“The Kalevala” is a Finnish national epic. It begins with scenes of Earth’s creation, and it ends with the removal of the main god, shaman Väinämöinen, who appears in almost every song. The plot has no climax and it doesn’t end with the destruction of Väinämöinen or the world, but it does announce he could come back when needed.
The real and mythical life are interwind as well as the legends and the customs of the Finnish people. In the first song, the creation of the world and humanity and Väinämöinen arrival are shown. In the second one, the eagle rewards Väinämöinen with fire, and that’s how it all begins. In the last, 50th, song Marjatta is born, and it announces the arrival of the Christian era and the departure of Väinämöinen.
Between the first and the second song, which mostly refers to the society in general, there are many plots intertwined. The plot is being carried by three heroes: artificer Ilmarinen, the arrogant Lemminkainen, and the old Väinämöinen. All the of them are originally from Kalevala, and they are in a constant battle with the people of Pohja.
The biggest units in the central part are the wedding ceremony prepared for Ilmarinen and Louhi, the daughter of Pohja’s ruler, and the confrontation of the three Kalevala heroes with Pohja’s ruler because of Sampo. Six songs are dedicated to Kullervo, Kalervo’s son, and they can be perceived as an independent epic inside the epic.
Lemminkainen is the central hero from the 26th to the 30th song while the other ones show the plot linked to all three of the main heroes, Pohja’s ruler, and their relations. The Kalevala came to like the work and art of Elias Lönnrota.
The epic begins with an introductory song in which the narrator states that his thoughts make him want to sing and then he gets ready to talk and sing like his ancestors. He describes how his parents taught him these songs when he was a child.
He narrates about the maiden of the air, a beautiful fairy which lived untracked on her Air estate. Her life was sad in the endless sky emptiness. All of the sudden she came down to the sea where she got pregnant with the wind and the water, becoming water-mother. After that, she came back to her home, and she regretted ever coming down since it would have been better staying maiden of the air because she was cold on waves and didn’t like being in the water. She called the master of the universe to put her out of her sufferings.
A female duck came looking for a nest. She couldn’t find the right place, and in the distance, she spotted water-mother. She came to her knee, made a nest and placed her eggs.
She kept sitting on them for a few days. On the third day water-mother felt something burning, her knee shivered, and the tide took away the broken eggs. For the pieces of the broken eggs, pieces of our world were made: the upper shell was the sky, the lower the Earth, the yolk was the sun, and the egg whites were the clouds.
Water-mother got her head out of the water when the birth started. Where she placed her hand, the earth would arch thus creating bays, shores, the depths of the sea, islands, and reefs.
Water-mother created Väinämöinen who spent a lot of time in the water, riding the waves and then he came to land.
Väinämöinen climbed on a deserted island, and he spent a few years there. He thought who could work on the land and he remembered Sampso. He grew different kinds of trees, some of which grew fast and the first fruits were already visible.
Väinämöinen went to check up on his work. The trees were growing and there were oaks who refused to grow but when they repeated the process again the oaks started growing again. The branches and the leaves spread around so much that they didn’t allow the sun to get through. Väinämöinen saw that people’s lives and fish’s swimming were sad without the sun so he asked water-mother to send someone who would cut down the oak.
A little man existed the sea and took down the oak so that the sun and the moon can shine again.
After that, the forest grew bigger, greener and the birds were singing. There were strawberries and flowers growing and the only thing that wasn’t successful was bare.
Väinämöinen found a few gems of barley and he decided to clear up a big part of the land leaving only one birch on which the birds could rest.
One eagle came flying and asking Väinämöinen why he left the birch and he answers that he left it so that it would be the bird’s home. The eagle considered Väinämöinen did the right thing and he gave him fire so that he could clear up the land with the help of the light created by the fire.
Väinämöinen took barley’s germs and planted them. He prayed the earth to have mercy and let the barley grow. A week after Väinämöinen came to see how the barley was doing and he saw it growing.
Väinämöinen kept on practicing his singing. He sang about ancient times and even some of the older people didn’t quite understand all of the words. The news about the wise Väinämöinen spread around and he was said to be able to do sorcery.
The young Joukahainen wanted to beat him at it. His parents forbid him from standing up to Väinämöinen because they were scared he would cast a spell on him. Joukahainen still decided to pay Väinämöinen a visit, and he embarked on his journey. Väinämöinen was also traveling and three days after they met. Väinämöinen asks who his parents were and why was he so eager to die. He also told him to get out of his way because he was younger but Joukahainen told him it wasn’t about youth but knowledge and memory. He challenged Väinämöinen to a duel. Väinämöinen was insulted by his arrogance, and he cast a spell on him in the swamp.
When Joukahainen realized the situation he put himself in, fear took over. He offered Väinämöinen all kinds of goods he owned, but this one turned it all down. In the end, Joukahainen promised him his sister’s hand in marriage, and he gladly accepted it because it meant Väinämöinen would have someone to comfort him during his old age. The spell was reversed.
Joukahainen went home tired, sad and anxious. He explained everything to his mother and told him he promised his sister Aino’s hand in marriage to get out of trouble.
His mother accepted the news with joy because Väinämöinen will become her son-in-law. Aino wasn’t thrilled about leaving her home, and she burst into tears.
Aino came to get some branches from her parents. When she was going home, Väinämöinen spotted her and started courting her. Aino responded she was feeling fine living with her parents and that she doesn’t want to leave.
Aino went home running to tell her family what had happened. She told her mother she rejected Väinämöinen by saying she wants to stay home with her family and that she didn’t want his rings or his pearls.
