Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Kalevala

"Land of Heroes" – the Taproot Text of Finnish Myth, an epic Song-cycle assembled from ancient oral tradition. The definitive version is ed Elias Lönnrott (1835; exp 1849; trans W M Crawford 1887 UK), running to 22,800 lines. Its background is of magic-laden conflict between Kalevala (Finland) and Pohja or Pohjola (Lapland); the latter is ruled by the Enchantress Louhi, who commands storms and deep cold, and at one stage imprisons the Sun. Principal heroes include Väinämöinen, who is specially adept in the universal Kalevala Magic of Music, Song and the gaining of power over persons and things by knowing their genealogy or origins (> True Name); his brother the Smith Ilmarinen, forger of the coveted sampo (apparently a magic mill that creates whatever one desires); and the rash seducer and Trickster figure Lemminkäinen. Tuonela, the Kalevala's Underworld, is a gloomy Hades rather than a place of punishment; the swan of its River Tuoni, which Lemminkäinen fatally attempts to kill for Louhi, is commemorated in the symphonic tone-poem "The Swan of Tuonela" by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). L Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt take their Incomplete Enchanter to the Kalevala world in Wall of Serpents (1960), whose action echoes Lemminkäinen's expedition against Pohjola in revenge for not being invited to Louhi's daughter's wedding; the need to know the relevant ancestry before working magic is used as a Plot Device. The Kalevala sequence by Emil Petaja (1915-2000) is sf. Michael Scott Rohan's The Winter of the World makes Louhi one of the chief powers behind a threatened ice age; the smith hero opposing the Ice emerges as an Avatar of Ilmarinen. Ian Watson's The Books of Mana offer a witty, inventive and exuberant Science-Fantasy reworking of numerous Kalevala strands, with such character names as Lucky (Louhi), van Maanen and Minkie Kennan. [DRL]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.