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Kalevala, The Land of the Heroes (Kirby translation)

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By: (1802-1884)

The Kalevala is a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology. It is regarded as the national epic of Karelia and Finland and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature. The Kalevala played an instrumental role in the development of the Finnish national identity, the intensification of Finland's language strife and the growing sense of nationality that ultimately led to Finland's independence from Russia in 1917. The first version of The Kalevala (called The Old Kalevala) was published in 1835. The version most commonly known today was first published in 1849 and consists of 22,795 verses, divided into fifty songs. The title can be interpreted as "The Land of Kaleva" or "Kalevia." If the rhythm of the poetry sounds familiar to American readers, it is probably because Henry Wadsworth Longfellow borrowed its trochaic tetrameter form for his famous "Song of Hiawatha." Of the five complete translations of the Kalevala into English, it is only the older translations by John Martin Crawford (1888) and William Forsell Kirby (1907) which attempt strictly to follow the original rhythm (Kalevala meter) of the poems. Modern writers influenced by the Kalevala include J. R. R. Tolkien, whose epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy make use of both style and content from the Finnish work.

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Transcriber's note:

[=a] indicates a with macron [)a] indicates a with breve [)e] indicates e with breve]

Everyman's Library Edited by Ernest Rhys



Translated from the Finnish by

W. F. KIRBY, F.L.S., F.E.S.

In 2 Vols. Vol. 1


The Land of the Heroes


London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc.

All rights reserved Made in Great Britain at The Temple Press Letchworth and decorated by Eric Ravilious for J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. Aldine House Bedford St. London First Published in this Edition 1907 Reprinted 1914, 1923, 1936


The Kalevala , or the Land of Heroes, as the word may be freely rendered, is the national epic of Finland, and as that country and its literature are still comparatively little known to English readers, some preliminary explanations are here necessary.

On reference to a map of Europe, it will be seen that the north western portion of the Russian Empire forms almost a peninsula, surrounded, except on the Norwegian and Swedish frontiers, by two great arms of the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland; the two great lakes, Ladoga and Onega; the White Sea, and the Arctic Ocean... Continue reading book >>

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