The Kalevala- a Finnish poetic song , sung in an unusual, archaic trochaic tetrametre ( now often called Kalevala metre) , has been part of Finland's oral tradition for two thousand years.Revving up the twin engines of alliteration and parallelism, as well as throwing stanza structure to the wolves, The lines when sung, actually have four or five stresses. The melodies cover a narrow range, usually consisting of only five notes.
Well that's just great; a Finnish song cycle that goes on for years and years and is even further diminished by special poetic dispensation. I imagine the effect to be rather like someone reciting a sound poem about painful dentistry using onomatapoea .
The Gist of it:
Ilmatar (the Virgin of the Air) descends to the waters. A pochard lays its eggs on her knee. The eggs break and the world is formed from their pieces. The mother of the water then gives birth to Väinämöinen.(The God Of Clinical Depression) Sampsa Pellervoinen sows the forest trees. One of the trees, an oak, grows so large that it blots out both the sun and the moon. A tiny Government surveyor rises from the sea and fells the giant oak. He then bills Ilmatar for services rendered. The sun and moon can shine once again, but only under strict Socialist principles.
3 - 4
Joukahainen challenges Väinämöinen to a contest of wisdom and goat sucking and is defeated. With his singing, Väinämöinen causes Joukahainen to sink into a swamp. He then bills Joukahainen for services rendered. In order to save himself, Joukahainen promises his sister' s hand in marriage to Väinämöinen and also promises him several tea kettles and a recipe for creamed herring. Upon learning of the bargain, the sister Aino mourns her fate and kills herself by eating too much herring.
5 - 7
Väinämöinen searches the sea for Aino and catches her (she has been transformed into a fish) on his fishing hook. However, he loses her again and sets out to woo the maiden of Pohjola, the daughter of the North Farm. Meanwhile, eager for revenge, Joukahainen watches out for Väinämöinen on the way to Pohjola and shoots Väinämöinen's horse from underneath him as he rides across a river and then ruins his credit rating. Väinämöinen falls into the water and floats out to sea. There an eagle rescues him and carries him to Pohjola's shores. The eagle then bills Väinämöinen for services rendered. The mistress of Pohjola, Louhi, tends Väinämöinen until he recovers. He is then billed, but contests it because the deductable seems really low for some reason. In order to be able to return home, Väinämöinen promises that Ilmarinen the smith will forge a Sampo for Pohjola. The maiden of Pohjola, Louhi's daughter, is promised to the smith in return for the Sampo.
8 - 9
On his way home, Väinämöinen meets the maiden of Pohjola and asks her to marry him. She agrees on the condition that Väinämöinen carry out certain impossible tasks, like making sense and inventing an extra- whitening toothpaste made entirely from herring byproducts. While Väinämöinen carves a wooden boat, his axe slips and he receives a deep wound in his knee. He then bills himself for services rendered, partly out of habit, partly out of stupidity.
He searchers for an expert blood-stauncher and finally finds an old man who stops the flow of blood by using magic incantations and Socialized Medicine, not to mention a large quantity of cotton batting.
Using magic means, Väinämöinen sends the unwilling Ilmarinen to Pohjola. Ilmarinen forges the Sampo. Louhi shuts it inside a hill of rock that plays "Music Box Dancer" incessantly. Ilmarinen is forced to return home without his promised bride, but recieves a case of Rice A Roni.
Lemminkäinen sets off to woo Kyllikki, a maiden of Saari Island. He makes merry with the other maidens and abducts Kyllikki. He later abandons her and leaves to woo the maiden of Pohjola. He impresses them with a medal he has recieved for fickleness, presented to him by the Greater Rykevik Swineherds Association.With his singing he bewitches the people of Pohjola to leave the farmhouse at North Farm. Only one person, a deaf cowherd, does not fall under his spell.
Lemminkäinen asks Louhi for her daughter, but Louhi demands that he first hunt and kill the Demon's elk, then the Demon's fire-breathing gelding, and finally the swan in Tuonela River, which, despite being the boundary between this world and the next, is trumpeted as an ideal vacation spot and convention center . There the vengeful cowherd kills Lemminkäinen and throws his body into the river. Judges lining the river bank only give the cowherd a combined score of 38.6 for his throw. He is furious and accuses them of being French Canadians.
Lemminkäinen's mother receives a sign of her son's death and goes out in search of him. She rakes the pieces of her son's body out of Tuonela River, puts them back together and brings her son back to life, which she then proceeds to ruin with nagging and guilt.
Väinämöinen begins to build a boat and visits Tuonela in order to ask for the magic spells needed to finish it. He does not find them.
He then seeks the missing spells from the stomach of the ancient wise man, Antero Vipunen, who has long been dead.
Using a crude form of electron colposcopy, He finds them and finishes his boat.
Väinämöinen sets off in his boat to woo the daughter of Pohjola, but she chooses instead Ilmarinen, the forger of the Sampo. Ilmarinen successfully performs the three impossible tasks set before him: he plows a field full of vipers, finds a rhyme for "orange" and "silver" and figures out who actually buys C. Howard's Violet Candies. Louhi promises her daughter to Ilmarinen.
