Finnish mythology

Discussion in 'Norse Mythology' started by LegendofJoe, Apr 6, 2012.

  1. LegendofJoe

    LegendofJoe Active Member

    Okay, we've all heard of Norse myths, but has anyone become acquainted with the myths of the Finns?
    It is totally wild; nothing like the Viking myths.
    I'm reading the Kalevala, the epic of Finland. It was compiled by Elias Lonnrot in the 1800's from
    country folk singers. It tells the story of earth's creation and the birth of Vainamoinen, the main
    protaganist. He was born of a woman who fell from the sky and was born already old! (His
    gestation took 700 years)!
    Another hero is the divine smith Illmarinen, who crafted a woman made of gold;
    and Lemminkainen, a brash young man who was murdered but brought back to life
    by the sorcery of his mother.
    Looming in the far north is the witch Louhi who acts as a foil for the heroes.
    In the background are the gods: Ukko, the sky god; Tapio, the god of forests, and Tuoni, the
    lord of the dead.
    Magic is central to the epic, more than the Norse myths that rely more on martial abilities,
    and the epic is packed with chants and spells.
    The Finns belong to an entirely different language family than the Scandinavians, so their myths
    have an entirely different flavor and feel.
    The composer Sibelius based much of his work on this epic, and it was also a rallying
    cry for Finns to express their culture and the need to free themselves from Russia.
    I'm reading a prose version by Magoun, but there are other translations as well.
    I totally recommend this work.
  2. Rhonda Tharp

    Rhonda Tharp Active Member

    That sounds interesting. I've not had time to investigate deep into Finnish myth. I watched a Dan Rather special on their education a month ago and was suprised to learn that all school children learn Swedish (the official language), Finnish and English.
  3. Alejandro

    Alejandro Active Member

    In Norwegian tradition the progenitor of the elements is an ancient giant named Fornótr, who was the father of the Sea (Hlér or Ægir), of Fire and Wind, and the grandfather of Frost and Snow. If he was the father of Ægir and of these other elements in nature, this would make him perhaps almost as ancient as Ymir but interestingly he is also supposed to have been the king of Gotland or Jutland, which the Norwegian tradition says is called Finnland (the land of Sámi or Lapps) and Kvenland (the Finnish-settled part of Norway). Is this at all based on original Finnish mythology or is it just a Norse myth about the Finns?
  4. Amy_lewis_143

    Amy_lewis_143 Member

    Hey Joe,
    Ive read a little bit about the Finnish myths, i think in the Kalevala, doesnt the main character fall in love with his sister, and then they both end up killing themselves? Its been a while so i may have just gotten all that wrong. I think the swan is a symbol of death in Finnish mythology too, like they
    I plan to have a major mythology read up after all my exams are done, so ill make sure to check out some Finnish stuff =)
    LegendofJoe likes this.
  5. LegendofJoe

    LegendofJoe Active Member

    Hi Amy! Long time. Good luck with your exams.
    You are thinking of the character Kullervo who sleeps with his sister and when they find out they both kill themselves (at different times).
    But he is not the main character; he is a tragic figure who is at the center of a small fragment of the poem. To me however, he is maybe the most
    interesting character. The swan is a symbol of death because it is seen swimming in the river than runs in Tuonela: the underworld.
    The main character is perhaps Vainamoinen. He is a Gandalf-type figure who existed when the earth was first created. He expends much energy trying to find a young pretty wife, but is unlucky.
  6. Amy_lewis_143

    Amy_lewis_143 Member

    Yeah, it has been a long time since i last came on here, thought id just see what was being posted and all.
    Ill have to read into it alot more into it, what i read before sounded pretty cool, but it was a brief overview, literally half a page. Do you know of any other Finnish epics/poems etc.? Today i brought the Odyssey so that should take a while to read xD
  7. LegendofJoe

    LegendofJoe Active Member

    The Kalevala is a good place to start.
    If you still want more, then get The Kanteletar. It is a collection of Finnish poems that is a companion to the epic.
    I have it in English, but only a portion of the poems are translated. Maybe there is a complete trans. by now.
  8. Amy_lewis_143

