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Richard Roberts @MadeOfTeeth
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Kalevala report #1. This guy knows a lot of songs, and he really wants to sing them to you. Entire pages are spent making this clear.
Kalevala report #2: Beer is important for singing and nobody can be expected to sing very long if they have to drink water.
Kalevala report #3: The world is made of ducks. This makes terrifying sense.
In a fascinating Finnish idiosyncrasy, land needed creating. Sun, moon, and stars needed creating. The sky needed creating (although the empty night time blackness did not). Plants needed creating. But humans were just there already.
Kalevala report #4: The world has its first villain! WOO! And the first evil a hero must defeat is... oak trees! Yes, the first oak tree is so big it's blocking the light, and the first hero isn't sure he can kill it. He needs help in the form of a finger sized ocean hero.
Let me be clear, this tree is not just inconvenient. It is maliciously hogging the sunlight. The phrase 'tree of evil' is used.
Update: 'Far apart appear his eyeballs' may be the best description of a hero ever.
Kalevala report #5: Not silly, but slash and burn agriculture seems to have been culturally important to the point of mysticism in early Finland.
Kalevala report #6: I’m seeing a similarity to Irish mythology. Songs are magic and bards are wizards. We’ll see if it’s as constant and important in the Kalevala as it was in Irish stories.
Kalevala report #7: Wainamoinen is SO WISE that he was born thirty years old.
Kalevala report #8, Finnish Beauty Tips Edition: Butter makes you ‘strong and ruddy’, bacon makes you ‘tall and queenly’, dainties make you ‘fair and lovely.’
Kalevala report #9: Aino is like a reverse Disney Princess. I want to be sympathetic that she doesn't want to be married, but this girl has no consistent argument, just wanders around for weeks singing songs that start 'woe is me' and complaining about everything.
Now she has put on all of her fanciest clothing and jewelry, and wandered all over the hills telling Nature that she's going to throw herself into the sea and drown.
I love the Kalevala's way of describing something as 'not of the biggest or the smallest', so far used for a man five inches tall and an eagle whose wingspan is as tall as the sky.
Kalevala report #10: And now the most practical epic poem ever provides basic instruction in blacksmithing, including where to find iron in Finland and how to turn it into steel.
Iron asks not to be turned into weapons, nobody listens. At least it does also get to be practical tools.
Update from earlier: Aino went and posed dramatically on a rock, got thrown in, complained that she didn’t actually intend to commit suicide, drowned.
Kalevala report #11: Now a lecture about how some people seem really nice when they're weak, but become total jerks when they have power. We are told that it's nobody's fault but that person's. I can't believe this is an epic oral history poem. Song of Roland, hide in shame.
Kalevala report #12: I had seriously forgotten this whole story about iron was an aside and we're still in the story of Wainamoinan seeking medical attention because he fell for the wrong girl again.
Kalevala report #13: I am now 20% into this story, and there has been exactly one (failed) attempt to kill another person with a weapon. Maybe Lemminkainen’s story will be different, but so far, the Finns are the least violent ancient people ever.
Kalevala report #14: The rich women of Sahri make fun of Lemminkainen, so he gets a job as a shepherd, and now they're all sleeping with him. There is either a translation or cultural gap too deep for me to cross here.
This is the strangest relationship in ancient history. Or maybe the most normal.
"Be my bride."
"I'm way too good for you."
"I'm scoring all your friends, I must be doing something right."
"Okay, I'll try sleeping with you."
"Sucker, now it's a kidnapping!"
"Let me go! I don't want to marry a poor person!"
"No, girl, I'm rich. I just don't look it."
"Oh, well, fine. But don't go out plundering, okay?"
"If you don't sleep around, I'll stay home."
"About that. I, uh... there was this party..."
"That's it, I'm going plundering."
It's almost romantic. Two shallow people find each other.
Kalevala report #15: Lemmenkainen wants us all to know that he is a better singer than three naked wizards.
Kalevala report #16: 'Braided tresses' keeps coming up every time the Kalevala talks about young women being promiscuous. I'm starting to think it's a euphemism.
Kalevala report #17: Not only is the arctic circle a terrible, dreary place, so is Lapland. Everyone either complains they don't want to go there, or gets lecture that they'll hate it if they go there. That those two places suck is an ongoing theme.
Kalevala report #18: Lemminkainen plays Pokemon.
Hailstones were described as ‘smaller than the head of a horse, larger than the head of a hero.’
