Originally published in the Finnish American Reporter February 2016 issue. Click on the image for a PDF.
The Kalevala, Finland’s National Epic
By Carol Melancon
Finland’s national epic, The Kalevala, compiled by Elias Lönnrot, was first published in 1835 by the recently founded Finnish Literature Society and in its final form in 1849. Lönnrot spent almost ten years traveling throughout Karelia, gathering the ancient stories and poems that had been passed down from generation to generation with songs called runos, a cross between a poem and a song. Lönnrot organized his collection of 50 runos into an adventurous tale about three legendary Finnish heroes: Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkäinen. The bravery of these mythical Finns and their interwoven stories of magic and courage were the inspiration for the works of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, author J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic Hiawatha. Most importantly, Lönnrot’s work gave Finns a new pride and strength that eventually led to their independence from Russia in 1917.
Kalevala: Land of Heroes, a play by Paul Olson, is based on The Kalevala. On Saturday, August 22, members of the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council community theater group of Negaunee will perform Olson’s play in the Finn Camp Dance Hall. The Finn Camp, along with the Knights and Ladies of the Kaleva and the Finnish Center Association, are jointly sponsoring this important Finnish cultural event.