The Kalevala: An Epic Poem After Oral Tradition

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The Kalevala is the great Finnish epic, which like the Iliad and the Odyssey, grew out of a rich oral tradition with prehistoric roots. During the first millennium of our era, speakers of Uralic languages (those outside the Indo-European group) who had settled in the Baltic region of Karelia, that straddles the border of eastern Finland and north-west Russia, developed an oral poetry that was to last into the nineteenth century. This poetry provided the basis of the Kalevala. It was assembled in the 1840s by the Finnish ...

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Sep 17, 2009

Lively translation of classical of oral lit

The Kalevala is a text of oral-transmitted Finnish songs and narratives from eastern and south-eastern Finland collected and edited by Elias Lönnrot, a district medical officer, in the mid C19. Lönnrot edited these songs and narratives into a more or less continuous narrative epic concerned with the legendary Finnish heroes Väinämöinen, Lemminkäinen and Kullervo, amongst others. Lönnrot?s creation instantly became a classic of Finnish literature and almost single-handedly created a sense of Finnish nationality (Finland had been ruled by Sweden, then Russia, but achieved independence in 1917).

The Kalevala was soon translated into German, and later into English. There have been several ?literary? translations of the epic, attempting to imitate the trochaic metre in English. (Longfellow was influenced by the subject-mater and metre of the Kalevala in his Hiawatha, several of the subsequent English translations seem to have been more influenced by Longfellow than the original!).

Keith Bosley?s translation is a recent, lively translation, and, unlike previous English translations, it isn?t boring. In fact it?s a delight to read. There?s a lot of interesting material here for people who like racy mythic narrative, comparative folklore, traditional poetry &c. This edition also has an informative introduction and notes, including a list of compositions by Sibelius using the Kalevala as inspiration or subject matter. All in all, a good read.

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