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* The Kalevala, the Finnish National Epic*
By Sharon Ojanpa Mackey, FHM reporter
The Kalevala surrounds and affects a lot of people, not just those of Finnish descent – in the schools, art, poetry, music, even comic books and fashion. It was the subject of the program presented April 13, 2015, at the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, by high school English teacher Carrie Hilston Jackson.
The Kalevala is the national epic poem of Finland, and has been around for centuries, with some runot dating back to the 15th century. In 1835, Elias Lönnrot compiled the first version of 32 runot; then expanded this to 50 runot, or songs, in 1849. The Kalevala songs are oral poetry, usually recited or sung with kantele accompaniment. They and use alliteration, parallelism, and epithets to tell the stories. It is an epic poem on the order of the Iliad, or Beowulf.
The poem is always performed in the trochaic tetrameter, or Kalevala metre. This rhythm has been used in many other poems and songs. The best known example in the U.S. is Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem also inspired J.R,R. Tolkein when he was writing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The elvish language is even based on Finnish!