Kalevala report #19: Oh shit, Lapland, you done called down the thunder now. Lemmenkainen’s Mom knows her boy is dead, and she will get him back from death, or she will WRECK you.
Compressed to tweet size, the conversation goes “Stop dicking around and tell me where my son is, or I will kill every single person in your kingdom.”
Update: It looks like Lapland will survive, because the woman who rules it only thought she was sending Lemmenkainen to perform a stupid impossible errand, not a dangerous one. Mom's focus is on getting her son back, not punishing random goobers.
Kalevala report #20: Good news, Lemmenkainen’s Mom brought him back to life through sheer stubbornness, lectured him about snake magic, and made him come home.
Kalevala report #21: The story of Finland’s greatest warrior is complete. Violence contained: Lemmenkainen ambushing a room full of wizards and singing at them until they run away into exile. One deadly snake bite. There are some good threats.
Kalevala report #22: Back to Wainamoinen, and... an immediate explanation of which wood (oak) you should build boats out of!
Kalevala report #24: Sampra is a hero because he is, and I quote, "skilled with the chopping." Yes, he is the hero of planting and chopping down trees. Finland does not define 'hero' the way the rest of Europe does.
Kalevala report #25: Wainamoinen is murdering an incredible number of animals in the hope their body parts will contain a song he’s looking for.
Kalevala report #26: I have come to a much belated epiphany. Knowledge is literally power in the Kalevala. Wainamoinen is not looking for a magic spell. He's looking for boat building instructions. Which is the same as a magic spell. Which is the same as a song about boats.
The Kalevala ITSELF is a magic spell intended to share with you some of the power of the ancients. There is a whole section about that near the beginning I didn't understand. It gives you history, practical facts, and incantations, all of which are the same thing.
Kalevala report #27: Wainamoinan's visit to the land of the dead goes poorly. Why he thought he could lie to the tiny woman who rows the boat in, I don't know. This guy has maximum int and minimum wisdom. I liked her comebacks. 'If you were killed by iron you'd be bleeding.'
Kalevala report #28: On his way back out, while telling everyone else not to be as stupid as him, we get a list of Finnish moral rules: Obey your parents. Don't hurt the innocent, feeble-minded, or weak. Don't lie. Don't betray trust. Don't hurt your 'companion.'
Kalevala report #29: Did I mention that Wainamoinen gets a very wise giant to eat him, sets up a smithy in the giant’s guts, and generally causes a fuss until the giant not only spits him out but tells him all the magic/lore/songs it knows?
The giant has an incredibly long speech trying to cast spells to get him out, threatening, insulting, and begging.
Kalevala report #30: Wainamoinen has his boat. He’s off to convince his blacksmith’s fiancé to marry him. Oops.
Kalevala report #31: Someone asks Wainamoinen where he’s going. Wainamoinen lies repeatedly while they point out how obvious the lie is. This is a thing Wainamoinen does. I guess when you were born 30 years old you have a lot of being a goober to catch up on.
Kalevala report #32: I don’t know if there will be battle this time, but I swear 3/4ths of the story drivers in the Kalevala are heroes trying to find a wife. It seems like chasing a bride is all Wainamoinen DOES.
Kalevala report #33: Wainamoinen and Ilmarinen agree to be gentlemen, let the girl decide who she wants to marry, and hold no grudge.
In any other epic this would guarantee generations of vengeance and murder. In the Kalevala I'm half expecting a pie eating contest with a detailed pie recipe.
Kalevala report #34: This is an awesome spell: When strangers are coming, put an evergreen branch on the fire. If it drips red, they bring bloodshed. If it drips water, they bring 'peace and plenty.' Naturally, it dripped honey.
Kalevala report #35: “Seven days it took a weasel to encircle head and shoulders.”
Kalevala report #36: WE HAVE REACHED PEAK FINLAND. The Kalevala is now explaining, with a full recipe and measurements, how to make beer.
Oh, and when he lost, Wainamoinan blamed his own old age, gave up and went home. So, substitute 'beer' for 'pie', and my prediction has come true. Why are the Finns so much better than the rest of us?!
The beer recipe uses honey for yeast. I have looked this up, and yes, this was a way people got yeast for beer way back when.
Update: The beer is so good, it is demanding a song be written in its honor, or it won’t let anyone drink it.
I have learned that fish do not compose songs about beer well.