    Amy_lewis_143 Member

    Ah
    Ah, hopefully there will be a complete translation out there somewhere, however, it would sound beautiful in Finnish, i just wouldnt be able to understand what it meant.
  9. LegendofJoe

    LegendofJoe Active Member

    i just discovered that both Georgia and Armenia have national epics!
    The Man With The Panther Skin is the former's and the latter's is The Daredevils of Sassoun.
    I got both from Amazon and will start reading them tomorrow.
    I know nothing of these epics; it's a little daunting.
  10. Amy_lewis_143

    Amy_lewis_143 Member

    Wow, you'll have to let me know what they're like, im quite intrigued. I didnt know that they had national epics either. Do they have a very well established mythology over there or?
    I guess its good when you find out something that you had no idea about what so ever though, i imagine it'll be a little confusing at the start, mind.
  11. LegendofJoe

    LegendofJoe Active Member

    Hi Amy
    I'm not sure how much we know about the mythology of Georgia.
    I do have a book on Armenian mythology however. It was rather thin, but fascinating.
    I suppose it is just not as extensive as other mythologies, but it exists. Armenia was very influenced
    by Persia, so some of their gods are similar to that of the Zoroastrians.
    What I really liked was the fact that Mt. Ararat was a misty exotic place that housed dragons.
    Imprisoned there are also dragon-like beings that are kept in chains so they don't destroy the world.
    Really cool stuff!
    So far I am enjoying The epic of Georgia. It reads a little more like a medieval romance than an epic though.
    Love plays a big role in it. It is amazing how much men cry when they are separated from the women who have imprisoned their hearts! :0
  12. Amy_lewis_143

    Amy_lewis_143 Member

    Ahhh, how do you know so much about so many mythologies?! Its incredible!!
    I also like the dragons being kept in Mt Ararat, its nice when the mythology of a place links into the nature of its place, as many do.
    Do you know when the Epic was written?
    Love does seem to play a big part in myths, sometimes its a bit more subtle though.
    It reminds me of Freyr and Gerdr, he got very woeful when waiting for her! xD
  13. LegendofJoe

    LegendofJoe Active Member

    Hi Amy
    Thanks for the compliment. I've been reading this stuff on and off since 1986!
    The epic was written in the 12th century by Shota Rusthveli. He was the minister of Finance to Queen Thamar at
    a time when Georgia was undergoing a golden age. That was all destroyed a few decades later by the coming of
    the Mongol hoarde.
    The love story of Frey and Gerd is a funny one. He had to give up his sword to woo her, and he was therefore without a weapon
    at the time of Ragnarok. This story also gives scholars a good idea of how magic was used in Scandinavia: Skirnir threatened
    Gerd with Runic magic if she did not marry Frey.
  14. Myrddin

    Myrddin Well-Known Member

    W-ha-ow!! No wonder you know a lot. I wish I had the time to just put a few days aside to read nothing but mythology. Alas, it is currently not in the cards. Maybe I need to get another deck.:D
    LegendofJoe likes this.
  15. kurja

    kurja New Member

    There's an english translation by Keith Bosley, is it incomplete? http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-kanteletar-keith-bosley/1112371297?ean=9780192828620

    Bosley's english translation of Kalevala is in my humble opinion by far the best I've seen, in maintaining the style and rhythm of the original, with a good balance of literal translation and delivering the intent of the words. It also contains a lengthy foreword and notes, helpful in particular to readers not already familiar with the subject. I can't recommend this version enough. I actually prefer reading it rather than the original, although that's in part because the language in the Finnish original is rather archaic and difficult for me to read.

    LegendofJoe - Väinämöinen was not quite born of "a woman who fell from the sky", his mother Ilmatar (really just a feminine form for word Air) stepped down to the sea (apparently this was the extent of existence, air and water, earth was not there yet), where the Sea impregnated her. This is a part of the creation story.

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