Her mother told her she was crying about nothing and reproached her about three tears. Afterward, she ordered her to go and put on her prettiest dress.
Aino didn’t pay much attention to her mother’s words, and she was still crying and grieving. The girls say it would have been better if she was never born and never grew up because it only brought her misery. After a few days spent in tears, her mother asked her why she was crying so much, and Aino said it was because her mother was giving her away to an old man so that she could keep him company.
Aino put on her prettiest dress and went away thinking the best thing to do would be to drown because everything was better than the pain she was experiencing. Three days after she reached the shore and spent the night crying there. Aino saw three girl bathing and decided to join them. While climbing a rock, a part of it cracked, Aino fell and drowned.
When the mother received the news about her daughter being dead, she spent days crying for her.
The news about Aino’s death reached Väinämöinen’s ear, and he spent days crying because his little beauty had died. He sighed sadly for days and then he took his fishing equipment and went to the place where Aino died to fish her out since she turned into an extraordinary fish after her death. It took him a few days to catch a fish, and when he finally did he tried to cut her open and eat her, but she jumped out of his hands and explained who she was.
The fish went back to the sea, and Väinämöinen tried catching her in vain with words and food.
After his failure, Väinämöinen remembers how he used to be reasonable, had a big heart and was intelligent but that he lost all of that during his old age when his power of spirit started decaying. Väinämöinen was sad about not being able to keep Aino close and he went home. He didn’t know how to live in this world anymore. His mother woke up from her grave and told him to go and visit the girls of Pohje which were a thousand time more lovely than Aino was.
Väinämöinen got ready to go to Pohja. Joukahainen hated Väinämöinen because of his sister’s death He took a bow and arrow and lurked around in order to find Väinämöinen.
He kept guard in front of his house for a few days, and he finally spotted him. Soon he grabbed his weapon and pointed it towards Väinämöinen. His mother warned him not to do it because Väinämöinen was important and with his death, all of the joy and all of the music will just disappear from the world. Joukahainen stopped for a moment because he was in doubt, but he decided to go through with his plans. He spotted Väinämöinen riding over a river, and he shot but instead of Väinämöinen, he shot his horse.
Väinämöinen fell off of his horse into the river, and the wind took him into the open sea. Joukahainen was happy thinking Väinämöinen’s time was done.
Väinämöinen spent nine days swimming, and the fatigue got to him so badly he was sorry about ever leaving his home. An eagle came flying from the south, and he was still grateful to Väinämöinen for leaving one tree for the animals to rest, so he decided to help Väinämöinen the eagle grabbed him and took him to the shores of Pohja. The ruler of Pohja, Louhi, heard the screams coming from the water, so she got into her boat and went to help Väinämöinen. Louhi took him into his home and gave him a proper welcome.
Väinämöinen grieved for his home and Louhi promised to take him home if he accepts to make her a Sampo. It was a magical mill which gave flour, salt, and money in endless amounts. As a prize, she offered her daughter.
Väinämöinen promised that after returning to his home, he will send her Ilmarinen who will make her a Sampo because he didn’t know how to make one. Louhi told him she would give her daughter’s hand in marriage to the person that gives her the Sampo and afterward she gave him a horse to go home.
On his was home Väinämöinen saw a beautiful girl and he tried to convince her to go away to his home with him.
The girl first gave him a few impossible demands in exchange for her hand but she didn’t think Väinämöinen would be able to do them all. In the end, she promised to agree to go with him if he manages to build a boat and place it in the water without ever touching it.
Väinämöinen answers that there is no constructor like him and he got busy. During his work, he hurt himself and couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Väinämöinen was getting scared because his pain became stronger so he got up on his horse to find some sorcerer which would heal his wound. He went from house to house, but no one was able to help him. In the end, he found an old man claiming to be able to heal hid wound.
Väinämöinen entered the man’s shack. He and the old man started talking about iron and Väinämöinen says he knew where it came from. Allegedly a god created three girls, and they created iron and steel. After some time, iron wanted to meet its older brother flame but flame got angry and wanted to burn its brother. The iron was hiding in swamps but it couldn’t escape the flame. Ilmarinen was born in the place where the iron was hiding. He convinced iron that it will become prettier if he allows him to form him with fire.
The old men said some spells to stop the bleeding.
He sent his son to prepare some kind of medication. The son gathered herbs and cooked them for days. When the medicine was done he checked its efficiency on some cracked up rocks, and when he was sure it worked he took it to his father. The old man patched up Väinämöinen’s wound and he thanked for his help.
Väinämöinen came home and asked Ilmarinen to go to Pohja and ash for the ruler’s daughter’s hand in marriage which he will get if he builds a Sampo.
Ilmarinen was annoyed by Väinämöinen promising him to Pohja just to save himself, and he promised never to go there. Väinämöinen tricked him using his magic to go to Pohja.
Ilmarinen came there and Louhi waited for him. She was thrilled about his arrival and she sent her daughter to put on her prettiest dress. Louhi brought Ilmarinen into her home and she fed him well. After that Ilmarinen started working on the Sampo.
Ilmarinen spent a few days looking for a place to work and the tools to help him. After that, he made the Sampo and took it to Louhi.
Ilmarinen asked for the girl which was promised to him but the girl states out numerous reasons why she can’t abandon her family home.
Louhi gave him food again and gave him a boat to go home. Ilmarinen went to see Väinämöinen and let him know he made the Sampo for Louhi.
