Sunday, May 06, 2007

Amorphis & Kalevala

The lyrics on Amorphis' second album 'Tales From The Thousand Lakes' are based on the Finnish national pole book 'Kalevala'. This book is in fact a collection of ancient songs, combined and adapted by Elias Lonnrot (1802 - 1884). Most of these songs were found in Karelia, a part of Finland/Russia which is bordered in the east by the White Sea. The name of this area also served as the name for their first album 'The Karelian Isthmus'. The final version of Kalevala, which was released in 1849, has a total of 22,795 verses.
The songs on 'Tales From The Thousand Lakes' follow two main storylines. The first story is about Vainamoinen, the singer-wizard from the old ages:

Joukahainen, a young man from Lapland, leaves his parent's house to find and challenge Vainamoinen, who is said to be a better singer than he himself. When Joukahainen has found his opponent the two men start their (singing-) contest:

"I have a good mind, take into my head,
To start off singing, begin reciting..."

Vainamoinen is indeed the better singer and starts to sing magic songs, which almost kill the young man. Joukahainen can only elude a certain death by giving his sister Aino to the singer-wizard. Aino however is not too happy about the idea of living together with the old man and runs away from home, to become a water-nymph. But as she cannot swim, the young girl drowns and her voice can still be heard above the water:

"I went to wash at the shore,
I went to bathe in the sea,
And there I, a hen, was lost..."

When Vainamoinen hears about Aino's death, he becomes extremely depressed, as he was really looking forward to living together with the young maid:

"Once I had a mind and thoughts was given, but nowadays,
In this evil age, all my sense is somewhere else..."

Joukahainen, still angry because of his defeat, is determined to kill Vainamoinen, and he almost succeeds: the old man falls from his horse into the sea and almost drowns. But while the old Vainamoinen is fighting for his life:

"A bird flew out of Lapland, an eagle from the North East",
which is so big that:
"One wing ruffled the water and the other swept the sky..."

The eagle gets Vainamoinen out of the water, and brings him back savely to a beach near the village of Sariola.

The second story is about the wedding between Ilmarinen, the master of the anvil, and the daughter of the land of the North, whose name is never mentioned:

The daughter of the land of the North is not so sure if she will be happy when living together with Ilmarinen. A few moments before the wedding she becomes depressed and wonders:

"... how the lucky feel, how the blessed men think,
Like a daybreak in spring, the sun on spring morning...".
But at this moment she feels:

"Like the flat brink of a cloud,
Like a dark night in autumn, a black winter day..."

But the wedding continues, and all people from Kalevala and Pohjola are invited except one: Lemminkainen, the islander. He is not invited because he is always willing to start a fight.

When Lemminkainen notices there is a wedding going on, he prepares to go there to take revenge. His mother tries to stop the angry man and tells him of the 3 dooms he will meet on his way. But Lemminkainen is not afraid and determined to

"... wash my hands of the evil master's blood..."
--- FIRST DOOM ---

When Lemminkainen, after some difficulties, arrives at the wedding, he wants to have a beer. As Lemminkainen is an unwanted guest, the least important serf is ordered to bring the worst beer:

"Hey there, tiny wench, my perpetual serf,
Put stew in a pot, bring water for the guest"
Lemminkainen is not pleased to get beer of such a minor quality and challenges the father of the bride, ruler of the land of the North:

"Before we part, before your neck is broken,
You strike first, son of the north"

The father of the bride is killed (decapitated) by Lemminkainen, which makes the islander an even more unwanted guest. It's time for him to take to his heels. To be save from the other wedding-guests he changes his shape into an eagle and soars heavenward, and:

"The sun burnt his cheeks, the moon lit his brows"

High up in the sky, Lemminkainen prays to Ukko, the mightiest of the gods, to bring him home safely:

"O old man, good god, careful man of heaven,
Keeper of the storm clouds, make misty weather,
And create a tiny cloud, in whose shelter I may go"

Carpe diem

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