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 Faiprot 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!
Jean Sibelius, the great Finnish composer, created 12 works based on the Kalevala; as did Einojuhani Rautavaa in composing his operas. The poem continues to influence musicians today, including several rock and metal bands.
If you are not already familiar with Väinämöinen, Lemminkäinen, Ilmarinen, Louhi or Marjatta, you may want to reacquaint yourself with this wonderful epic poem. I personally like Louhi, because she is so changeable, and is the subject of a wonderful children’s book called Louhi, Witch of North Farm.
Following Finnish tradition, a gathering of Finns (hereafter known as a Finnship*), will always have kafvi and dunks. Thus we also follow that at the museum with this delicious spread. By the way, we only use our OWN grind of coffee, which is specially ground for us by a Cleveland company.
Photos © Bill Lukshaw, Text © Sharon Ojanpa Mackey 2015
*new word proposed by editor Lasse Hiltunen"