Lemminkainen, a citizen of the island, was a ladies’ man and he went to the island to ask a girl’s hand in marriage. She belonged to a good family. His mother warned him not to get involved with a woman of her social status and he responded he wasn’t looking for a girl according to his social status but according to his looks.
In the beginning, all of the girls laughed him out, and it surprised him. He became a shepherd to fit in and gain the girls’ trust. His plan worked perfectly but he couldn’t gain the trust of a particular girl which was of a high social class and turned down all of her suitors.
He couldn’t get the girl he wanted so he kidnapped her. Lemminkainen threw her into his sleigh and took off.
The abducted girl cried he always caused trouble and he promised he won’t do it anymore but only if she stops spending her day twiddling in the village. They managed to come to a deal and swore to each other they will both be at home. Lemminkainen’s mother loved the young girl her son brought.
The two of them got along fine for a while but one-day Lemminkainen went fishing and he didn’t come home, so the girl decided to go to the village. His’ sister saw him and told her brother all about it. Lemminkainen got furious and decided to leave her immediately and break off the engagement because he broke her word.
His mother tried to convince him not to go to Pohja because she was scared they would enchant him there. Lemminkainen told her he was threatened before but that he was never scared. She still tries to convince him otherwise by telling him he will die. Lemminkainen, who was combing his hair, threw the comb and said that if something happens to him to comb will bleed just as well as he will.
He prepared himself and got armed for his journey to Pohja. He walked from house to house and using a song he lured everyone out. There was only one shepherd he could enchant.
Lemminkainen decided to face the old woman of Pohja and he asked her to give him her daughter. The old woman answered she is not willing to give her daughter to an insignificant man and she gives him his first task – to hunt a deer.
The weapon was already ready and Lemminkainen had to get a new set of the sleigh. He went to a blacksmith workshop and asks him to make him one. The blacksmith told him he won’t accomplish his goal but he makes him a set of a ski. Lemmikainen went cheerfully to hunt the deer but soon he found out that courage and willingness weren’t enough to complete his task. In the end, he advises everyone not to go so easily hunting as he did.
Lemminkainen was in doubt whether to go home or try again. In the end, he said some of the hunter’s prayers and went again. He met one of the forest maidens and she gives him some useful advice. In the end, he caught the deer and went to Pohja to get his future wife.
Louhi told him she will give him her daughter’s hand in marriage when he brings her the brown cormorant. Lemminkainen spent three days hunting him down and then he went to Pohja.
Louhi gave him another task. He had to kill a swan in the river with the first shot of an arrow. Lemminkainen went to the Land of the Dead, where the river was, and there a shepherd arrack him and killed him using a snake. His body was dumped down the waterfall, and after that, it was dismembered.
Lemminkainen’s mother lived without knowing where her son was. One day she looked at the comb and saw blood dripping out of it. She called out for her son and then went to Pohja to ask Louhi where her son is and what had happened to him.
Louhi told her she doesn’t know where her son went and she tells all about the assignment she had given to him. The mother doesn’t believe a word Louhi says and threatens to break down the Sampo. Louhi tried to convince her she gave her son good food and water and that she doesn’t know where he is. Lemminkainen’s mother still didn’t trust her and she decided to go look for her son. In the end, she asked the Sun if it knew anything about Lemminkainen and the Sun said he was killed in the river.
The devastated mother went to the river with rakes. When she reached the waterfall the started taking the water. She didn’t stop until she retrieved every single piece of her dead son after which she was saying prayers until he resuscitated.
When Lemminkainen came back to life he said all about the shepherd and the snake. Lemminkainen regretted not being able to kill the swan because now he won’t get the girl. His mother told him to let go of the girls and the swans and be grateful he’s still breathing.
Väinämöinen sent a young man to get him some wood to build the board. He got him some oak and Väinämöinen got busy. He was missing three more spells to finish the boat.
Väinämöinen tried to figure out where to find the necessary words to finish the boat and he thought he could find then in the Land of the Dead. On his way, he asked a girl to give him a boat so he could cross the river. She told him she will give him a boat if he tells her why he came down there. Väinämöinen tried to tell a lie but she recognized each and every one of them until Väinämöinen didn’t acknowledge the truth. The girl helped him and Väinämöinen managed to reach the ruler of the underground which tells him that he will never leave her land again.
Väinämöinen, using his powers, manages to escape and while he was going home he warned everyone not to go down there and the horrible conditions people lived in down there.
Since Väinämöinen didn’t manage to find the magical words, he had to come up with a new way. After meeting with an old shepherd he found out there is a man who could help him but that getting to his lead through a dangerous road. Väinämöinen found out that the man had died from Ilmarinen but he is determined to wake him up from the dead just to get the magical words.
The man woke up from his sleep terrified and he accidentally swallowed Väinämöinen who then started tormenting his stomach in order to free himself.
The man believed that a disease came upon him and he tried to cure himself using spells and herbs. Väinämöinen swears not to give up until he finds out the magical words he needed to finish his boat.
The man told him the words and Väinämöinen, satisfied, left his stomach. Väinämöinen went back to his boat and he finished it.
The ship was over and Väinämöinen decided to go to Pohja to propose to the girl.
Väinämöinen was spotted by Ilmarinen’s sister and she asked him where he was going. Väinämöinen first told her a lie but she saw right through it. Väinämöinen tried to lie a few more times but then she threatened to turn over his boat if he doesn’t start telling the truth. After finding out the truth she ran to her brother to tell him Väinämöinen was going to propose to the girl which was promised to him already.
