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Reading the Kalevala in one year from March 15, 20's Journal
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Reading the Kalevala in one year from March 15, 20's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008
10:13 pm
Runo 42 Stealing the Sampo

Runo 42 Stealing the Sampo (Bosley) or Capture of the Sampo (Crawford)


Väinämöinen and company arrive in the Northland and give Louhi a chance to surrender the Sampo.  She declines and summons her army to destroy the heroes.  Väinämöinen plays the kantele and puts them all asleep. 


The three (Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkainen) sneak into the copper mountain where the Sampo is locked up.  Ilmarinen skillfully gets past the locks and Lemminkainen captures and harnesses a great ox who pulls the Sampo free.


They are rowing away with all their might for a long time.  Lemminkainen grows bored and askes for a song.  Väinämöinen says that singing will slow them down, but Lemminkainen starts to sing.  His singing is not good and prompts a crane to fly away crying out.  This wakes the people of Pohjala and Louhi. 


Louhi uses her magic to call forth a thick fog and a sea monster which Väinämöinen bests.  Then Ukko – god of the deep – raises a giant wind and crashing waves that shake the ship and cause the pikebone kantele to be lost forever before Väinämöinen can use his magic to calm the sea and save the ship.


FOR JANUARY 3 – Runo 43.  This is (arguably) the climax of the book.  There is a free audio recording of Crawford’s translation of this Runo on Librivox.org. 


Runo 43 as MP3 at 64kbps

Runo 43 as MP3 at 128kbps


Wikipedia’s Synopsis of the Plunder of the Sampo


Tuesday, January 1st, 2008
10:08 pm
Runo 41

Runo 41 The Pikebone Kantele (Bosley) or Wainamoinen’s Harp Songs (Crawford)


Väinämöinen plays the pike-bone kantele and all the world stops to listen.  He plays and plays until people weep at the beauty of the music.  Väinämöinen himself weeps for the song.  


This picture by Leskinen is from the 1950 prose translation by Aili Kolehmainen Johnson published in Hancock, Michigan.  It is still under copyright to the best of my knowledge and is used here simply to draw attention to the beauty of the moment when Väinämöinen’s playing attracts the attention of not only all the furry woodland animals – but also the fish themselves.




Wikipedia’s Synopsis of the Plunder of the Sampo


Saturday, December 29th, 2007
11:25 pm
Runo 39 and 40

Runo 39 Sailing to Northland (Bosley) or Wainamoinen’s Sailing (Crawford)


Ilmarinen and Väinämöinen  prepare to reclaim the Sampo.  Ilmarinen reiterates his preference for land travel, while Väinämöinen insists on traveling by sea.  Ilmarinen forges a sword for Väinämöinen and it is spectacular.


Väinämöinen comes upon a magic, intelligent boat that is sad that it has not been taken out to sea in a long time.  They set sail on it. 


Along the way, they collect Lemminkainen



Runo 40 The Pike (Bosley) or Birth of the Harp (Crawford)


The group sails for the Northland but along the way the boat gets hung up.  They think that they’ve run aground but are actually on the back of a giant pike.  They kill the pike.  Väinämöinen makes a kantele out of the pike’s jawbone but no one can play it.




Wikipedia’s Synopsis of the Plunder of the Sampo


Monday, December 10th, 2007
6:50 pm
Saturday, November 24th, 2007
12:07 am
Runo 37

Runo 37 The Golden Bride (Bosley) or ILMARINEN'S BRIDE OF GOLD (Crawford)

Ilmarinen, in his grief over the death of his wife at the hands of Kullervo, works to create a new wife out of gold.  He first pulls a sheep, then a horse and finally a woman out of the forge.  She's perfect... except that she's not real. 

Väinämöinen is totally horrified by the whole thing.  He basically tells Ilmarinen to use the gold to make something worthwhile (implying that a wife is not worthwhile). 

Väinämöinen ends the runo with a specific prohibition against idolatry of money and gold.

Wikipedia's synopsis of the second Ilmarinen Cycle

Friday, November 23rd, 2007
11:54 pm
Runo 36

Runo 36 The Cowbone Whistle (Bosley) or KULLERWOINEN'S VICTORY AND DEATH (Crawford)

Kullervo askes his family if they will be sad when they hear he is dead.  Only his mother says that she will grieve him.

Kullervo goes off and, in his travels, hears one by one that his family is dead.  He expresses grief only when he hears that his mother is dead. 

