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The Kalevala: An Epic Poem after Oral Tradition by Elias Lönnrot (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – February 15, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

`an unread masterpiece...The translator, Mr Bosley, is an English poet and knows the Finnish language, accomplishments which few can rival...try this book; you will not be disappointed.' The Spectator

`Keith Bosley's Kalevala is a poet's translation, impressive for its stylistic daring, its taste and its scholarly awareness and for the sheer pleasure it gives. The zest and energy of the 22,795 line epic is communicated by the freshness and force of the translator's approach. Not only the poetry itself, but also the long introduction which Mr. Bosley provides convey his enthusiasm and personal enjoyment of the original text... The publication of Mr. Bosley's Kalevala is, I think, a major literary event... More than any previous translation, Mr. Bosley's should establish The Kalevala as part of our common cultural background.' Anthony James, Agenda

`Keith Bosley has been able to imitate the weaving repetitions, formulae, parallelisms, imagery, and content, and feels a poetic affinity for the life depicted...The text is now accessible in English: it can be read without a stumble, enjoyed and taken seriously. Not the least feature of this rewarding edition is Keith Bosley's witty and informative introduction.' Herbert Lomas

`a valuable addition to the OUP World's Classics Series ... Bosley's version benefits from his deep knowledge of Finnish language and lore and his command of ethnic English, with its colloqualisms, that more than adequately, and often quite brilliantly, conspire to render the feel of the original with amazing fidelity.' Ossia Trilling, Stage and Television Today

`The Kalevala is a fabulous narrative spiced with exotic images and much hilarity.' Jennifer Cooke, Melbourne Sunday Herald

About the Author

Keith Bosley is the author of Finnish Folk Poetry: Epic and was awarded the first Finnish State Prize for translators.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199538867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538867
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.7 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I didn't want to put the book down at night.
Thomas Sebastian Mueller
The Kalevala is a great body of mythology and folklore that is vital to understanding Finland, and Finnish national identity.
Paul Haspel
The hero serves as an ideal model of personal conduct, for the most part.
ThorBjorn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Zekeriyah VINE VOICE on October 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Kalevala is one of the greatest (and yet largely unknown) epic poems of all times. Although relatively young when compared to the works of Homer and so forth, this Finnish epic draws deep into Finland's Shamanic heritage and is indeed based off these old myths and legends. It concerns the adventures of Vainamoinen the wise Shaman, his companion Ilmarinen the smith and the bold, young Lemminkainen. Those who have studied Shamanism will already see a Shamanic aspect in the association between Vainamoien and Ilmarinen, for in many cultures smiths and Shamans are linked together. There are many more Shamanic archetypes and beliefs found throughout this book, such as a bear sacrifice which is startlingly similar to that observed amongst the Ainu and Lapps of recent times. This book, perhaps the only real direct source of Finnish mythology and religion, explores an oft neglected culture. After all, any school child can tell you of the myths of the Greeks, Romans or Germanic peoples, yet the mythology and heroes of Finland have remained largely unknown. A real pity as this epic is filled with deciet, trechery and heroism which easily could stand beside the works of Homer, Virgil or Valmiki. This translation, perhaps the best available, both for the price and in terms of being generally accessable, is certainly worth owning. Whether you are interested in mythology, history, anthropology, Finland or just like a good story, there is bound to be something in this book which appeals to you.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Weiss on September 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Elias Lonnrot's noble achievement, "The Kalevala," sings myriad Finnish tales to a reader's heart and mind.
The formidable epic poem weaves music, magic, and lusty suprahuman heroes traditional to Finland, and derives from Lonnrot's artistic assembly of oral poetry.
In reading this classic, one careers through a unique culture and mythology on horse-drawn sledges and hand-crafted vessels, meeting such fantastical figures as the ever-wiseman -- and ever-bachelor -- Vainamoinen and the brawny mistress of Northland, Louhi.
Comprising fifty cantos, "The Kalevala" requires unfettered time, discerning ear, and adventurous spirit to complete. Tongue-tickling alliteration and intraline rhymes help speed the journey. And anyone who has read and enjoyed Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha" will appreciate Lonnrot's compilation, as Longfellow modeled his work in part on "The Kalevala."
Perhaps the farfetched feats and unlikely events intrinsic to this mythological mosaic seem irrelevant to modern materialism and daily grind, but heeding the beck of such diversion will supply one not only with practical wisdom but also with the virtue of its purpose: pleasure, poetry, and historical preservation.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on November 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
Back in 1998, I went to a village near Oxford, UK to visit friends and watch the World Cup on the BBC. I drank a lot of beer and also bought THE KALEVALA in one of the big, old bookstores in town. I finally got around to reading it recently. I'd been put off for seven years, thinking it would be a daunting task that I nevertheless "ought to" undertake. No, not at all, this is a most readable translation with modern fillips, yet perhaps more faithful to the original than the super-romantic, Victorian longwindedness that I admit I expected.

As part of the world's treasure hoard of mythology, this ancient Finnish epic holds its own with any. It resembles others in that it explains the birth of the world, the creation of the ur-hero Vainamoinen, and the solution of many problems---finding fire, how to sow fields, how to raise crops, what are ecologically sound practices, the origin of beer, and how a bride should behave. The human characters are intimately tied to the natural world all around them: just as in mythology everywhere, animals, birds and trees speak, magical transformations occur on many a page, and the heroes escape defeat by magic more often than by violence. The number of themes that can be analyzed psychologically or probed for cultural `inner meanings" is great. For example, the third chapter presents youth's eternal confrontation with the older generation. Joukahainen, a youth, challenges old Vainamoinen, to a singing match. He loses and has to pay up in the form of his sister. The sister drowns herself rather than marry an old man., but she becomes a fish. Vainamoinen tries to catch the fish. His mother's spirit tells him to look for another---perhaps a very early version of the phrase "there are many fish in the sea" !
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Kellyannl on August 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
This sister to the Norse Sagas is the masterwork of Finnish mythology.
In it we follow the three main heroes - the elderly Vainamoinen, wise in everything except love; his brother Ilmarinen, the presumably middle-aged master smith; and Lemminkainen, the reckless young lothario who causes his wife and mother endless headaches but who we like enough anyway that we worry about him when he gets into trouble.
In some ways, it's a product of it's time. This was written in a time when women had no say in who they married; they had no recourse if their husbands were abusive; and they were virtually their mother-in-law's slaves until their younger brother-in-laws or sons got married and they weren't the low women on the totem pole anymore. Althoug Aino's story offers a message about this system, it's pretty much accepted. This is what life was really like at the time these stories were sung.
In other ways, though, it's surprisingly modern. Although the results usually aren't so serious, we've almost all been taken down a peg by an elder like Joukahainen at some point in our lives when we've needed it. I would imagine that many widowers - and widows, for that matter - can relate to Ilmarinen's sense of loss when he loses his wife.
And then there's Kullervo. He wins the all-time teen angst award hands down. It's fascinating how his cycle deals with a question psychologists have grappled with for centuries - are kids taught to be good, or are they just born good or bad? He's a danger to society, yes - but he may also never have had a chance. No matter what you feel about what he does, the scene where he wanders pitifully among his family asking if anyone would cry if he died until he gets what he needs to hear from his mother, can move you to tears. Just read the headlines about the latest school shooting. There really are kids almost this messed up out there.
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