She helped his brother get ready for his trip. Ilmarinen got ready to go to Pohja. Louhi advised her daughter to pick Väinämöinen who brought gifts in a boat instead of Ilmarinen who only brought empty lies. The daughter responded she doesn’t choose blessing nor wisdom but the beauty which Ilmarinen had.
Soon after Ilmarinen came. Louhi told him that her daughter will be his when he plows a field without touching a plow.
Ilmarinen accepted the challenge unsure whether he will be able to do it. The girl helped him and gave him advice so that he could do it successfully. The next demand was to catch a bear, then a would and in the end a big pike from the River of the Dead.
When Ilmarinen successfully finished the tasks Louhi kept her word and gave him her daughter’s hand.
Väinämöinen wasn’t pleased with how the things turned out and he went home warning everyone not to get into an engagement bet with a younger man.
In Pohja there was a wedding being planned. They slaughtered a bull for the party and got out the drinks. They also set up a big porch and decorated a hall for the wedding. There were many dishes being made and everyone had a certain task or a job to do.
Louhi of Pohja told her messengers to invite the people to attend the wedding and the only person not invited was Lemminkainen.
While Louhi finished the last preparation for the wedding, she heard a whip and a sleigh so she first thought it was a warrior but then she found out it was her future son-in-law’s chaperon coming to the wedding.
The guests were received with a lot of food and drinks. They couldn’t find someone who would sing at the wedding, so Väinämöinen decided to do it. He sang the whole night long and entertained the guests while being in a great mood.
After celebrating the wedding, Ilmarinen waited for his bride to braid her hair and get dressed so that they could leave. While she was getting ready, she remembered the old days and thought about the nice time she had in her father’s backyard. There was nothing to worry about back then, and now she was moving to a new house and becoming a part of a new family. She remembered waiting for this moment with anticipation but now it was hard to leave her family home and the safety it provided. She got sad and started crying.
The guests tried to comfort the bride telling her she doesn’t have to be sad because she was going from a good life to a better one. They also reminded her how strong and powerful her husband was and that she should worry about living without everything she’s used to. The guests also told her she married the bravest of all the heroes.
The bride received instruction about her behavior and obligations in her new home. They told her she had to think about everything after leaving her family home and that she had to leave three things behind her daydreams, mother’s gentle words and fresh butter on the bread. She had to accept new customs and let go of the old ones and she had to reject her father’s mercy and ask for family-in-laws sympathy.
She had to have a clear mind, strong spirit, be filled with respect and listen to the desires of Ilmarinen’s heart. She also had to be awake to see if he was sitting on lying down so she could help him with anything he needed.
An old beggar retold her life experience as a girl and later on as a woman coming to her husband’s house. Her parents adored her and provided her with everything. One day, they handed her over to her husband. She said she was foolish in his house because she decided to even humiliate herself to get their attention but that she didn’t receive any attention or affection from the new family. Everyone was against her but still, she decided not to back down. After another harassment, she decided to leave her husband’s home and go to her brother who already had a wife. He was able to take her in for a short time and after leaving his house she spent her days wandering around.
After advising the girl about her behavior in her marriage, they did the same thing with her husband. They told him he was happy about having such a lovely and kindhearted woman and that he should thank her parents for raising her so well. Ilmarinen wasn’t allowed to treat her as a maid and he should never tell her she isn’t nobility anymore. He should never be rude to her or hurt her and he should always protect her from everyone.
After that, an old homeless man retold his experience in trying to tame his wife. The old man told Ilmarinen he should never follow the woman’s will because it was pure nonsense. He said his wife was always furious and used to call him all kinds of names but after bringing a branch into the house, she got scared and stopped.
The bride, again in tears, realized it was time to leave her family home, and she started saying goodbye to everyone. Ilmarinen put her in his sleigh and three days after they reached his home.
Everyone expected him there for days because they wanted to see the bride. One day they finally heard the sleigh. His mother says she waited for him for a long time without knowing if he was ever coming home. Some even spread rumors he was coming back alone, without a wife. She asked him about his trip and encounter with the bride’s father.
The mother praised the new daughter-in-law saying that her son found the best girl, how her face was beautiful, her posture perfect and her personality lovely. They also told the bride she would love her new home where everyone will respect her.
The guests were entertained, and the old Väinämöinen sang again. While singing he praised the newlyweds, Ilmarinen’s mother, the food, the drinks, the bride’s chaperone and the other guests.
On his way home Väinämöinen broke his sleigh but he managed to fix them.
Lemminkainen spent his time plowing the land when he heard the wedding celebration, frustrated and angry he got up on his horse and went home. He told his mother to draw him a bath and prepare him a meal. He asked her to bring his best clothes so he could dress nicely and go disguised to the weeding.
The mother tried to stop him because he isn’t welcomed to the wedding. She also predicted three great dangers for him if he goes there. Lemminkainen told her that women always predict something bad will happen and despite her prayers, he left.
Lemminkainen encountered the three predicted dangers on his path. First, he stumbled upon a fire river blocking his way. There was a fire eagle on the reef who sharpened his teeth during the night and sharpened his claws on strangers who approached him. The next day he encountered a pond filled with hot rocks who already swallowed thousands of lives. Lemminkainen managed to avoid the second danger. The third day we were attacked by wolves and bears who killed thousand of men. Lemminkainen avoided that danger too and he kept on with his journey. He came to a fence with snakes and lizards but he managed to open it using magical words. When he came to Pohja the crowd attacked him.