With a brief prayer -- Kullervo falls upon Untamo's clan, slays them all and burns their settlement to the ground.

Upon returning home - he finds his family home empty and cold.  He goes out to the place where he ravished his sister and he falls on his own sword. 

Wikipedia's synopsis of the Kullervo Cycle

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007
7:51 pm
Runo 33, 34 and 35.

I hope everyone else is like me and is at least able to READ the Runos during the week -- even if writing a synopsis every week is proving to be more work than someone who is a parent, a graduate student and a full-time employee can manage every week.


Runo 33 The Broken Knife or Kulervo and the Cheat-Cake

Kullervo breaks his knife on the stone in the bread and that is the last straw.  Kullervo sends the herd into the swamp and then uses magic to disguise the wolves and bears as cows -- who then eat Ilmarinen's wife.

Runo 34 Father and Mother or Kullervo Finds his Tribe-Folk

While on the lam, Kullervo finds out his parents are still alive and returns to them.

Runo 35 Brother and Sister or Kullervo's Evil Deeds

Kullervo - now back with his parents, finds a way to ruin everything -- yet again.  He has sex with his sister.  This runo ends with Kullervo vowing to find death in battle. 

Wikipedia's synopsis of the Kullervo Cycle

Saturday, October 20th, 2007
8:51 pm
To Guard a Herd

October 18 - Runo 32

To Guard a Herd (Bosley) or  Kullervo as a Sheperd (Crawford)


This runo really makes me mad.  There.  I’ve said it.


Kullervo comes to the house of Ilmarinen as a purchased serf.  Still, he wants to be useful.  He doesn’t want to destroy everything he touches.   Ilmarinen’s   wife (“Once the maiden of the Rainbow” – line 15) has become a cruel, evil woman. 


She sends Kullervo out into the fields with her precious herd of cows and a loaf of bread with a stone in it.  From Line 37 on to the end (543 lines) this runo is just one long prayer for the protection of the herd.  So – instead of actually DOING anything that would ensure the protection of the herd (like treating Kullervo decently) she’d rather pray the Ukko would keep the herd safe. 


Question for discussion:  What does this runo suggest about the attitude that 19th century Finns (and Lönnrot) had towards intercessory prayer?


Wikipedia's synopsis of the Kullervo Cycle




Thursday, October 11th, 2007
9:52 pm
Runo 31 - Feud and Serfdom

October 11- 07 Runo 31
Feud and Serfdom (Bosley) or   Kullerwoinen Son of Evil (Crawford)

Kullervo is born.  As a tiny baby, he has enough strength and rage to destroy his crib.  His family decides to kill him.  They try to drown him and then they try to burn him.  Having failed both - they try to hang him.  He gets so bored hanging in the oak tree that he carves doodles in the tree. 

When they try to put him to work he kills a  child he has been assigned to care for.  Then he clears a field.  He clears it so well that he destroys all the lumber and he renders the field so clear that nothing will ever grow there again.  Then he builds a fence.  The fence is so good that even the people who are supposed to be able to come and go through it are not able to.

Exasperated -- they sell him to Ilmarinen, the legendary smith. 

Wikipedia's synopsis of the Kullervo Cycle


9:32 pm

This picture of Kullervo by Bjorn Landstrom appears in the Friberg translation of the Kalevala.  It is under copyright.  As far as I'm concerned, I'm using it here under "fair use," for educational purposes.  It's display here is not intended to violate any copyright.

I find this depiction of Kullervo fascinating because it depicts him as being very vulnerable and young - not the raging madman her is often depicted as.  He has the traditional bark slippers that identify him as being very poor.  This depiction makes his rage and violence (and his repeated victimization) much more poigniant, as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007
8:58 pm
Sunday, October 7th, 2007
9:12 pm
Runo 30 - The Frost Fiend
Runo 30 - Jack Frost (Bosley) or the Frost Fiend (Crawford) The Adventures of Lemminkainen and Tiera (Friberg)

Lemminkainen is intending to set sail back to the Northland and enlists the help of his old friend, Tiera. Tiera’s family tells Lemminkainen that he’s not going to go - no way, no how - because he just got married. Lemminkainen basically says to Tiera: “You wanna come with?” and Tiera says, “Sure.”

Louhi unleashes the titular “Frost Fiend” and Lemminkainen defeats it -- but the world is still covered in frost. Lemminkainen changes his cares and woes into horses and they ride away.

Next week - we’ll start looking at the Kullervo Cycle of stories.


