THE KALEVALA MARATHON
The Program in Finnish Studies has organized the Kalevala Marathon at Columbia University for five times: in 1999, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009. It has always taken place around February 28th, the Kalevala Day, which is celebrated in Finland to commemorate the completion of the first version of the Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot in 1835. The second, expanded version came out in 1849.
WHAT IS THE KALEVALA?
Elias Lönnrot (1802–1884) was a medical doctor, a scientist, an explorer, and in his later life, professor in Finnish language and literature at the University of Helsinki. On his eleven trips among the Finnish peoples of northwest Russia, the Sami, and the Estonians between 1828 and 1845, he collected around 60 000 verses of folk poetry which he wrote down by hand. Based on these poems, Lönnrot compiled the Kalevala, which has later become known as the Finnish national epic.
Go to the web page of Finnish Literature Society for more information on both Lönnrot and the Kalevala.
WHAT THEN IS THE KALEVALA MARATHON?
The Kalevala Marathon is basically a reading event where people are invited to read passages of the Kalevala in any of the languages it has been translated into. At the moment it has been translated into sixty languages. The program in Finnish studies has translations available in the following of them: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (in five different translations), Estonian, the Savo dialect of Finnish, French, Georgian, German, Greek (Ancient and Modern), Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Latvian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Sanskrit, Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Tulu, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese and Yiddish. But the Kalevala Marathon is not – or does not have to be – only a reading event. People have also sung, acted, danced… in the spirit of the Kalevala.
In 2009, people were invited to present folk poetry and epic stories from other traditions as well. The event got a new name, the Kalevala and Folk Poetry Marathon. Passages from at least Swedish, Latvian and Lithuanian traditions were recited in their original languages. In 2009, over forty people recited folk poetry and epic stories in over thirty languages. The event lasted for over four hours and over a hundred and fifty people came to watch and listen to the performances.
Picture: Taina Elg reading Kalevala in the Kalevala Marathon in 2005 by Aili Flint