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on 23 April 2017
Bought this as a gift for a friend and they loved it.
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on 19 November 2007
The Kalevala is the result of Elias Lönnrot collecting and commiting to paper the oral traditions of the Finnish people to produce an epic tale.
This translation has captured the poetic delivery of the original Finnish as perfectly as these two opposing languages could.
The poetry weaves the tales of Väinämöinen, an old seer and the younger Joukahainen who wishes to challenge him. This angers Väinämöinen who chants him deep into a swamp, a meadow and a heath!! To get himself out of trouble Joukahainen offers the old seer his sister Aino as a bride. Väinämöinen thinking he has been offered a house keeper accepts. Aino is quite taken with being his bride but Väinämöinen has other ideas and heads North to woo the maiden of the North. He can marry her if he forges a Sampo, which is a magical machine that churns out salt, flour and money! He can't do that but he knows a man who can, his good friend Ilmarinen the blacksmith. He has to trick Ilmarinen into going North but he makes the Sampo. Then the marriage requires another task and so the maiden remains unmarried.

Meanwhile, another character Lemminkäinen decides to go North and try his luck winning the maiden. He is given tasks in order to win her hand, capturing the elk of Hiisi and the swan from the river of Tuonela. The latter task nearly kills him and he gives up.

Väinämöinen is now making himself a boat to head back up North but he runs out of spells so he has to go and find Vipunen, a giant who knows all the spells. He gets his spells, finishes his boat and heads North but he is seen by the sister of the blacksmith and the blacksmith rides like the wind on his horse and catches up with him. The two men make a pact that they will let the maiden choose between them. The maiden choose Ilmarinen because he forged the Sampo but her mother still wants more tasks done and she orders Ilmarinen to plough the field of vipers. Ilmarinen finds this easy with his armoured boots and cape and so the crone of the North sets him the task of capturing the giant pike of the chill north sea without line or net!!Ilmarinen forges himself a giant eagle and captures the pike. Now the old crone is satisfied and the wedding takes place. Väinämöinen makes a kantele from the jaw of the pike which produces sweet voiced music such that tames the beasts and even causes the sea king Ahti to rise from the depths. He and Ilmarinen use the sweet music to soothe the beasts of the North whilst they take the Sampo for themselves and set sail for home. Louhi, mistress of the North casts a fog spell to stop them, which Väinämöinen conjures away so Louhi unleashes a terrible storm which sweeps the kantele from the boat whereupon Ahti the sea king thinks it is a present to him and he calms the sea. The crone turns herself into an eagle and attacks Väinämöinen's boat and in the struggle the Sampo is broken into pieces. Some of the pieces are washed up on the shore and from the fragments Ilmarinen makes amulets and rings thinking that perhaps there is still some magic left in the pieces. Each resident of Kalevala wears a magic piece on special occasions, wishing for a peaceful life.

Now I've just condensed an epic piece into a few short paragraphs...for which I apologise but it's a great tale and maybe this will encourage folk to read it themselves.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 September 2015
This is a review of the Oxford World Classics version that runs to over seven hundred pages, published in 1999. The introduction, translation, and notes are by Keith Bosley and were published separately in 1989.

The work begins with quite a beautiful creation myth of the earth and heaven; the world, sun, moon, and stars coming into existence through to birds’ eggs in the lap of the water-mother, who is “a lass, an air-girl, a nice nature-daughter.” We learn how vegetation began and the origins of agriculture. When reading it I was often drawn to comparisons with Tolkien in the ‘Silmarillion’.

Later we start to read of the adventures of wanton Lemminkainen and the tales of steady old Vainamoinen, as well as of the smith Ilmarinen, the everlasting craftsman. These are all full of bluster and boasting where ‘one’ becomes ‘a thousand’ within the same stanza. Kalervo and his son Kullervo do not appear until the thirty-first of the book’s fifty sections. The work is full of analogy, symbolism, and plays on words. Having read it once, though, I do not think I would choose to read it all again.