In Pohjola, preparations are made for the wedding and invitations are sent to all except Lemminkäinen. The groom and his folk arrive in Pohjola, and there is great feasting. Väinämöinen entertains the wedding guests with his version of "Bitch Better Have My Money". The bride and groom are given advice concerning marriage, and the bride bids farewell to her people and departs with Ilmarinen for Kalevala. There a banquet is also ready for the guests. Väinämöinen sings the praises of the wedding guests.
Lemminkäinen shows up at the banquet in Pohjola uninvited, and demands to have his parking validated. He is offered a tankard of beer filled with vipers, and a quantity of soft boiled eggs. Lemminkäinen engages the master of Pohjola in a herring eating contest and and kills him.
Lemminkäinen flees the people of Pohjola who are rising up in arms against him and hides on Saari Island, living among the maidens of the island until he is forced to flee once again,when the sex becomes an empty gesture performed by unfeeling automatons. This he needs like a lemon juice filled papercut. Lemminkäinen finds his home in ashes and his mother hiding in a cottage in the forest. Lemminkäinen sets out to seek revenge on Pohjola, but is forced to return home because a cold spell cast by the mistress of Pohjola has frozen his ships in the sea. Also, he is out of socks and underwear.
Brothers Untamo and Kalervo quarrel violently, Kalervo's troop is slain, and of his kin only his son Kullervo remains. Because of his superhuman powers, Kullervo fails in every task he is given. He also thinks "cheese" is a kind of wood. Untamo sells the boy to Ilmarinen as a serf. The wife of Ilmarinen send Kullervo out to be a cowherd and out of spite bakes a stone into the bread which is his only provisions. She also forgets to pack handcream.Kullervo breaks his knife on the stone while trying to cut the bread, and in revenge drives the cows into the swamp and brings home a pack of wild animals instead. The mistress, intending to milk the cows, is mauled to death. Kullervo flees. He finds his family in the forest, playing Canasta but hears that his sister has disappeared.
Kullervo's father sends him to pay the taxes. On his return trip, Kullervo unwittingly seduces his sister, who then harangs him about fixing a garden hose until he drowns her in the rapids upon discovering that, while they are compatible sexually, the restof the time she's annoying and shrill. Kullervo sets out to seek revenge on Untamo. Having killed Untamo and his family, Kullervo returns home to find his own family dead. Kullervo commits suicide by boring himself to death with a recounting of the saga so far.
Ilmarinen mourns the death of his wife and decides to forge a woman of gold. The golden maiden remains, however, lifeless and cold. Väinämöinen warns the young people against worshipping gold, and also to stay in school. He then joins the Postal service.
Ilmarinen is rejected by the youngest daughter of Pohjola and carries her off in his sleigh. The girl reviles Ilmarinen and so offends him that he finally turns her into a Tax accountant with his singing. Ilmarinen tells Väinämöinen of the wealth and prosperity that the Sampo has brought the people of Pohjola.
Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkäinen set out to steal the Sampo from Pohjola. In the course of the journey, their boat runs aground on the shoulders of a giant pike. Väinämöinen kills the pike and fashions a kantele from its jawbone. No one else is able to play the instrument, but Väinämöinen holds all living things spellbound with his playing, and some tight leather trousers.
Väinämöinen puts the people of Pohjola to sleep with his kantele playing to accompany a recap of the saga and the Sampo is taken to the travellers' boat and rowed away. The people of Pohjola awaken and Louhi, the mistress of Pohjola, sends obstacles in the path of the raiders to hinder their escape. most of these obstacles are waffles. The seafarers survive, but the kantele falls into the sea. Louhi sets off in pursuit and transforms herself into a giant bird of prey. In the ensuing battle the Sampo is smashed and falls into the sea. Some of the fragments remain in the sea, but others wash ashore and bring Finland good fortune and prosperity. Louhi is left with only the worthless lid of the Sampo and an impoverished land.
In vain, Väinämöinen seeks the kantele which fell into the sea. He makes a new kantele from birchwood, seaweed, and saliva. His playing once again delights the whole of creation.
Louhi sends diseases to destroy the people of Kalevala, but they are out of town. Louhi sends a bear to attack the Kalevala cattle, but Väinämöinen engages the bear in a conversation about the maidens of Saari Island. They both agree that they aren't worth the trouble, and adjourn to a nearby steakhouse which does not have any steak, only herring as is the custom. The people of Kalevala organize a bear-killing.
The mistress of Pohjola hides the sun and the moon inside a hill and steals the fire as well. Ukko, the supreme god, makes a new sun and moon by striking fire, but the fire falls to earth, into the belly of a giant fish. Väinämöinen asks Ilmarinen to go fishing with him. Väinämöinen then asks Ilmarinen about "homosexual subtext" They catch the fish and eat it in an akward silence.
Ilmarinen forges a new sun and moon, but they do not shine. After battling the people of Pohjola, Väinämöinen returns to ask Ilmarinen to fashion a class action suite with which to release the sun and moon from Pohjola's mountain. While Ilmarinen is forging the necessary documents, Louhi sets the sun and moon free to return to their places in the sky.
Marjatta conceives a child from a whortleberry. Her baby boy is born in the forest, but soon disappears, to be found finally in a swamp. Väinämöinen condemns the fatherless child to death, but the child reccomends Barney Greengrasses' seafood restauraunt and is christened King of Karelia. Väinämöinen departs in a copper boat with double glazing the prediction that he will be needed again someday to make a new Sampo for the people,and that someday the BBC will do an entire segment on vegetables that look like famous people.