Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)
Mommy bails out daring, handsome, Finnish hero. That would be Lemminkainen, one of the heroes of the Kalevala. The Kalevala is an epic Finnish poem; it is considered the national epic of Finland. It is 50 chapters, runes, or cantos (depending on who you ask) of epic adventures. Today, we’re taking a little peak at Lemminkainen.
Lemminkainen is a young good-looking blond hunk of a Finnish hero. He is a sorcerer of sorts and is sometimes looked upon as a god of magic. Lemminkainen also gets to carry the magical sampo. No one knows for sure what the sampo is, just that it’s magical and lucky. Lemminkainen has a way with the ladies, and dedicates loads of time to wooing maidens. In fact, while attempting to win the hand of some lucky lady, he got himself killed.
He sets off hunting the black swan in the river of Tuoni (which is river of the underworld). Lemminkainen is approaching for the kill when Nasshut, the blind and crippled shepherd, sends out a poisonous serpent to kill the hero. Nasshut succeeds. Lemminkainen dies. The end.
Well of course, that’s not the end. Lemminkainen’s mother, Ilmater, begins searching for her son. Upon learning of his fate in the waters of Tuoni, she asks Ilmarinen, the eternal blacksmith, to construct a special rake for her. That’s right. She goes down there and rakes the river for all the bits and pieces of her son. Eventually Ilmater finds enough bits to make a man. She begins to sew her son back together with the help of Suonetar, the goddess of vein and vessels. However, when her task is complete, all she has is a body, there is no spirit.
So this when Ilmater talks to a bee. Yep, she asks a bee to go get a special honey to help her son regain his life. The bee goes and gets the special honey. However, wait, that honey helps just a little bit. Ilmater begs the bee to go get a different special honey to try. The bee lugs that honey back, and it helps more, but Lemminkainen is still not fully restored. At this point, Ilmater asks the bee to go get some of the honey that Ukko, the Creator, uses to anoint his children. At first, the bee is like, ain’t no way I’m going up there! Ilmater convinces the bee that he can do it, and by golly, he does. The bee brings back the super honey of the gods and lo and behold, Lemminkainen is restored.
That’s the end. Well, the end of this article. The Kalevala is an epic; there is a lot more to it than just this little bit. Many credit this little ditty with inspiring a Finnish national awakening that helped pave the road for Finland’s independence from Russia. Now THAT’S epic!
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