I decided to explore the ‘Kalevala’ because of the many links to the music of Sibelius. But it soon became a frustrating read due to lack of punctuation and the arrangement of the text. Often two sentences are joined together with no punctuation to indicate whether the central idea belongs to the first or the second. For instance: “the wealth grows chilly, the herds/get into a dreadful state/strange to the birds of the air/tiresome to mankind/that the sun will never shine nor/will the moon gleam.” Other editions may be more user-friendly.

In his well-written introduction, Bosley points out that the first publication of the ‘Kalevala’ did not take place until as late as the 1830s (by Lonnrot) and was part of the context of European vernacular literature popular at that time. Not knowing the original, I do not know how fast and loose the translator has played with the text, but Bosley remarks that the work is based on the Finnish oral tradition, so it adopts poetic formulas throughout its eight cycles. He indicates the problems of translation – “Kalevala poetry has neither rhyme nor stanza; its other formula features are alliteration and parallelism … like a good film it cuts from one close-up to another, adding the occasional long-shot for contrast.”

This edition could really do with a glossary of characters, or at least an index. It is quite inexcusable that there is none. But we do have a short appendix featuring a list of works of Sibelius that feature the ‘Kalevala’.
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on 26 February 2005
Other reviews highlight many of the Kalevala's intrinsic qualities. This epic should be well-known among Tolkien's fans, too. In his published letters, handily indexed in the paperback edition, may be found statements that amount to this: No Kalevala, no legendarium of Middle-earth! - - or at least, Tolkien's mythology would have been markedly different. He specifically related the Kalevala's story of Kullervo and his own cycle of Turin legends. Old Vainamoinen, the singing wizard, has affinities with Gandalf and Tom Bombadil. The hag Louhi's theft of the sun and moon, which plunges Kaleva-land into darkness, suggests Tolkien's myth of Melkor's destruction of the two Lamps. A more homely example of the importance of things Finnish for Tolkien has to do with his naming one of the persons in The Father Christmas Letters: a bear is named Karhu (which is Finnish for bear, as Bosley states in one of the notes to The Kalevala). And the Finnish language was the chief inspiration for the Elvish language Quenya. Awareness of Tolkien's recognized indebtedness to medieval English and Germanic legends - Beowulf, Siegfried, etc. -- must be supplemented by a good acquaintance with the Kalevala. A superb "Kalevala" for younger readers is Babette Deutsch's Heroes of the Kalevala.
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on 17 August 2012
brought up with arthur and the Iliad i cam late to finnish mythology but of this great poem i say it stands alongside nay other literature a stirring story and beautiful song
this is a fine modern translation and although the story drags a bit on cantos 27-29 for my liking
over all a fantastic tale that puts its imitator tolkien in the shade
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on 17 March 2015
Quite difficult to get in to. I would suggest reading it out loud and without faltering to consider what it says-at least at first.This way it flows better and stands more chance of making sense. There is a discernable 'style' in the way it is written. Maybe too high brow for me?
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on 10 February 2014
It has so much meaning for me, We used to watch movies about Kalevala when I was at school and I think every Finn and anyone who would like to know us should read this. How these stories were collected in the first place, the harshness of the life in impossible weather conditions, they are all reasons to read the book.
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on 22 December 2015
Has not always been easy to find the Kalevala in English. As a non-Finnish speaker I am not in a position to judge its accuracy but translation is readable and fluent. Kindle version makes it slightly clunky to flip back and forth to footnotes which I felt I needed to do.
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on 24 January 2017
My god this is dull! I have happily read the Odyssey (Pope translation), Milton, Spenser and James Joyce, but never read something so turgid and hard to read as this! I would thoroughly recommend the children's version by Eivind despite its typsetting issues: that tells you all you need to know and is far more enjoyable than this. It may be the translation or it may be the source text but it was a real job of work getting through it. I think I should be given a medal now, or at the very least a t-shirt (XL)!
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on 28 December 2016
I love this edition/publication, although I love most Oxford Classics. I don't have any knowledge of the original language, but I find the translation very readable and idiomatic. It stands very nicely on the page, and has useful explanatory notes. The introduction is useful also, and not too short.
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