Lemminkainen enters the house of the rulers of Pohja and he demands to be received. The rule says that in his house food can be found for everyone as long as the behave well. Lemminkainen starts acting arrogant and reproaches the ruler of Pohja, Louhi, that she celebrated a mean wedding and made a feast to which she invited everyone, from the rich to the poor, except for him. The hosts brought beer and soup to Lemminkainen but he was dissatisfied because they didn’t prepare some meat for him like they did for the others.
The ruler of Pohja asks him why he came to their home since no one invited him and Lemminkainen kept on acting in an arrogant way, demanding food and drinks which made the ruler of Pohja angry. He used some magic words to create a pond on the floor and he told him he can drink the water from it.
The ruler of Pohja and Lemminkainen kept on competing and started creating animals with their magic which later on fought. Since the ruler of Pohja couldn’t compete with Lemminkainen when it came to magic he challenged him to a sword duel. In the duel, Lemminkainen decapitated the ruler of Pohja. Louhi wanted revenge for her husband’s death and she gathered an army again Lemminkainen.
Lemminkainen escaped fast from Pohja and he came home begging his mother for advice on where to go and how to hide from the people of Pohja who will come and attack him soon.
First, his mother reproached him about not taking her advice and her prediction about the dangers of going to Pohja seriously. His mother didn’t know in which direction to send him because she was sure there was no shelter that was good enough in their time of need. In the end, she told him to go to an island on which his father used to live peacefully during the great war.
His mother asked him to swear he will not get into duels or any kind of confrontation for the next six to ten years no matter how many prizes one might offer him. Lemminkainen accepted, swore to his mother, took his father’s boat and went to the island.
Lemminkainen started his journey across the sea and he reached the island safely. There he treated the women and girls of the island in an arrogant manner and he got into trouble soon. The infuriated husbands and father wanted to kill him because of his poor manners and rude behavior.
To his, and the other girls’, great infortune Lemminkainen managed to leave the island before getting killed. While he was traveling across the sea he got into a storm which broke his board. Lemminkainen managed to save himself from the shipwreck, and he swam to the land. He managed to get a new boat, and he went to his hometown. There he found his old, burnt down house. Leaving his home Lemminkainen could barely hold his sadness and he started crying because he was sure his mother died when the house was burned down.
Soon he found out his mother was still alive and that she was living in the middle of a big forest. Luckily he managed to find her new home.
His mother told him all that had happened since he left for the island. She told him that the people of Pohja came to attack him and that they set their house on fire. Lemminkainen swears to build a better, bigger home and to get his revenge against the people of Pohja. He tells his mother all about his adventures and everything that had happened to him on the island.
Lemminkainen started getting ready to go and attack Pohja. His mother begged him again in tears not to go because she knew he wouldn’t survive this time. Lemminkainen this time wasn’t going alone. He took his war companion Tiera with him.
The ruler of Pohja blew in the direction of the sea and sent them a cold breeze which froze their boat. After freezing and living on the verge of death for a while Lemminkainen got angry and started saying all kinds of curses. In the end, Lemminkainen and Tiera managed to survive thanks to Lemminkainen’s sorcery, spells, and curses.
Lemminkainen and Tiera left the boat and walked on ice. On the third day, they reached a small village but no one was able to give them some food there. They walked for a long time before realizing they were lost. In the end, they managed to reach their home.
In this song, the author introduces us to two new characters Untamo and Kalervo. Untamo threw nets on Kalervo’s pond. When Kalervo spotted the Nets, he took the catch which makes his brother Untamo furious and the two brothers started a war against each other. Untamo killed Kalervo and his chaperone so that there was only one pregnant woman which survived. He took her with him and she gave birth to a child named Kullervo.
The child developed fast and everyone saw a future hero in him. After two months he grew a lot and after three months he thought about getting revenge for his father’s death. Untamo found out about his thoughts and he realized Kullervo will ruin him if he doesn’t act fast. He ordered for the child to be killed several times but Kullervo survived every time. Untamo started thinking he needed a different approach to his problem. He thought he could raise him up instead of killing him. Untamo offered Kullervo to stay in his house as a servant and receive something in return for his work.
It turned out Kullervo wasn’t at all born to be a servant because he would do wrong every single thing trusted to him. Untamo was only getting more frustrated with Kullervo so he decided to sell him to Ilmarinen.
Ilmarinen’s wife decided to hire Kullervo as a shepherd. While she was making him some bread she decided to spitefully place a stone inside of it. She instructed him not to eat it before coming to the forest.
The landlady sent the cattle to pasture with her usual sayings about cattle and the bear. She states she will leave the cows in the forest and asks God to keep an eye on them, defend them from troubles and keeps them safe as he keeps them safe while they are home. The landlady starts invoking Gods, asking them to protect her animals. She also talks to the bear telling him she doesn’t forbid him from moving around the forest but asks him to leave her cattle alone in case he sees them in the forest.
Kullervo was taking care of the cattle. While he was keeping an eye on them he wondered why they brought them there, to a place to which he doesn’t belong and forced him to do a job he’s not capable of doing. He took his bag off and took out the bread the landlady made for him. Kullervo took out his knife to cut the bread but the blade hit the stone and broke. Kullervo started crying out of sadness because that knife was the last thing he had left from his father.
The angry Kullervo started thinking of ways to get even with the landlady. He took the cattle to the swamp and then gathered a bunch of wolves and bears which he, later on, took home.
Ilmarinen’s wife waited for the cattle and Kullervo to come back so that she could milk the cows. When she went to do her job a bear and a wolf attacked her. Kullervo told her he might be a bad shepherd but that she was no better at being a landlady since she placed a stone inside his bread. Landlady begged him to reverse the spell and save her from the wild animals but Kullervo declined, and the landlady died.
