Kalevala (käˈlĕväˌlä) [key], Finnish national epic. It is a compilation of verses recounting extraordinary deeds of three semidivine brothers from mythical Kaleva, land of the heroes. Zakarias Topelius published fragments in 1822; Elias Lönnrot gave the cycle its present form, editing the material and sometimes writing transitional verses himself. Lönnrot published the collection of 50 runes (nearly 23,000 lines) in 1849. Its effect on Finnish art in all its branches has been great. The rhythms of the epic had a strong influence on the composer. Jan Sibelius, who used it in a number of works, notably Karelia (1893). The eight-syllable trochaic line of the Kalevala was imitated by Longfellow in Hiawatha.

See tr. by W. F. Kirby (1907, new ed. 1956) and F. P. Magoun (1963).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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