Monday, November 14, 2011

Essential Classics: The Kalevala

Following up on Friday's comments dialog: the Kalevala is the national epic of Finland.  It looks at first glance like it might be a single unified poem, a la Homer, but is in fact a family of sung poems about the same mythological / heroic characters (who rejoice in such improbable names as Kullervo son of Kalervo, Vainamoinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkainen... and I'm not even putting in the umlauts), first collected in the nineteenth century by Elias Lonnrot, a physician.  This makes it a little like the Eddas and a little like the work of Bascom Lamar Lunsford.

The Kalevala is mythic-funky, shamanic and wild.  Like the Mabinogion, it is probably the post-Christianization disguised telling of old pagan mythologies, and it has a surprising connection to Shakespeare's Hamlet.  Highly recommended.

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