Sing my songs and say my sayings
June 28, 2005 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I am wanting, I am thinking To arise and go forth singing The Kalevala is an epic poem written by Elias Lönnrot in the 19th century. Definition. Celebration. Suitable musical accompaniment. Previously mentioned here.
posted by arse_hat (20 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So interesting to know a work of poetry had such a great political impact on Finland. "The Kalevala is credited with inspiring the nationalism that ultimately led to Finnish independence from Russia in 1917."
posted by nickyskye at 12:08 PM on June 28, 2005

"The Kalevala is credited with inspiring the nationalism that ultimately led to Finnish independence from Russia in 1917."

I think Finnish nationalism had a lot more to do with the intensive Russification campaign of the late 19th century. Until then, the Finns seem to have been the least discontented of the subject peoples of the Russian Empire. People credit all sorts of things with all sorts of other things, but saying don't make it so.
posted by languagehat at 12:23 PM on June 28, 2005

Technically, Elias Lönnrot didn't write the Kalevala. 80% was compiled of the old folk tales, mythology and folk runes that the Finns of Northern Karelia have been telling for thousands of years as he tended to the farming communities as a travelling physician. However, he did formalize these stories, along with adding the tale of doomed Kullervo, which, taken as a whole, helped firm up the Finnish identity.
posted by myopicman at 12:42 PM on June 28, 2005

I defer to you on the subject languagehat. I know nothing about Finnish nationalism and was informed only by the Wikipedia link posted above. There is more posted on Wikipedia about the influence of the Kalevala poem.
posted by nickyskye at 12:49 PM on June 28, 2005

There's a little town in Western Michigan called Kaleva, founded by Finnish settlers in the early 1900s. All of the street names are taken from the Kalevala. If you go there, you can visit the Kaleva Bottle Museum--a house made of over 60,000 bottles from the local bottling factory.
posted by apis mellifera at 1:44 PM on June 28, 2005

nickyskye: I may have been over-snarky above (it's hot); the Kalevala unquestionably had a huge impact on Finnish national consciousness. But I think people oriented towards culture tend (quite understandably) to overrate the impact of culture on the rest of the world; I'm reasonably sure that the Finns would have revolted against the Russians given the oppression they were placed under, with or without the poem, whereas if they'd had the poem but kept their privileged status, it's much less likely. But one can never know these things for sure.

apis mellifera: That is cool.
posted by languagehat at 1:56 PM on June 28, 2005

aw Thanks languagehat for your good manners. That's kind of you on this hot day. (It's toasty here in Hell's Kitchen today) The snarkiness of a thinker can be a refreshing eye-opener. :) I've really enjoyed your links and comments by the way.

I think you make a good point about the motivation for the Finns revolting. I was impressed that Wikipedia stated, "The Kalevala is credited with inspiring the nationalism that ultimately led to Finnish independence from Russia in 1917." Is Wikipedia overrating "the impact of culture on the rest of the world"?

I think of science and politics as also part of culture and, for example, the Declaration of Independence as poetry of the American Revolution.
posted by nickyskye at 2:46 PM on June 28, 2005

And once you've read the epic poem, why not stop by the gift shop and pick up a little jewelry?
posted by senor biggles at 2:59 PM on June 28, 2005

Now more curious about Finland.
posted by nickyskye at 3:55 PM on June 28, 2005

apis mellifera, I was just up that way. Damn I'll have to check out that house next time. Cool indeed.
posted by arse_hat at 4:02 PM on June 28, 2005

He failed to bring back the Sampo! (Sampo!)
We shall die of starvation! (Sampo!)
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:46 PM on June 28, 2005

If you are curious, now is the time to visit! (Never go in November - November in Helsinki was one of the reasons why I left).

I suppose the inspirational effect of the Kalevala should be seen just as that and nothing more: an inspiration. Having been under Swedish and Russian rule for hundreds of years it was valuable having a national epic in writing. Having it gave a concrete legitimisation for claiming independence; sometimes people need symbols like that to motivate them during such difficult times.
posted by keijo at 2:24 AM on June 29, 2005

J.R.R. Tolkien was also influenced by Kullervo - he based the character Turin Turambar (see The Silmarillion) on the mythical figure.
posted by tomcosgrave at 4:35 AM on June 29, 2005

Related music if you like: Mari Boine ( a Sami [colloquially called Lapp] chanteuse; Jan Garbarek, ethereal ECM saxophonist (and former Keith Jarret sideman).

Both have recorded music based on joik(note: embedded MIDI files).

Another contemporary musician who mixes north-country folk melodies with jazz is Arild Andersen, another Jarrett alum.

I highly recommend Arv by Andersen.

Yes, I know that these are primarily Scandinavian artists and not Finns.

Gimme any of that north country stuff. Arvo Part (insert umlauts where appropriate), the Jarvi clan (Neeme directed the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for many years--them Estonians are so cool they're en fuego), Big Daddy Sibelius.
posted by klangklangston at 8:30 AM on June 29, 2005

Finnish nationalism definately had more to do than just the Kalevala, and just Russification. The whole area had constantly been changing hands, leading up to Finland's independence, and it was a whole process that took longer than just the time it took Lönnrot to publish his versions of the Kalevala. Over the past 300 years leading up to Finnish independence, the language had been slowly gaining place in use as more than just a peasant language, as a result of the works of various Finnish authors (cough, aleksis kivi), and composers, and so on.

The Kalevala just added to it. If freedom were to have come as a backlash against just Russification, there would have also been uprising in Karelia (interestingly, where the Kalevala was collected), but alas, Karelia remained a region (much like Finland) to be faught over and bombed during war times.

At least, that's my take on it.

Hauskaa kalevalan lukemista kaikille. Nyt mä tahon tietää kuka muu voi puhua suomea mefilla. ;o
posted by taursir at 10:15 AM on June 29, 2005

Hauskaa kalevalan lukemista kaikille. Nyt mä tahon tietää kuka muu voi puhua suomea mefilla.

Yeah, easy for you to say.
posted by klangklangston at 12:14 PM on June 29, 2005

Minä haluan opiskella suomea.
posted by languagehat at 2:34 PM on June 29, 2005

Me voidaan opettaa languagehatille suomea :)
posted by keijo at 4:08 AM on June 30, 2005

Voisi olla vähän outo opettaa kieltä languagehatillehan, vaikka luulen, et hän oppisi nopeasti. :>
posted by taursir at 5:15 AM on June 30, 2005

Ilmatyynyalukseni on täynnä ankeriaita.
posted by homunculus at 9:20 AM on June 30, 2005

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