Kalevala update #37: Everyone in Finland is invited to this wedding, except Lemmenkainen because he's too warlike! He's on his way anyway, AND thinks he'll be marrying the bride! The beer is the most potent in history! All is set for a tale of bloody glory and tragedy.
HA HA HA no, this is the Kalevala. He'll fall asleep drunk or learn the true meaning of friendship or something. I'll let you know.
Kalevala update #38: The (strangely unnamed) bride’s family must be sadists. We’re into the second chapter of them telling her that being married is an unending nightmare of labor and abuse.
This is actually depressing me and giving me anxiety. They are relentless in preaching despair.
The groom's isn't a lot better. The official marriage-instructor tells Ilmarinen his responsibilities, and especially to be kind and not let his family be mean. Then one old guy tells Ilmarinen that if you don't beat your wife, she'll spend all your money and beat you instead.
Kalevala report #39: I have passed the halfway point in Finland’s ancient national epic. Violence so far: One singing duel where no one died. One ambush where the hero sang a bunch of wizards into running away. One murder by magic snake.
A lot of animals were hunted. Does that count? Half the time they were caught alive. And an eagle made of gold carried a woman away, which was never really explained.
Kalevala report #40: Finland wishes to remind you that beer is good and they like it.
Kalevala report #41: The bride arrives at her husband’s house. In a much more Finland sentiment, the matriarch sings that anyone who gives her baby boy’s wife grief will regret their folly.
Kalevala report #42: Wainamoinen sings his fifty millionth song about how Lapland sucks and Southern Finland is better.
Kalevala report #43: The bride brings a fantastically beautiful ‘playmate’ with her. Is... is there something we need to know, Finland?
Kalevala report #44: Give up and go home, Greece. Finland has an eagle made of fire living on a small volcano on a rock held aloft in the geyser of a burning river.
Kalevala report #45: Lemmenkainen’s left hand is temporarily ‘unwilling.’ Total translation fail here. I do not know what it means. ‘Arthritis’ is my only idea and seems vanishingly unlikely in context.
Kalevala report #46: The beer in the bottom half of the mug has snakes in it that make you make bad decisions.
Kalevala report #47: Reinforcing the overlap between songs, knowledge, and magic, Lemmenkainen sings to a monster snake where snakes came from, so it runs away. By the way, snakes are super evil and evil god spit is involved.
Kalevala report #48: SQUIRREL!

No, really. Wizard A summons a dog, and wizard B summons a squirrel to distract it. Memes are eternal, folks!
Oh my god.
Oh my god.
An actual sword fight and someone’s head cut off, 60% of the way through the epic.
Is the Kalevala about to become a tale of war like other epics? I’ll let you know when I find out!
Okay, so, warrior type drama has happened. Lemmenkainen showed up after the wedding banquet to complain he wasn’t invited. The host told him he wasn’t welcome and gave him bad food. They traded magic insults, then agreed to duel.
After a brief comedy sketch for measuring swords and where swinging them indoors hits rafters, they go outside and actually duel. Lemmenkainen wins. The dope actually thinks he will then be given good beer. No, all of Lapland is after his head as a murderer.
He ran to his mother to ask her where he can hide. She said she knows an obscure island, but he’ll have to swear off going to war for 60 years. He so swears. Will his pursuers find him? Will he break his oath? Will there be beer? What about the squirrel??? Stay tuned!
Kalevala report #49: Lemmenkainen spends two years on the island, and sleeps with every woman in every village... except one woman. She is not pleased.
The men of the island have run Lemmenkainen off. As he sails away, the women all gather on the shore weeping that he’s leaving. I... this book...
Kalevala report #50: Lemmenkainen makes it home (another island castle of beautiful women later) and finds his village has been burned down by the angry Laplanders! We have a revenge and war story going, folks!
Of course, this being Finland, I'm not sure anybody is dead. They just moved away. And Lemmenkainen is agonized with worry over his mother. It is specifically said he doesn't care about his home, wealth, or neighbors. He loves his Mama. His wife isn't even mentioned.
His mother is alive in a cabin in the woods nearby! Yay, Mama! Lemmenkainen tells her the island was great and he was run off by jealous husbands, but don't worry, Mama, the girls were after him but he didn't lay a finger on them, honest! Mama lets this pass without comment.
Anyway, Lemmy is off to murder some Laplanders for revenge, and picks up his old adventuring buddy. Yes, just the two of them vs Lapland.