Thursday, September 27th, 2007
10:13 pm
Runo 29 - Conquests

Runo 29

Conquests (Bosley) or  The Isle of Refuge (Crawford)


This runo reminds me of the “Castle Anthrax” sequence in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Except - Lemminkäinen doesn’t try to avoid the maidens.


Lemminkäinen packs and sails off for the island where his father once hid.  The maidens of the island welcome him eagerly.  He entertains them with his magic singing.  He sleeps with a thousand maids and a hundred widows.  Lines 226-230 (Bosley) say: “wherever he turned his head there his mouth is kissed, wherever he reached his hand there his hand is touched.”   


He stays for three years and on his way to get it on with the last widow who he hasn’t done so with – he realizes that he sees “no fellow who was not honing a sword, not sharpening a hatchet meant for Lemminkäinen’s head.” (Bosley 287-290).  He decides to split and, when he gets to where his boat was – finds it has been burn to ashes.  So, he uses magic to make a new boat with three swings of an ax (which is the kind of thing Bugs Bunny might do).  


He sails away and all the maidens weep for him… until they can no longer see his boat, at which point, they go back to what they were doing.  Lemminkäinen also weeps superficial tears for the maiden’s, but soon gets over it.


That makes it all the more poignant when he gets home and finds his house burnt down and his mother vanished.  At THIS he weeps for three days.  He wanders around and finds her living in a secret sauna waiting for him to return. 


When his mother asks if he behaved himself, he ends the runo with a few sarcastic comments: “I hid from the wenches, kept clear of the woman’s daughters, as the wolf hides from the pigs, and the hawk hides from the village hens!”


Wikipedia's synopsis of the second Lemminkäinen Cycle




Wednesday, September 19th, 2007
9:46 pm
Runo 28 - Into Hiding

Into Hiding (Bosley) or  The Mother's Counsel (Crawford)

Lemminkäinen turns into an eagle to escape the wrath of the Northland.  He flies home and is chastised by his mother for disobeying her.  He asks where he can hide and she basically says that wherever he goes, he's going to still make lousy decisions and cause trouble for himself.  After forcing him to promise that he won't cause any trouble if he gets to a safe hiding place -- she tells him of an island where his father hid during a time of war.  Lemminkäinen takes his father's boat and sets off for this safe place.

Next week - Runo 29 is, in my opinion, the funniest one in the whole Kalevala.  It has a lot of sex and farce.  I think that the Bosley translation really emphasizes the humor in this runo. 

Wikipedia's synopsis of the second Lemminkäinen Cycle


Thursday, September 13th, 2007
9:39 pm
Runo 27 - Magic and Mayhem

September-13-07 Runo 27
Magic and Mayhem (Bosley) or  The Unwelcome Guest (Crawford)

Lemminkäinen comes to the place wher the feast was, but of course, everyone has gone home.  He demands hospitality anyway and gets bad beer.  Louhi's husband challenges him to a duel by magic (Note: in the Crawford translation it is obviously Louhi's husband.  In the Bosley translation that I'm using most of the time - it's not as clear).

Lemminkäinen summons a bull, and Louhi's husband summons a wolf to kill it.
Lemminkäinen summons a hare, and Louhi's husband summons a dog to kill it.
Lemminkäinen summons a squirrel to taunt the dog, and Louhi's husband summons a marten to kill it.
Lemminkäinen summons a fox to kill the marten, and Louhi's husband summons a hen to taunt the fox.
Lemminkäinen summons a hawk which snatches the hen away.

Then Louhi's husband challenges Lemminkäinen to a duel by swords.  Lemminkäinen kills Louhi's husband and plants his head on a stakes in a row with hundreds of other heads on stakes which the residents of the Northland just happen to have around.

Louhi is, of course, furious and magically summons an army.  Lemminkäinen flees.

Wikipedia's synopsis of the second Lemminkäinen Cycle


Wednesday, September 5th, 2007
8:24 pm
Runo 26 A Perilous Journey

Runo 26 A Perilous Journey (Bosley) or Origin of the Serpent (Crawford)

This is the first Runo in the Second Lemminkäinen Cycle.  It begins with Lemminkäinen plowing a field, but stopping when he hears the sound of Ilmarainen's wedding taking place in Sariola.  He decides to crash the party but his mother -- as always -- forbids him from going.  She predicts that he will face five dooms:

1. A Fiery River
2. A Fiery Ravine
3. A Wolf and a Bear
4. An Endless Wall
5. Sariola's Warriors.

Of course, he goes anyway.  He does meet the first four dooms and uses his magic to prevail against them. 