Kullervo ran away from Ilmarinen’s house before he found out about his wife’s death. The devastated Kullervo wandered the forest alone, and he wondered why had life made him so miserable and forced to spend his life wandering around. While he was walking, Kullervo remembered his parents were dead and he decided to go home.
When he headed towards his home, Kullervo was stopped by an old lady which asked him where he was going. Kullervo answered he was going to get revenge for his parent’s death and the old lady told him his mother, father and the rest of his family were still very much alive. Following her instructions he found his family living on the border.
When he came to the, his mother didn’t recognize him at first. She told him they considered him to be dead as well as his older sister which went missing while picking strawberries.
Kullervo tried to fit in with his family and their lifestyle. He tried to do different jobs but it turned out he was incapable of doing anything right so his father sent him to pay the taxes.
After paying the taxes, Kullervo sat in his sleigh and went home. On his way, he met a few girls and tried to get them inside his sleigh, but they refused his invitation. Soon he saw another girl and dragged her into his sleigh in order to take advantage of her and he managed to convince her to stay promising her silver.
After sometime Kulervo revealed he was Kalervo’s son. The girl told him she was picking strawberries as a girl and that one day she wandered off too far away and couldn’t find her way back home. When they realized later they were brother and sister, she threw herself in the river.
Kulervo ran home to tell his mother about the terrible act of desecration he did, and he started thinking about taking his life. His mother tried to get his mind off of suicide and told him to go to a calm place to think everything over and calm down. Kulervo still only thought about getting his revenge and punishing Untamo.
Kulervo was getting ready to fight Untamo. He gathered his weapons and said goodbye to his family. His mother told him she was worried about him, asked him where he was going and whether he will survive. His father told him he won’t grieve him if he dies but that he will make a more reasonable son. His brother and sister gave him the same answer.
Kulervo went away and soon after he received a message about his father’s death. He wishes for his soul to rest in peace but refuses to come back home. Then messages about his mother, sister and brother’s death reached him. The news about his mother’s death shocked him and stunned him. Despite the sad news, Kullervo continued his journey. He came to the house of Untamo’s family, killed them all and burned down their homes.
He came back to his abandoned, empty house. The only living thing there was an old, black dog and Kullervo took him hunting in the forest.
During his hunting, he reached the place in the forest where he seduced his sister and filled with pain and anger Kullervo took his sword and took his own life away.
Ilmarinen cried for a long time because of the death of his wife. He didn’t know how to live without her, the evenings seemed long and the awakenings were sad without her presence. In the end, Ilmarinen decided to make a new wife out of silver and gold. It took a lot of time, work and suffering to finish her but in the end, he was unable to breathe life into her.
One night Ilmarinen was sleeping next to his golden bride. In the morning when he woke up, he felt the side of his body which was near her completely cold. Ilmarinen decided to pay Väinämöinen a visit and take his bride with him.
Väinämöinen asked him immediately why he had brought the golden monster to his home. He suggested to Ilmarinen to make something else out of her or send her abroad to suitors which only cared about gold.
Ilmarinen decided to go to Pohja. There he tried to seduce his dead wife’s sister. The ruler of Pohja was angry because she had sacrificed her first daughter. Ilmarinen, as an response to his courting, gets a lot of insults which made his furious enough to abduct the girl and take her home with him.
During the whole journey, the poor girl was crying, yelling and threatening to destroy his sleigh if he doesn’t let her go. The girl continued with different threats and insults. In one moment she offended Ilmarnine so much that he, without thinking about it, enchanted her and turned her into a bird.
He jumped into the sleigh and took home. Väinämöinen came to him and asked him why he was in such a bad mood. Ilmarinen told him that the people of Pohja lived a good life because they had the Sampo he made for them and that they were living in a state of constant blessing. Then he told him about turning the girl into a bird.
Väinämöinen asked Ilmarinen to chaperone him on his journey to Pohja so that they could take the Sampo together. He suggests to build a bigger boat and go with it. Ilmarinen thought it would be safer to travel on land because on the sea they were under threats of storms and strong winds. Väinämöinen agreed it would be safer but also longer and more exhausting because there weren’t many shortcuts and they would have to go all around the forest. Ilmarinen ended up coming to Väinämöinen’s proposition and they started building their boat.
They embarked on their journey and first, they reached a cape where Lemminkainen begged for bread because his prey was small. When he saw the boat he shouted loudly asking whose boat it was. He struck up a conversation with Väinämöinen who told him they were going to Pohja to steal the Sampo. LEmminkainen begged him to take him with them as a companion, and he declared himself ready to help. Väinämöinen agreed, and they continued the journey with one more member.
They had a few days of carefree journey because Lemminkainen said a few spells which he knew to protect them but he didn’t see a waterfall coming their way. They fell down the waterfall and ended up stranded on the back of a pike.
Convinced by Väinämöinen, the easy-going Lemminkainen took out his sword and started cutting the open sea and the deck which made him fall into the water. Ilmarinen took him out telling him everyone wanted to be a hero and be in charge but not everyone was able to do it. Then he took out his sword and attacked the pike but his sword ended up falling into pieces. Väinämöinen took out his sword, pierced the bike and dragged it out of the water so that their boat could proceed its journey.
They took a piece of the bike onto the deck, cooked it and ate it. Väinämöinen used the pike’s bones to make a musical instrument called kantele which no one knew how to play but many have tried.
