The Kalewala


Kalewala taikka Wanhoja Karjalan Runoja Suomen kansan muinosista ajoista (The Kalevala or old Karelian poems from the ancient days of the Finnish people), better known as simply the Kalevala, is the national epic of Finland. The work was compiled by Elías Lönnrot, who collected Finnish-Karelian folk poems from the oral tradition to create the so-called “old Kalevala,” consisting of 32 poems in about 12,100 verses. Lönnrot combined and organized the sometimes conflicting poems and song styles of the traditional rune singers into a unified, larger work. The epic is about Kalevala, a poetic name for Finland meaning “land of heroes,” and it sings the deeds of the “sons of Kaleva,” mythic characters with magical powers. Lönnrot received a medical degree from the University of Helsinki in 1832, and in 1833 he became a district medical officer at Kajaani, in a remote part of eastern Finland, near Russian Karelia, where he remained for 20 years. It was during this time that he made field trips among the Sami, the Estonians, and the Finnish tribes of northwestern Russia and became convinced that the short poems he collected were fragments of a larger epic of which no full version survived. Lönnrot later became professor of Finnish language and literature at the University of Helsinki (1853–62). He published his work in two editions, one of 32 cantos in 1835, and an enlarged edition of 50 cantos in 1849. Presented here is the first edition of 1835. The Kalevala and Lönnrot’s work are considered significant factors in the birth of the Finnish language and a Finnish national identity.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Frenckell and Son Printing, Helsinki


Title in Original Language

Kalewala taikka Wanhoja Karjalan Runoja Suomen kansan muinosista ajoista

Type of Item

Physical Description

262 pages ; 9 x 16 centimeters


  1. “Elias Lönnrot,” Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
  2. Kalevalaseura, “The Kalevala.”

Last updated: May 2, 2017