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3 The Kalevala and the Authenticity Debate

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Chapter Summary

The Kalevala, officially named and recognized as the national epic of Finland, is a book of verse in Finnish that was compiled by medical doctor and folklore collector Elias Lönnrot on the basis of traditional songs of folk poetry that he documented from among illiterate singers in eastern Finland and Russian Karelia between the late 1820s and early 1840s. The text runs in trochaic tetrameter with four poetic feet in each line. The meter has been subsequently named the Kalevala meter, which is anachronistically also applied to the type of oral folk poetry that the epic draws on. The terms 'Kalevala poetry' and 'Kalevalaic poetry' refer to the printed epic as well as traditional Finnish-language folk poetry. The debate has mainly concerned Lönnrot's editorial role in the compilation of the epic and the extent to which his editorial choices and textual practices have compromised the epic's authenticity.

Keywords: 'Kalevalaic poetry'; Elias Lönnrot; epic's authenticity; Finland; Kalevala; Russian Karelia



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