The old Väinämöinen took the instrument and started playing. All of the living creatures, the spirits of air, earth, and water gathered around to listen to the music.
The music was so good that it touched everyone. There wasn’t a hero, a man, a woman or anything else not enthusiastic about the song. The old, the young, the rich, the brave, the poor, the married, the children and adults cry. Väinämöinen himself shed a few tears, and all of them fell into the sea.
Väinämöinen asked if someone cold bring him back his tears from the bottom of the sea. A duck gathered them just to see that his tears have turned into pearls.
They’ve finally reached Pohja. There the ruler of Pohja waited for them asking about the reasons for their arrival. Väinämöinen answered they came to Pohja because of the Sampo and that if they weren’t able to get half the easy way they will take the whole thing by force.
The ruler Louhi declined their request and didn’t want to hand the Sampo the easy or the hard way. She decided to gather the people of Pohja to give resistance to the three men.
Väinämöinen took his kantele and started playing. His music made everyone fall asleep. He provided a safe path for himself and his friends to the Sampo. They went to the stone hill on which Sampo was placed. Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkainen took the Sampo and placed it safely on their boat. Together with the Sampo they started their journey back home and they were thrilled about their victory.
The ruler of Pohja woke up three days after the Sampo was stolen and when she realized what had happened she unleashed a dense fog, strong storm, and other disasters in order to keep the trio from taking the Sampo further away from her. She was angry because the misfortunate event made her look bad.
During the storm, Väinämöinen’s kantele ended up falling overboard into the sea and he started crying saying that the eternal joy is gone with it.
Pohja’s ruler gathered her men, armed the army ship and directed him towards the Sampo’s abductors. Soon the people of Pohja caught up with Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkainen. A great battle started between them.Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkainen managed to win thanks to the water-mother, some magical words and Väinämöinen sword.
The ruler of Pohja managed to knock the Sampo into the sea from the shore and it broke into a million pieces. The bigger pieces went missing in the sea and the smaller pieces were taken by the sea all the way to the shore. Väinämöinen was thrilled about the smaller pieces coming to shore because he hoped to start a new happiness with them.
The ruler of Pohja threatened Väinämöinen that she will prevent every progress of Kalevala and Väinämöinen answered he wasn’t scared of her empty threats.
Devastated after losing her power, the ruler of Pohja went back. She was unable to catch anything but a small chunk of the lid of the Sampo and it was the only remain of the Sampo she took back to Pohja with her.
Väinämöinen took his time gathering the remains of the Sampo on the shore. He left them to grow and during that process, he prayed for happiness for eternal times.
When everything settled down, Väinämöinen remembered his lost kantele and thought that he was experiencing a perfect moment to play and enjoy the music. He went to search for it in the sea, but he felt as if he will never hold it in his hands again.
After giving up his search, Väinämöinen decided to go back. While he was walking through the forest, he heard the birch’s moaning. He started a conversation with it and she told him how everyone thought she lived a happy life and that all of them were wrong. She told him how she lived in misery and fear because she wasn’t protected. The birch was scared someone will peel off her crust, break her branches and take her leaves away.
Väinämöinen told her not to get deseprate and that happiness has been given to her so that from now on it will be the only thing which will make her cry. Väinämöinen used the birch to make another kantele. He encountered a girl and asked her to give him some of her hair so that he could use it as strings for his new kantele. The girl agreed and he was able to finish his job. Väinämöinen played again and gathered a big crowd around him.
The news about Kaleva’s growth and prosperity reached the ruler of Pohja and she found out they were using the ramins of the Sampo. Envy took over her and she decided to find a way to kill the people of Kalevala.
A blind man’s daughter was pregnant and she was looking for a shelter and a place where she will give birth. She gave birth to nine boys and she gave a name to all of them, except for the last one. She just threw him out and decided he should become a sorcerer.
Louhi of Pohja turned all of the sons against the people of Kalevala and sent them to kill them. After that the people of Kalevala started getting ill but didn’t know anything about their diseases. The old Väinämöinen knew all about the wonders of the ancient times and he started curing them using magical words.
Louhi of Pohja found out that the people of Kalevala were alive. She told them she had other means of killing them. She started to turn a bear against the cattle of Kalevala. Väinämöinen noticed the bear right away and he got ready to fight him. Väinämöinen knocked down the bear and went back to his village.
In Kalevala, the people made a celebration for him and a big feast. Everyone gathered to celebrate his victory. Väinämöinen sang and played his musical instrument wishing for Kalevala a happy future and lots of joy.
The old Väinämöinen played for a long time and everyone got cheerful. The sun and the moon went lower in order to hear Väinämöinen play his instrument. The ruler of Pohja got her hands on the moon and the sun and she hid them behind a hill and stole all the fire from the houses in Kalevala.
The God up above was surprised by the darkness. Without the light he found everything to be sad and desperate so he decided to look for the moon and the sun. When he couldn’t find them the God decided to light up a fire on a new sun and a new moon.
The new fire fell onto the ground and intrigued Väinämöinen who asked Ilmarinen to come with him and see what kind of fire was it. Soon they encountered a river blocking their way and Väinämöinen started building a boat immediately.
On their journey, they encountered the daughter of air and she told him that the fire could have fallen into the lake where it could have been swallowed by a fish. Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen were determined to find the fish. They tried to catch it with a web but their attempt was unsuccessful.
Väinämöinen didn’t give up on finding the new fire. He started knitting a new net in order to catch the fish. He found a piece of land and planted some flax seeds. The plant started growing rapidly and it became visible after one summer night. The flax was dipped into water to make it softer and then they dried it. They took the flax home and made a new net.