Then he is challenged by a hideous serpent.  Described in the Crawford translation as "Longer than the longest rafters, Larger than the posts of oak-wood; Hundred-eyed, the heinous serpent, And a thousand tongues, the monster, Eyes as large as sifting vessels, Tongues as long as shafts of javelins, Teeth as large as hatchet-handles, Back as broad as skiffs of ocean."

The serpent threatens to destroy Lemminkäinen, but Lemminkäinen tells the story of how a demon created the monster from an ogress's spit.  Because Lemminkäinen knows the creature's origin -- he cannot attack.

This runo ends with Lemminkäinen entering Sariola, where the fifth doom predicted by his mother still waits.

Wikipedia's synopsis of the second Lemminkäinen Cycle

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007
8:38 pm
Homecoming (Bosley) or  Wainamoinen's Wedding-Songs (Crawford)

August-30-07 Runo 25
Homecoming (Bosley) or  Wainamoinen's Wedding-Songs (Crawford)

Ilmarainen and his bride return and the whole town rejoices.  Ilmarainen's sister tells about how long they've waited for her.  She says that every part of the house has waited for a mistress.  She is given reassurance that she will be happy in this good land.

Then there is a feast to welcome her and Vainamoinen praises the master and the mistress of the house. 

Line 672-738 have a strange, seemingly irrelevant story of Vainamoinen's sled breaking down and him having to repair it. 

Wikipedia's synopsis of Ilmarinen's Wedding.

Next week -- we begin to study the Second Lemminkäinen Cycle.  This is a cycle with a lot of sex and humor.  Study it well.

Wikipedia's synopsis of the second Lemminkäinen Cycle

Looking ahead -- apropos of Halloween, we will examine the Kullervo Cycle from October 11th through November 22.

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007
8:52 pm
Librivox's Kalevala project has vanished
Some of you know that Librivox had planned to do an audiobook of the 1888 Crawford translation of the Kalevala.  Well, last time I checked into it -- it had completely vanished.  All that's there is a reading of Runo 43.

There is no audiobook of the Kalevala. This just doesn't seem right. The Kalevala originated as oral literature.  An audiobook of the Kalevala seems like a no-brainer.

Shouldn't we do something about this?
Thursday, August 23rd, 2007
9:59 pm
August-23-07 Runo 24

Departure (Bosley) or The Bride's Farewell (Crawford)

In many ways, this is the counterpart of the last runo.  This one (up to line 264) focuses on instructions to the groom in how to care for his bride.  First - appreciate her beauty, but more importantly, appreciate her skills.  The instructions are to give her the tools she needs and treat her well and never fight in public.

Then, in line 264 - we see the male counterpoint to the old woman in Runo 23.

The runo ends with the bride (who has no name) saying her farewells.  They leave and go to Ilmarinen's home, "Ilma."  It is interesting that Ilmarinen's home has a name that is mentioned specifically, but his bride's name is never mentioned.

Question for discussion: How does one respond to the apparent  condoning of domestic violence in light of Finland's tradition of gender equity?

Wikipedia's synopsis of Ilmarinen's Wedding.


Sunday, August 19th, 2007
11:38 am
Runo 23

August-16 Runo 23
Instructions and a Warning (Bosley) or Osmotar the Bride-Adviser (Crawford)

At 850 lines -- this is the longest runo in the Kalevala. 

The focus of this runo is on adjusting to the new life of a wife.  The instructions center on working hard in the home - starting a fire, caring for the animals, caring for the children.  "When you come in - come is as four" (line 175) shows the Finnish focus on efficiency. Then there's instructions on caring for the husband's family, too.  There's detailed instructions on tending the sauna and brewing beer.  There is an instruction to be friendly to strangers (line 420) but not too friendly (line 429).  Advice against gossip and instructions to not forget your own family end the instruction section.

Finally there is the account of an old woman who tells of her unhappy marriage and ther loutish husband. Her tale reminds the reader that just being hard-working and dedicated is not enough if the other partner is not willing to put forth the effort. 

The next runo, which we'll look at next week, gives similar instructions to the groom.  In fact, the structure of that runo mirrors this one.  I think that this shows the early origins of Finland's desire for gender equality. 

Wikipedia's synopsis of Ilmarinen's Wedding.


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