Remembering the Kalevala Heroes’ spirit in 2017 (#16/100)

by Ulla Virtanen

Today we celebrate Finnish culture and Kalevala, our national epic compiled by professor and scientist Mr Elias Lönnrot. Kalevala is a collection of at least 200 hundred year old stories and sagas in ”Kalevala Metre” (eights syllables), all about disputes, revenges, courtships and robberies between ancient Finns. All the reality television and movie heroes turn absolutely pale in comparison with the heroes of Kalevala. Do you know them? And what do they have to do with the Finnish spirit of the present times?

These four are my favourites: Shaman, hero and wizard Väinämöinen, the magical singer, who actually pursues for a lovely wife and richdom throughout his life. Seppo Ilmarinen, the heroic smith – who can build anything, even the sky and Sampo, the eternal miraculous mill that creates richdom all around it. Louhi, the Mistress of the North, a shamanistic matriarch, who can move the sun and the moon and steel the fire. Last and definitely the most sombre and charismatic, Lemminkäinen, the handsome yet ruthless hero, who will be revived from the underworld by his mother.

Why talk of these heroes today? Or should I ask, why are they so fascinating? Professor Lönnrot collected the poems and stories from all around Finland in his epic journeys. The stories speak the mind of the commoners, Finns in villages and peripheries of this Northern land. The poems speak of the fears, dreams, horrors and joys the ancient Finns, of our ancestors. They should still be our idols as our mental maps have been made of the same genes and imagination as the storytellers are.

Please, pick up a poem of Kalevala today to your mobile and sing it with the Kalevala Metre do-do-re-re-mi-so-re-re (the last two are long syllables). Here are the lyrics: ”How-can-he-roes-lift-my-spri-rit”.

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