Kaleva (Finnish Creation Story)









© 1995-2001 Untangle Incorporated
Last Updated: Wednesday,November 10, 1999

Table of Finnish Gods

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 Vainamoinen. 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 man rises from the sea and fells the giant oak. The sun and moon can shine once again.

Joukahainen challenges Vainamoinen to a contest of wisdom and is defeated. With his singing, Vainamoinen causes Joukahainen to sink into a swamp. In order to save himself, Joukahainen promises his sister' s hand in marriage to Vainamoinen. Upon learning of the bargain, the sister Aino mourns her fate and finally drowns herself.

Vainamoinen 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 Vainamoinen on the way to Pohjola and shoots Vainamoinen's horse from underneath him as he rides across a river. Vainamoinen falls into the water and floats out to sea. There an eagle rescues him and carries him to Pohjola's shores. The mistress of Pohjola, Louhi, tends Vainamoinen until he recovers. In order to be able to return home, Vainamoinen 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.

On his way home, Vainamoinen meets the maiden of Pohjola and asks her to marry him. She agrees on the condition that Vainamoinen carry out certain impossible tasks. While Vainamoinen carves a wooden boat, his axe slips and he receives a deep wound in his knee. He searchers for an expert blood-stauncher and finally finds an old man who stops the flow of blood by using magic incantations.

Using magic means, Vainamoinen sends the unwilling Ilmarinen to Pohjola. Ilmarinen forges the Sampo. Louhi shuts it inside a hill of rock. Ilmarinen is forced to return home without his promised bride.

Lemminkainen 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. With his singing he bewitches the people of Pohjola to leave the farmhouse at North Farm. Only one person, a cowherd, does not fall under his spell.

Lemminkainen 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 is the boundary between this world and the next. There the vengeful cowherd kills Lemminkainen and throws his body into the river. Lemminkainen'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.

Vainamoinen 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. He finds them and finishes his boat.

Vainamoinen 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, hunts down the bear of Tuonela and the wolf of Manala and finally fishes the Great Pike out of the Tuonela River. Louhi promises her daughter to Ilmarinen.

In Pohjola, preparations are made for the wedding and invitations are sent to all except Lemminkainen. The groom and his folk arrive in Pohjola, and there is great feasting. Vainamoinen entertains the wedding guests with his singing. 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. Vainamoinen sings the praises of the wedding guests.

Lemminkainen shows up at the banquet in Pohjola uninvited, and demands food and drink. He is offered a tankard of beer filled with vipers. Lemminkainen engages the master of Pohjola in a singing contest and swordfight and kills him.

Lemminkainen 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, this time from the island's jealous menfolk. Lemminkainen finds his home in ashes and his mother hiding in a cottage in the forest. Lemminkainen 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.

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. 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. 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, 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 drowns herself in the rapids upon discovering the truth. 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.

Ilmarinen mourns the death of his wife and decides to forge a woman of gold. The golden maiden remains, however, lifeless and cold. Vainamoinen warns the young people against worshipping gold.

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 seagull with his singing. Ilmarinen tells Vainamoinen of the wealth and prosperity that the Sampo has brought the people of Pohjola.

Vainamoinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkainen 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. Vainamoinen kills the pike and fashions a kantele from its jawbone. No one else is able to play the instrument, but Vainamoinen holds all living things spellbound with his playing.

Vainamoinen puts the people of Pohjola to sleep with his kantele playing 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. 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, Vainamoinen seeks the kantele which fell into the sea. He makes a new kantele from birchwood and his playing once again delights the whole of creation.

Louhi sends diseases to destroy the people of Kalevala, but Vainamoinen cures the sick. Louhi sends a bear to attack the Kalevala cattle, but Vainamoinen slays the bear. The people of Kalevala organize a bear-killing feast.

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. Vainamoinen asks Ilmarinen to go fishing with him. They catch the fish and place the fire in the service of humankind.

Ilmarinen forges a new sun and moon, but they do not shine. After battling the people of Pohjola, Vainamoinen returns to ask Ilmarinen to fashion a set of keys with which to release the sun and moon from Pohjola's mountain. While Ilmarinen is forging, 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. Vainamoinen condemns the fatherless child to death, but the child speaks out against the sentence and is christened King of Karelia. Vainamoinen departs in a copper boat with the prediction that he will be needed again someday to make a new Sampo for the people, to bring new light and play new songs. 






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