Currently I’m tackling the Kalevala in Japanese. I’ve already read the Eddas in Japanese, which was difficult, but fun to read at the same time. I looked in the mythology section of the bookstore, but I didn’t find the Kalevala, so I picked up the Eddas instead. Then a few months ago, I decided to check out Finnish language books here, and that was where the Kalevala was! The book is “Kalevala no Uta” カレワラの歌 and it’s translated by Tamotsu Koizumi. There are two small volumes of it: one contains the tale of the birth of Väinämöinen and the Sampo, and the other volume is the story of Lemminkäinen and of Kullervo. I’m reading the former. The reason why it was in the language section is because next to the Japanese, there is the Finnish version and at the bottom there are footnotes explaining what all of the words in Finnish mean in Japanese. I’m not really sure how you can learn a language in that manner, but if it works for some, then okay.
The Japanese section doesn’t keep Kalevala meter. I think Japanese has too many syllables to successfully pull that off. It does have an interesting flow though, and it’s fun to read it out loud. If you are proficient in a second language, I encourage you to check out a version of the Kalevala in that language. It’s an interesting read to see how everything is translated and how the language flows.
I learned about a new publisher from Helsinki that started this year called Pagan Archive, whose goal is to publish new editions of old books on pagan subjects. Later on it seems they wish to publish translated versions of newer books that aren’t available in English, and are even taking requests. I ordered their first book last week, which is The Magic Songs of the Finns. It was a work compiled by Elias Lönnrot of all of the magic songs collected in Eastern Finland and Karelia, and translated by John Abercromby in 1898. This book contains that translation. The book comes in hard cover with an engraving of Väinämöinen’s battle with Louhi on the front. Throughout the book, illustrations by Akseli Gallen-Kallela are in it, which makes it both visually pleasing along with informative.
The book starts off with descriptions of all of the gods and spirits in the Finnish pantheon. In each section, it tells in what situations people in the past appealed to a specific god, and what kinds of offerings were suitable to give them. It also goes into a bit about cosmology. After this begins the section on the actual songs, how the tietäjä prepared before carrying out healing with defensive measures, instruments they used, etc. Then a section on the composition of the songs–how they were sung and kennings that appear in them. The actual songs make up about 2/3 of the book, and there are all kinds relating to healing, defensive measures, prayers, and all of the birth songs for different matters. Some of them being quite interesting, such as The Origin of Swelling on the Neck. Then of course you can find some of the ones that I have mentioned on here before, like the Origin of Fire and Origin of Beer (in this book, called ale).
I think that it’s a very valuable book to learning all there is to know about the Finnish gods, spirits, and magic. The only problem that I’m coming across is that sometimes it can be a little difficult to read since the translation is from 1898. I look forward to the coming books by this publisher. You can take a look of the table of contents and order the book if you desire from Pagan Archive’s website. It may seem a little expensive, but I think that it’s well worth it.