The Kanteletar

Posted On December 21, 2010

Filed under Kalevala, poetry

Comments Dropped 4 responses

I just realized that I don’t think I have ever mentioned The Kanteletar on here. It is a book of folk songs/poems also collected by Elias Lönnrot, and it was meant to be a companion to The Kalevala. Most of the suomenuskoiset I have spoken to here have said that they take more inspiration from this book than any others. I have read parts of the Finnish version of this book, but now I have the lone English-language copy of it, translated by Keith Bosley. It is out of print and according to, the price starts from $35. Sadly, this copy leaves out a lot of good songs as well. Some of these being the synty songs, which I have described in a few entries here. The purpose of singing these was to create a power over the element you are speaking of. For an example, at a couple of the Taivaannaula events I have been to, we have sung the birth words for fire(tulen synty) while it was being created. Sadly, the only one I see available in the English version is the origin of beer(oluen synty). I think that singing these in Finnish creates a more powerful feeling, so I would recommend buying the Finnish copy too. It’s not necessary to know every single word. There are other songs in the book specifically for men, women, or children, along with hero tales. Honestly though, I can’t read a lot of it at a time, because so many of the poems are depressing and can bring down your mood. How Finnish.

And since it’s the solstice, I have the perfect one to share on here, and my personal favorite.

The Calloo (1:25)

How do the lucky ones feel
and how do the blessed think?
This is how the lucky feel
how the blessed think–
like daybreak in spring
the sweet sun in the morning

But how do the luckless feel
and how do the calloos think?
This is how the luckless feel
how the calloos think–
like a dark night in autumn
a black winter day;
I’m blacker than that
gloomier than an autumn night


4 Responses to “The Kanteletar”

  1. SLK

    Have you read the Eino Friburg translation? It’s my favorite version, but the only copies I’ve seen cost about $150, so I have a paperback copy of Bosley ($15 at Borders).

    Reading Friberg’s translation, I realized Ilmarinen didn’t MAKE the Sampo’s lid out of ewe’s down, a swan quill, a grain of barley, and soured cows milk, he used them to acid etch designs and symbols onto it’s metal.

    • Christine

      Yes that’s my favorite version of the Kalevala. For the Kanteletar I’ve only heard of Bosley’s though.

  2. David

    Greetings, I have just learned of the Kanteletar and I’m reading the Kalevala. I am very interested in obtaining the poem about the origin of beer as i am a brewer by profession. Would you be willing and able to send me a copy of this poem in english? Best Regards, David.

    • Christine

      I sent an e-mail a couple days ago, so I hope it got to you.

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