Skip

Woe is me, my life hard-fated!
February 25, 2008 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Anglo-Finnish artist Sanna Annukka's vibrant, flat design work (especially her Icons series) got me curious about her, well, iconography.

She mentioned The Kalevala previously, the Finnish national epic poem (in Finnish here), a tale of creation and heroism that arguably spurred the Finns to independence from the Russians.

Like so much else epic and awesome, it spawned a '70s prog band, with three albums.
posted by klangklangston (23 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
...and inspired a whacked-out movie.
posted by jtron at 3:13 PM on February 25, 2008


cool stuff, thanks!
posted by gnutron at 3:28 PM on February 25, 2008


The Kalevala also inspired Longfellow to write the Song of Hiawatha, which my mom used to read to me as a child before bed.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:01 PM on February 25, 2008


That's really incredible.
posted by boo_radley at 4:08 PM on February 25, 2008


A very good album that actually uses (Bosely's translation of) Kalevala poetry is Tales from the Thousand Lakes (see, for example, Black Winter Day or Ensiferum covering Into Hiding). They were definitely a motivating force in the incorporation of folk themes, lyrical, melodic, and rhythmic elements, into that kind of music. The following album, Elegy used lyrics not from Kalevala, but the Kanteletar, more down-to-earth, people-and-folkways kind of lyrics than the gods and epic deeds of Kalevala. It ends up being one of my favorite albums of all time, just a perfect mix of rhythm, simple primal melodies, aggression, uncommon words and turns of phrase due to the translation, and that unique sort of "colorful bleakness" that you get in Scandinavian folk - cold, dark themes, but richly told. The title track of Elegy YouTube) will always be my song of catharsis in the face of loss. And this - how you can you beat this?

Truly they lie, they talk utter nonsense
Who say that music reckon that the kantele
Was fashioned by a god
Out of a great pike's shoulders
From a water-dog's hooked bones:
It was made from the grief
Moulded from sorrow

Its belly out of hard days
Its soundboard from endless woes
Its strings gathered from torments
And its pegs from other ills

posted by Wolfdog at 4:13 PM on February 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


The meter of Hiawatha is its most obvious debt to the Finnish. There are all these little stock phrases that permeate it, like Vaka vanha Väinämöinen and Siitä seppo Ilmarinen and dozens of little variations on those and others that scan exactly like "By the shores of Gitche Gumee..." and it's such an easy meter to extemporize on. Really, try it with Hiawatha, you can just fill in whole swaths of verses off the top of your head if you want to.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:18 PM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


a tale of creation and heroism that arguably spurred the Finns to independence from the Russians.

Actually, it was the perverse pigheadedness of the Russians that spurred the Finns to independence. One of the few sensible decisions of Russia as an imperial power was granting the Finns substantial autonomy when they took it over from Sweden in 1809; the Finns were appropriately grateful, and their pro-Russian attitude was strengthened when Alexander III convened the Finnish Diet and allowed them their own army in 1878. He promoted economic development and the use of the Finnish language. His successor, the unimaginably stupid and feckless Nicholas II, decided this was excessively generous; he imposed conscription in 1898, curtailed the powers of the Diet in 1899, and suspended the constitution in 1903, ruling Finland directly from St. Petersburg. Amazingly, the Finns didn't appreciate this, and joined the wide and growing collection of groups pissed off and ready to revolt. The Kalevala made a nice cultural rallying point, though.
posted by languagehat at 4:46 PM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like how this FPP takes you from one place, to the next, to the next, but each part is like a separate neat-looking piece of a much larger whole which reflect each piece. If that makes any sense. Inotherwords, thanks for the neato FPP.
posted by not_on_display at 4:54 PM on February 25, 2008


I've always thought Elegy was an epic song, but never bothered to look up the lyrics. Turns out they rule! Thanks, Wolfdog! If you haven't checked it out, the Black Winter Day EP has Moon and Sun, Pt. II, also derived from the Kalevala, I believe. It possibly outshines every song on Tales from a Thousand Lakes.

Sanna Annuka's stuff, even though it's bright and crisp, strikes me as somehow grim and melancholic. Or is this confirmation bias triggered by knowing she's Finnish? Either way, nifty.
posted by ignignokt at 5:05 PM on February 25, 2008


The Kalevala also inspired Tolkien, of course, particularly in his conception of the Simarils of the Silmarillion.

Accordingly, some fans are translating it into Quenya.
posted by dhartung at 5:14 PM on February 25, 2008


"the Finns were appropriately grateful, and their pro-Russian attitude was strengthened when Alexander III convened the Finnish Diet and allowed them their own army in 1878."

How odd—I'd always remembered Alexander III as fairly conservative and regressive compared to his prior namesakes. I would have figured that he'd have worked to consolidate control of Finland, not further autonomy. But thanks for the historical note—the context of Kalevala's purported influence was that it gave the Finns a national identity (though since they had their own language, that's probably overstated).
posted by klangklangston at 5:18 PM on February 25, 2008


How odd—I'd always remembered Alexander III as fairly conservative and regressive

He was, but he was also sensible, except for not doing a damn thing to prepare his son and heir to be ruler. But that's a failing of many otherwise sensible monarchs.
posted by languagehat at 5:55 PM on February 25, 2008


Yeah, I have to say my Russian Politics class pretty much skipped over him, and I learned more from my class on Bismark.
posted by klangklangston at 6:08 PM on February 25, 2008


From a phenomenological guy who likes college basketball and road racing. The Finns aren't good at college basketball, but they're great at racing.

The Finns are the best road racers in motor sports, bar none. I have a Finnish friend who’s not happy about that, but its true nevertheless. The current F1 world champion is a Finn, and they (with such a small country) always have at least 2 guys in the hunt in F1, as opposed to 0 for the USA.

Sorry for the derail.
posted by Huplescat at 7:25 PM on February 25, 2008


Of course, we MSTies are indebted to the Kalevala for The Day The Earth Froze (mentioned higher up I think), one of Aleksandr Ptushko's amazing fantasy epics, argbuably one of the few Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies that could be termed good, if goofy, even in the semi-bastardized American redub. Kevin Murphy professed his love for 'em in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide.

So it seems this is the epic that has, ultimately, inspired me and my friends to randomly say "Only a SAMPO!" at random intervals. The workings of causalty are strange indeed.
posted by JHarris at 7:27 PM on February 25, 2008


Kalevala also inspired an early eighties TV-series that was filled with gore and nudity if memory serves. Never seen it again so I can't possibly say if it was good or not - but the geysirs of blood certainly made an impression on an 15 year old..
posted by razorian at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2008


If you're in NYC next week and want to hear some of the Kalevala read out loud (in all sorts of languages) or even want to read out a passage yourself, the Fourth Multilingual Columbia University KALEVALA Marathon is next Monday.

I'll be there performing a reading.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:48 PM on February 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


and I learned more from my class on Bismark.

Learned everything except how to spell his name.
posted by Wolof at 11:24 PM on February 25, 2008






Thanks for the link to Sanna's site... but both of those links are down. Did her site get me-fi-tted? (I didn't think we generated *that* much traffic!)

Another bit of Kalevala-inspired music is Kalevala: Dream of the Salmon Maiden -- the story of Aino, a young girl pursued by a horny old magician.
posted by omnidrew at 8:08 AM on February 26, 2008


"Learned everything except how to spell his name."

Aww, Wolof, always here to check my spelling.
posted by klangklangston at 9:43 AM on February 26, 2008


Ps—Sanna's back up.
posted by klangklangston at 9:44 AM on February 26, 2008


« Older Not With Reynols   |   Airliner Videos Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post