The evil landlady of Lapland sends Frost to freeze the ocean and kill Lemmenkainen! Lemmenkainen sings Frost's origins to gain power over him. This is a Thing in the Kalevala.

The Finns, uh... they don't like Frost. "Even your mother thought you're ugly" was the NICE part.
Kalevala report #51: REVENGE EPIC CANCELED AS LEMMENKAINEN LEARNS THE TRUE MEANING OF FRIENDSHIP. Sneaking into Lapland, he realizes he can’t stand making his mother worry when he goes out to war like this. Close enough. He goes home, and his story is pronounced closed.
Kalevala report #52: In a whiplash change of tone, we move on to the story of the most evil man, ever. There are villages slaughtered, babies murdered, failed attempts to murder babies, armies, declarations of mass doom, and really bad cooking. It's the Anti-Finland.
Kalevala report #53: In ANOTHER whiplash change of tone, the story detours through a chapter-long song/prayer/magic spell cast by Ilmarinen's wife asking the gods to make sure her cattle are okay. There are multiple pages of laying out truce terms to bears.
The story of the most evil man ever is finished. He lured wolves and bears to kill Ilmarinen’s wife. He forced himself on a girl and she turned out to be his sister and committed suicide. He went to war and his family died without him. He broke a LOT of stuff.
In the end, it is revealed as a morality play. This guy is everything that people shouldn’t be. So, raise your kids well, because a loving family is the difference between a legendary hero and a legendary villain.
Kalevala report #54: The horror story of the only evil man in Finland's history over, the Kalevala returns to its regular programming of wizards building things with magic and heroes desperate to get married. I guess every season has to have a Very Special Episode.
Kalevala report #55: Hisi's breath! Wainamoinen, Ilmarinen, AND Lemmenkainen are sailing to Lapland (which sucks) to steal the Sampo! Has that one evil guy set off a Twilight of the Gods tragic ending, or will they learn a Lesson in Friendship?
Kalevala report #56: I have consulted with an expert, and when Ilmarinen's ill-fated attempt to forge a bride used silver equal in size to an 'autumn lamb' or 'winter hare', these are equivalent sizes. Newborn lambs are quite small.
Clarification: If the story does go to Hell, bear in mind this is not about the Sampo! The Sampo is basically a dowry being reclaimed by Ilmarinen. This is about wizards being obsessed with marriage, and Lapland (which sucks) has all the eligible daughters.
Kalevala report #57: In case we forgot this is still the Kalevala, Wainamoinen kills a really big fish, teaches himself to be a master bone carver, and builds the greatest harp ever out of the bones.
Kalevala report #58: Revenge forgotten, our heroes go to Lapland instead to find someone who can play this harp. It’s beautiful, but crap for music. WILL THEY REMEMBER THE SAMPO IN TIME???
Kalevala report #59: We are now on the second chapter of everyone forgetting they’re at war because Harp.
Welcome to Finland, folks.
Kalevala report #60: Wainamoinen gets the harp working and transforms into a Disney Princess. Birds are sitting in his shoulders, deer and squirrels around his feet. Still waiting on sparkles, a dress, and fish to climb out of the rivers.
Fish confirmed.
Sparkles confirmed.
Dress implied, but not confirmed.
Kal Val’s report #61: After a very brief pause to make some ducks beautiful, THEY REMEMBER THE SAMPO. Not even the Finland of Finland can stop this train wreck!
Kalevala report #62: Wainamoinen puts everyone in Lapland to sleep with his harp, and the Sampo is stolen without violence. There is s brief interlude with Lemmenkainen and a cow.
Kalevala report #63: Oh, no, Lemmenkainen’s terrible singing wakes up the Laplanders, and they give chase! Here it is, folks, the bloody battle that will end the Sampo story in a tragedy of greed and revenge!
Kalevala report #64: ...or, there could be a brief magical duel where Wainamoinen makes a reef to stop the Lapland boat, the Laplanders turn into an eagle, and after the heroes cut off some talons and whack it with an oar a couple of times, it flies off.
Look, aside from that one story about the Most Evil Man In Finland’s History, this is a bloodbath by Kalevala terms.
But it IS a mythic tragedy by Finland standards, because the really great harp falls overboard! Oh, and the Sampo falls into the sea and is smashed, but only Lapland cares.
Kalevala report #65: No, really, guys! The harp is gone! It’s terrible! Wainamoinen is trying everything to get it back, to no avail. Surely by his foolishness Finland is doomed to him not playing victory songs on a really swank harp.