When the web was finished Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen went to catch the fish again. They threw the new net into the sea and tied it up to Väinämöinen’s boat to drag it easier. The fish didn’t get in immediately so they decided to lower the net even deeper and sail.
They were helped by a man on the shore who hit the ground chasing the fish closer to the net. Then they raised it up and placed the fish on deck. They found the bike they were looking for such a long time and in its inside,s they retrieved a salmon. After chopping up the salmon they found a blue ball, then a red one and in the middle of the red ball they found the fire spark which fell from the sky.
While Väinämöinen was coming up with ways to get the spark to all of the houses of Kalevala, the spark began to move, rolled over and burned down half of the land of Pohja. The fire spread across the forest, burned down lands and kept spreading until they managed to catch it and take it to Kalevala.
Ilmarinen got burned but Väinämöinen helped his wound heal.
The sun and the moon were still nowhere to be found above Kalevala. The frost destroyed their crops and the life for people as well as animals was hard. Ilmarinen tried to make a new moon and a new sun but it didn’t provide them with light.
Väinämöinen tempted faith and asked the omens where the moon and the sun were hidden. The men told him that they were hidden behind a hill in Pohja. Väinämöinen went to Pohja immediately to confront the people. He ended up winning.
Väinämöinen went to the hill to get the moon and the sun, but he didn’t manage to get inside. After a few failed attempts he went home to get some equipment made which would help him to crack the hill open. While Ilmarinen was making the equipment, the ruler of Pohja got scared things will go downhill for her if she proceeds with her plans, so she released the sun and the moon.
When Väinämöinen saw the starts he saluted them and wished for them to pass their path forever and bring people joy and happiness.
The young virgin Marjatta is the main character of the last song. She was the youngest of her brothers and sisters and she spends her life living in virtue. She took the sheep to eat and spent her days as a shepherd. One day while she was guarding the animals on the hill she found a little cranberry and ate it.
In nine months Marjatta went into labor and confessed her mother she stayed pregnant because of a cranberry she ate. Her parents reproached her and refused to help her calling her a harlot. No one wanted to help her or give her shelter during her labor. Her maid helped her get into a barn where she gave birth to a boy.
One day the boy went missing. Marjatta searched for him with the help of the moon and the stars, but they didn’t want to tell her directly where her child was. The sun told her that he was in the swamp where she later found him and took him home.
The boy grew, and MArjatta decided to take him to an old man to baptize him but he refused to baptize a child without a father until he checked the whole story and he wanted to decide whether the child should be kept alive.
Väinämöinen came to check the whole situation. He said the child should be killed but then the two weeks old child told him he judged the situation all wrong and he interpreted the law. The old man baptized the child King of Karelia. The decision made Väinämöinen angry and he left predicting they will wish for him to come back and make another Sampo, musical instruments and a new light.
Väinämöinen left in his boat to the place on which the sky and the Earth came in contact and where he can stay forever. He left his songs and instruments to the people as a legacy.
In the last song, the narrator says he will lock his mouth and finish the song. He also states that the singer left a trace and made a path in the forest for other singers to keep on singing for the new people and the children growing up.
Väinämöinen was one of the three heroes of Kalevala. His birth was a miracle. He came to the world as a human being after being carried by his mother for thirty years. He was a good sorcerer and it helped him get out of difficult situations. Väinämöinen was an excellent singer, according to the epic no one could hold a candle to his talent. In the end, he stated a death sentence for Marjatta’s son, and he came into a confrontation with the people of the new Christian era. After that even he went to live in a place where the sky and the earth met. Sometimes he was unreasonable, but mostly he was neutral. He was called the old Väinämöinen.
Ilmarinen was a character noted mostly for his blacksmith art. He was in a good relationship with Väinämöinen and he respected him. The two of them went on journeys often. He was the one who builds the Sampo for Pohja and got Louhi’s daughter’s hand in marriage. After his wife died he made a bride out of silver and gold and a silver sun. He was brave and honest.
Lemminkainen was often unreasonable and didn’t think twice about his actions. He was adventurous and a braggart. He also seduced girls and it got him into trouble several times. Because of Louhi’s daughter, he got on the bad side of the people of Pohja who persecuted him which forced him to go to an island. Because of his bad manners, he confronted the men of the island and he had to leave in order to save his life. Lemminkainen didn’t pay much attention to his mother’s advice and she was mostly right and that was the reason why he got into trouble, dual and different confrontations.
Elias Lönnrot Biography
Elias Lönnrot was born on April 9th, 1802 in Sammatta, Finland and died in 1884.
He started his study on the Academy in Turku. A 16-page work titled about Väinämöinen, the got of ancient Finnish was written in 1827. He proceeded his studies in Helsinki where he became a doctor. In Turku, he studied Russian and the classical languages (Greek, Hebrew, Latin). His thesis for medicine was about the magic in Finnish medicine and it was written in Swedish. He used some oral literature gathered by other writers to do the work. This thesis shows he was prone to the oral literary tradition of the Finnish.
He worked as a teacher for a while and then he started his first journey on collecting the national treasure. He encountered a rune’s singer named Juhan Kainulainen and he spent three days writing down his songs, saying and oaths. In 1828 he had about 6000 verses at his disposition and they were mostly epic poems, sayings, and oaths.
Durning his lifetime Elias worked on a Finnish-Swedish dictionary. He wrote a book of poems and ballads named “Kanteletar”. In 1844 he published a book about the riddles of the Finnish people and in 1880 his book about oaths of the Finnish people came to life.