• An Illustrated Kalevala: Myths and Legends from Finland

    by  • 14 May 2020 • Children's Books, Extract, Steiner Waldorf Education • 0 Comments

    Encounter magical shamans, mighty eagles and terrifying beasts in this superb prose retelling of Finland’s national folk saga!

    Here, we share an extract plus some of Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin’s stunning illustrations from An Illustrated Kalevala: Myths and Legends from Finland.

    Lemminkäinen’s Adventures

    While Ilmarinen and the Maid of Pohjola were celebrating their wedding, Lemminkäinen was ploughing his fields. Yet his keen hearing picked up the noise of the wedding feast all the way from Pohjola. Although the bride and groom had good reason not to invite Lemminkäinen, nevertheless he was annoyed when he realised that he had been left out.

    Lemminkäinen abandoned his ploughing and hurried home. 

    “Heat up the sauna!” he ordered his mother. “And bring me my armour and weapons! I am going to the wedding at Pohjola.” 

    His mother and his wife, Kyllikki, both tried to talk him out of it. They warned him not to attend the wedding, because he had not been invited and he might be welcomed by men with swords. His mother also predicted that he would face many dangers on his journey. But reckless Lemminkäinen did not listen. He took his father’s powerful sword and bow, hastily harnessed his horse and set off.

    After riding for a while, Lemminkäinen saw a flock of black grouse on the road ahead. Frightened by the approaching hooves, the birds fluttered away. Yet they left some feathers behind. Knowing that such feathers were magical, Lemminkäinen slipped them into his pocket.

    Lemminkäinen journeyed on to Pohjola, but suddenly his horse whinnied and came to a stop. Stretching forwards to see what had frightened his steed, Lemminkäinen saw that his mother had been right when she predicted he would encounter great danger. In front of him lay a fiery river, and in the rapids was a fiery island, and high on the island was a fiery eagle. Flames shot out of its wide-open beak, and its feathers bristled with sparks.

    Yet Lemminkäinen was not afraid. He remembered the enchanted feathers in his pocket, pulled them out and rubbed them between his palms. All at once, from the hollow of his hand, a flock of great black birds rose into the air. Lemminkäinen guided the birds into the monstrous eagle’s gaping beak. The fire in the eagle’s mouth died down as it was forced to devour the flock of black birds. And so Lemminkäinen was able to continue his journey.

    The horse galloped onwards until again it suddenly snorted with fright. Once more, Lemminkäinen’s mother had correctly predicted that he would meet danger: a fiery ditch filled with burning rocks extended across the road and far into the distance.

    Yet Lemminkäinen was unperturbed. He raised a mighty blizzard and made it snow upon the blazing ditch until the flames were put out. Next he conjured an icy bridge across, and so he continued his journey.

    He was close to his destination when suddenly the horse stopped again. A bear lay in wait on the road ahead, and beyond it, at the gate to Pohjola, there was a wolf. Lemminkäinen merely took some curls of lamb’s wool from his purse, rubbed them in his hands and blew them into the air. Immediately the wool curls transformed into sheep. The bear and wolf attacked the flock, leaving Lemminkäinen free to continue. 

    But when he reached the farmyard of Pohjola, it was surrounded by a palisade of pure steel that reached a hundred fathoms underground and a thousand fathoms up into the sky. Spears bristled on top and snakes hissed between the rails. His mother had also foretold this danger.

    Lemminkäinen was not afraid. He calmly pulled out his father’s sword and slashed at the palisade, slicing through snake-ridden rails and opening up the steel fence. 

    The most terrible serpent of them all, with a hundred eyes and a thousand tongues, writhed in front of the gate and snapped at Lemminkäinen. But he remembered the words of creation for a snake, which his mother had taught him. If he sang them correctly, the serpent’s power would diminish.

    “Serpent, you are kin to the ogress and the evil water sprite,” Lemminkäinen shouted. “Soon you will swell up and burst! Get out of my way, you vile worm!”

    When it heard Lemminkäinen speak his words of power, the serpent slowly slithered away.

    After surviving so many dangers, Lemminkäinen was even more eager to join the celebrations at Pohjola. He yanked open the door to Louhi’s house and bounded right to the middle of the room.

    “Greetings!” Lemminkäinen shouted, quite unashamed of his rudeness. “Master of Pohjola, does this house have ale to offer a wedding guest?”

    “Yes,” the master replied from the head of the table, displeased to find Lemminkäinen in his house. “If you behave yourself and sit by the kitchen door, like all uninvited guests.”

    Lemminkäinen grimaced. “I will never sit there. Bring me some ale!”

    A tankard was placed before him. Inside, snakes were slithering, worms were squirming and lizards were writhing. Lemminkäinen threw them all on the floor and sliced off their heads with his knife. Then he drank the ale and demanded more.

    The master of Pohjola became angry. He also knew how to do magic and he conjured a puddle of water onto the floor. “Drink from that!”

    “I am not a calf,” Lemminkäinen shouted, and onto the floor he chanted a bull that quickly drank the puddle dry.

    The master of Pohjola sang a wolf into existence to kill the bull, but Lemminkäinen sang a rabbit to draw the wolf’s attention. The master sang a dog to kill the rabbit and Lemminkäinen, in turn, a squirrel to tease the dog. The master’s pine marten caught the squirrel, but Lemminkäinen’s fox devoured the marten. The master conjured a hen to coax the fox, but Lemminkäinen sang a hawk, which snapped up the hen in an instant.

    The disgusted master roared from the head of the table, “Enough! Leave now, unwelcome guest”

    But Lemminkäinen did not move a muscle. 

    The master of Pohjola grabbed his flaming sword from off the wall and challenged Lemminkäinen to a duel. The master of Pohjola tried to slash off his opponent’s head, but instead hit a rafter and cut it in half. They moved their fight outside.

    Lemminkäinen’s fiery sword sparked in his hand, and he slashed just once. The master only had time to wonder at the force of the blow before his head fell to the ground like the top sliced off a turnip. 

    “I told you not to go,” his mother said anxiously. “You wretched creature, you are always looking to wage war and do battle. Soon you will lose your handsome head.”

    Ready and brave enough to continue the adventure? Order your copy now on our website!


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