Elen sila lumenn omentilmo

A star shines on the hour of our meeting


I will be hosting an all day conference, The Kalevala - from Myth to MarimekkoÓ , to explore the interconnections between the Finnish national epic, The Kalevala, and Tolkien’s created high-elven language, Quenya, as well as other literary and artistic works. The conference, scheduled for Saturday, April 4th at the Governor’s Inn in Rochester, New Hampshire, is made possible by grants from the New Hampshire Humanities Council and our many partners. The conference is free and open to the public. We will also be displaying Marimekko’s latest fabrics designed by Sanna Annnuka and based on the epic.

The Kalevala, compiled by Elias Lönnrot and published in its final form in 1849, is a study in man’s quest for his own mythos. When Finland won its independence and was seeking a national identity, there was their story and their hero, Väinämöinen; shaman, poet, singer, he defeated his foes with his songs. The Kalevala is not an ancient epic, though many of the original runes were. Given its youth, it has had a profound impact on contemporary language and culture, from Kung Fu movies like Jade Warrior, where the mythical sampo plays a big part, to the latest textiles by Marimekkko, designed by Sanna Annuka. JRR Tolkien based his created high elven language, Quenya, on the Finnish he studied in order to read the Kalevala. Longfellow was inspired to write Hiawatha after his study of the epic. All three of these works employ the very musical trochaic tetrameter to drive the language of their stories.

It is the quest for mythos and the power of language we would like to explore in a half day conference, using the Kalevala as an example. Our presenters will explore aspects of the mythos of the Kalevala, its language, its reception and reinterpretation, the concept of shamanism, and its music. They are Dr. Börje Vähämäki, Professor of Finnish Studies at the University of Toronto, on “Language and Meaning in the Kalevala;” Diana Durham, poet and author, on “The Poet as Shaman;” Dr. Clia Goodwin, comparatist in Medieval Literature, on “J. R. R. Tolkien and the Uses of Fantasy;” and Sarah Cummings Ridge who will present a lecture-performance of songs of the Kalevala with her group, the Maine Kanteles. They accompany their songs with the kantele, a Finnish lap harp, which has its mythic origin in the Kalevala. Members of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire will provide short readings from Hiawatha and the Tolkien trilogy, including Galadriel’s Lament to demonstrate the use and effect of trochaic tetrameter, or runometer.