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The Kalevala (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Lively, true to the spirit of the original. Having taught the course several times, I find this translation to be excellent for our students."--Aili Flint, Columbia University


"Thank you for the complimentary copy! It was a difficult decision but in the end I decided to go with Magour's more literal translation for the course. I will, however, consider Bosley's translation for my own work. I especially admire Bosley's Introduction and your choice of Gallen-Kallela's painting for the cover. Thanks again!"--Leslie Taylor, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale


From the Back Cover

The national folk epic of Finland is here presented in an English translation that is both scholarly and eminently readable. The lyrical passages and poetic images, the wry humor, the tall-tale extravagance, and the homely realism of the 'Kaevala' come through with extraordinary effectiveness. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019283570X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192835703
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.9 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,703,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
A reviewer proposes, Amazon disposes.

Back in 2004, Amazon had lumped together reviews of paperback editions of two translations of the Finnish "National Epic," KALEVALA (variously interpreted as "Kaleva District" and "Land of Heroes"), one in prose by Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. (1963), and the other, more recent, a verse translation by Keith Bosley (1989).

Naturally, the software would not allow the posting of more than one review by any given reviewer.

In response, I did a revised, extended, review covering both versions.

That received a good response (120 out of 122 "helpful" votes), but has been left stranded on the Magoun side, ever since Amazon, in its wisdom, decided to separate the two.

Responding to the challenge, I have rewritten the review to focus on Bosley's translation.

To begin with, Magoun's translation, now almost fifty years old, is a solid, reliable prose version, the first by a translator trained in the study of languages and literatures (mainly medieval Germanic -- but the best translation at the time was by a botanist....) It was welcome in academic and other serious-minded circles, and Magoun also translated Lonnrot's first, shorter, published version, as "The Old Kalevala" (1969), which also contained additional documentary material, and a list of proposed corrections to his main translation -- which has been included as Appendix E in more recent printings of "Kalevala," but not incorporated into the main text.

These were extremely impressive performances, aimed mainly, as indicated, at the serious student. But many find them very readable, and, as a friend reminded me, with their end-paper maps, appendices, character indexes, etc, they physically resemble editions of Tolkien.
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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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