Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Kalevala: Finland's National Epic

The Kalevala is a magical book, full of old wisdom,
myths, spells, and exciting adventures.

February 28 is the Kalevala Day, and the day of Finnish Culture. The Kalevala is a national epic of Finland and one of the most significant works of Finnish literature. It's an epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Finnish and Karelian oral folklore and mythology. The Kalevala is almost like a "holy book" or Finland's own Bible for some patriotic people. For my part, I love this book!

The first version of The Kalevala was published in 1835, and the final version was published in 1849. This book contains a fifty poems, full of magic, spells, myths, folk wisdom, and exciting adventures of old heroes (gods).

The Kalevala is Finland's most translated work of literature. It has been translated into 61 languages, including English, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, German, French, and Spanish. A well-known English writer J. R. R. Tolkien was a huge fan of The Kalevala!

The Magical Power of the Music

Väinämöinen is the central character of The Kalevala. He is a wise man who knows good magic, and hero with many adventures. According to Finnish mythology, Väinämöinen is also a god. Magic of Väinämöinen is in his songs. When he sings hills shake and water moves! He sings his enemy, Joukahainen, to sink in swamp. Väinämöinen plays a magical kantele.

Kantele is a traditional Finnish stringed instrument that resembles and is played like a zither. Kantele is also related to the ancient Asian instruments such as Chinese gu zheng and Japanese koto. Kantele is a national instrument and symbol of Finland.

Here I list some other symbols of Finland; two of them are national symbols of Russia, too:

Brown bear (Finnish: karhu) national animal (also in Russia)
Whooper Swan (Finnish: laulujoutsen) national bird
Finnhorse (Finnish: suomenhevonen) national horse
Granite (Finnish: graniitti) national rock
Lily of the Valley (Finnish: kielo) national flower
Birch (Finnish: koivu) national tree (also in Russia)

Kantele is a traditional Finnish stringed instrument,
and also national instrument and symbol of Finland.

Similarities with Asian Cultures

Some scientists says that even 25 % of the genes of Finns comes from the Asia. Part of original Finns (Finno-Ugric people) were ancient nomads from the East. When they lived close by the Silk Road about 3000 years ago, they were dealing with other Asian nomadic people.

That's why there are many similar old myths and legends in Finland, Japan, China and India (for example, so-called World egg myth). It has been said that Finland is the most Asian country in Europe!

Finally, one quote from The Kalevala. This is an ancient Finnish blessing according to English translation:

Grant, O Ukko, our Creator,
Grant to us, thy needful children,
Peace, and happiness, and plenty,
That our lives may be successful,
That our days may end in honor.

I recommend this amazing and mystical book to everyone who are interested in Finnish mythology and old poetry. Happy Kalevala Day! (^—^)


Joukahainen's Revenge (1897), a painting by Akseli
Gallen-Kallela, who is best known for his illustrations
of the Kalevala. His work was considered very
important for the Finnish national identity.


  1. Hi Teisuka,

    Thank you for sharing detailed information about The Kalevala. This is really a very interesting part of the Finnish culture. I learned a lot from this blog, such as wise man Väinämöinen and the music instrument kantele. And you're right, it looks similar to gu zheng. It's interesting that Finland is said to be the most Asian country in Europe, and according to your information, there is definitely some truth to it. -:) Then I think probably more Chinese should immigrate to Finland and make it even more Asian. Ha ha...just kidding. Kelavala is definitely a great literally work, and it has been translated into so many langauges. Just amazing!

    May you enjoy the rest of the snowy winter in your part of the world! I know winter is your favorite season, so you may hate to let it go. So I suggest that you take more pictures of the winter season and share with us if possible. -:)

    Wish you all the best.

    1. Hi Bao,

      Thanks a lot for your kind visit, my friend. I'm very glad that you see the value and importance of The Kalevala. It is probably the proudest and most glorious thing in the Finnish culture. :)

      Yes, original Finns were really partly nomads from Asia or East. For my part, I welcome more Chinese immigrants to live here, since I like Chinese people and Chinese culture. So welcome! :)

      At the moment, here lives only about 7000 Chinese (the whole population of Finland is 5,4 million people). Anyway, here is a Chinese restaurant in every city. Cheers! :)

      Thank you for your suggestion, Bao. I promise I will take more winter pictures, if we will get more pure snow and frost here in Finland. Hope so... Haha.

      Blessings and all the best to you, my friend! :)


  2. Hi Teisuka,

    Thank you for introducing us to Kalevala Day. The Finnish culture is very new to me - this shows how unworldly I am! In the future will you be sharing the Kalevala poems with us from time to time?

    In northen parts of China, from the anscient tombs, there is evidence that Caucasian people were there, possibly some from Finland! In Chinese there is this saying 四海一家. This is very true.

    Are you welcoming spring?

    Blessings to you,


    1. Hello G2kdlj,

      You're welcome, and thank you for your nice comment. Yep, this time I wanted to tell about the Finnish culture, because I haven't done it too often.

      Thanks for giving me a good suggestion. I can share some short quotes from The Kalevala in the future. There is a little place on my blog called "Quote of the Week." Stay tuned. :)

      I agree with Chinese saying. The world is One, indeed, and actually we all humans are relatives with each other through Adam and Eve... :)

      Do I welcome the spring? Well, not yet... Haha. Even though I like the spring too, I hope that winter could still last few weeks. Right now it's snowing here and temperature is -9 °C (16 ºF). Good for me. ^^

      Blessings to you.