I love Finland’s priorities so much.
Kalevala report #66: Wait, no, we’re good. Wainamoinen makes a new harp out of sacred birch wood for the body, turns cuckoo songs into gold and silver for the pegs, and a laughing maiden’s hair for the strings. Music is back on. Happy ending for the Sampo story, I guess?
Kalevala report #67: Vengeance isn’t over! Louhi, Witch queen of Lapland, sends nine plagues to destroy Finland! But the Finns have healthy saunas, so the plagues fail.
Kalevala report #58: Louhi isn’t giving up. She sends the great bear to eat Lapland’s cattle! Ilmarinen forges a spear, all craftsheroeship of the highest quality, that menaces with spikes of magic metals. On the spear is an image of a deer. On the spear is an image of a hou
...Wainamoinen goes out to meet the bear and teaches it a Lesson In Friendship.

My Little Kalevala: Singing Is Magic.
It gets a bit weird here. They eat the bear, but it volunteers out of friendship. There is a sacred party and stories about how wonderful the bear is and how much Finland loves him.
Kalevala report #69, DUDE: Reinforcing my belief that Finland is Equestria, Louhi now imprisons Celestia and Luna, and puts out all of Finland's fires. HA! How do you like DARKNESS, Finland?!?!
It turns out, Finland does not like darkness. It's kind of a bummer and they wish it would stop.

Some kind of sacred fire-child is happening. I'll let you know how that goes.
Twilight Sparkle and Applejack meet with Princess Cadence-

Ahem. Sorry. Wainamoinen and Ilmarinen meet with Ilmatar to find out about this fire-child thing. An attempt to make a new sun went... badly. Now there's an evil fire raging out of control and doing wicked things.
The fire-child tries to burn the ocean. This does not make anyone happy. A fish swallows the fire-child, until it burns through him and another fish eats that one, and so on. Currently, Our Heroes are doing a lot of fishing trying to catch the pike currently infected.
This wouldn't be the Kalevala without at least rough instructions on net fishing, including growing and weaving flax.
Pinkie Pie the tiny sea hero is back.
The brave sacrificial fish are caught, and the fire-child extracted! Wainamoinen teaches it a Lesson In Friendship, so Finland has fires again until they get Celestia and Lu- uh, the sun and moon back.
Kalevala report #70: Season finale! Wainamoinen goes to Lapland and finds where the sun and moon are locked up! He is challenged to a duel by Lapland's champions, and chops off their heads! This bloody contest lasts almost an entire gory paragraph! Cabbage is mentioned.
He kills the snakes that were making Lapland poor, because, I mean, Finland. While he's trying to get the sun and moon out, Louhi realizes the jig is up, turns good, and releases them herself. IS THIS THE END OF THE SAMPO'S TRAGIC TALE???
Kalevala report #71: Well, there's more Kalevala. Some beautiful young woman lives in a cottage and is super-virtuous. I think we're back to how desperate wizards are to get married.
I'm at 97% of the book, so if Louhi still wants to cause some kind of Armageddon, she'd better move fast.
Mariatta is small, innocent, skips and sings, and is a shepherdess who specifically looks after the lambs. Listen, Wainamoinen, I know-

A berry has lured her into the woods, ravished her by rocking to and fro in her mouth then forcing her to swallow it, and gotten her pregnant.
Strangely, she has trouble getting people to believe this tale.
The virgin mother has to give birth in a manger to her holy infant. Have I heard this story before, somewhere?
Yes, this is a very transparent analogy for the coming of Christianity to Finland. Sun, moon, and stars call the baby their creator. Baby is declared King of All. Wainamoinen sails away, displaced by baby, says Finland will want him back someday.
Kalevala report #72 - Epilogue: The singer of the Kalevala is done. He wants you to know he's an orphan and his childhood sucked, which is why he's a bad singer. He hopes someone better at singing will sing the Kalevala next time.
In conclusion, the Kalevala is 1/3rd Junior Woodchucks Guidebook, 1/3rd Lemmenkainen bragging about all the chicks he totally did sex with, and 1/3rd apocalypse tale where there's barely any violence or tragedy and instead everyone learns a Lesson In Friendship.
Kalevala, I give thee thy subtitle: Twilight Sparkle of the Gods.
(Also there's that one story about the only evil man to ever live in Finland, which is violent and cruel and totally unlike the rest of the epic.)
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