bad health which always dogged him. He seems to
have been an extroardinary mixture of morbidity
and healthy-mindedness. His mother was very re-
ligious in a revivalistic direction she had the sole
Bible in the village and the boy read only religious
literature. Yet nothing pleased him more than to
wander about the woods with a gun and to spend his
days in the open air. While still a student he won a
prize for a drama based on the Kullervo episode in
the "Kalevala" his own unhappiness and loneli-
ness doubtless attracted him to that hero. In 1864
apeared l ' Nuumisuutarit, ' ' a fine study of peasant
life in the form of comedy. After this he produced
more rapidly, owing to a relief from the financial
strain. He was given a refuge at Sjundea, in a
Swedish-speaking district, by Charlotte Lonnqvist,
a lady nineteen years older than himself. Finnish
literature owes her a great debt of gratitude.
Nevertheless, Kivi after some years longed to be
back in his home region, feeling a stranger amongst



144 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

the Swedish-speaking peasants. "The peasant
here," he complains, "stands far from the rich
spiritual life that exists in the Finnish peasant's


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