The Kalevala is the great Finnish epic, which like The Iliad and The Odyssey, grew out of a rich oral tradition with prehistoric roots. During the first millennium of our era, speakers of Uralic languages (those outside the Indo-European group) who had settled in the Baltic region of Karelia, that straddles the border of eastern Finland and north-west Russia, developed an oral poetry that was to last into the nineteenth century. This poetry provided the basis of the Kalevala. It was assembled in the 1840s by the Finnish scholar Elias Lonnrot, who took ‘dictation’ from the performance of a folk singer, in much the same way as our great collections from the past, from Homeric poems to medieval songs and epics, have probably been set down. Published in 1849, it played a central role in the march towards Finnish independence and inspired some of Sibelius’s greatest works.
I’ve mentioned this story a few times now but I had been reading The Kalevala since about the start of the new year. I started reading it on my Kobo but realised halfway through that the stories weren’t exactly sinking in; the translation that I had was a little heavy and there’s just something awkward about reading folk/epic poetry on a e-Reader (yeah, still getting used to that). So I ended up buying a physical copy of The Kalevala and starting again from the beginning. I will say that the Oxford Classics edition is fantastic in its translation (not sure about the accuracy though), it’s much more accessible than the free ebook version.