Sunday 28 June 2009


The Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, celebrates its 160th year in 2009. The book, whose hero causes his rival to sink in a bog by shamanistic singing, was a source of inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien in creating the Lord of the Rings. Kalevala has been translated to 60 languages.

Kalevala is a literary work and epic poem composed in the late nineteenth century from collected ancient Finnish and Karelian tales, lyrics, dirges and proverbs. The book was compiled on eleven fieldtrips to Karelia by a doctor of medicine Elias Lönnrot who hoped to increase the Finns' awareness of their identity as a nation. As the national epic of Finland, the Kalevala is the nation's cultural equivalent to the tales of King Arthur for the English, or Iliad and Odyssey for the Greeks.

The central character of Kalevala, Wäinämöinen, is a wise old bard and shaman who, among other feats, vanquishes his opponent in a singing contest by sinking him into a bog and creates the first kantele, the traditional Finnish string instrument, out of the jawbones of a pike.

The Kalevala was hugely successful when first published and became the inspiration for the Finnish national revival, a movement epitomized by the paintings of Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931), and the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). The book has been recognized internationally with translations in 60 languages.

The national epic continues to influence modern Finnish cultural life, literature, arts and music. It is not uncommon to find Finnish businesses that have taken inspiration from elements of the Kalevala in naming and developing their products and innovations.

Experience Kalevala-inspired art

To celebrate the jubilee, the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki is exhibiting an extensive collection of art inspired by the Kalevala. The exhibit aims to open new perspectives on the enormous production of Kalevala-themed art, from the national icons produced by Akseli Gallen-Kallela to a vast number of lesser-known works. The exhibition runs until August 9th.

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Envelop yourself in Kalevala-inspired surroundings

The spirit of the Kalevala can be experienced at the Hotel Kalevala located in Kuhmo, in Eastern Finland. The shape of the hotel is inspired by the bird "Kokko", a giant eagle which is a central figure in the national epic. Full of tradition and folklore, the Kuhmo region offers a variety of attractions such as the chance to discover the taiga forests either on foot or by husky sledge or get to know Karelian culture at the Juminkeko Center of Kalevala.

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The Klaus K design hotel located at the centre of Helsinki is another establishment that cherishes the traditions of the Kalevala. The Kalevala's themes of mysticism, passion, desire and envy, are reflected in the four different design motifs of the hotel's rooms.

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Indulge yourself in the flavors of Kalevala

Kalevala Experience Park in Kuhmo is the first holiday resort focusing on the bounty of pure nature and culture in the spirit of the national epic. Put your character to test in the workshop of smith Ilmarinen or try out your survival skills in the wilderness. Finish the day with visit to a smoke sauna and enjoy the Kalevala flavored supper before accommodating yourself in log cabins on the shores of Lake Lammasjärvi.

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Wear Kalevala jewelry

Possibly the best-known Kalevala brand today is Kalevala Jewelry, which creates classic and contemporary Finnish designs. All Kalevala pieces carry historic themes and many of the models are replicas of ancient Iron Age jewelry discovered by archaeologists. A cornerstone of the 2009 spring collection is "Gravity", a collection that combines ancient engravings with modern shapes.

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