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The Finnish Kalevala Runo

Sweden began rule over Finland in the 13th century. As the ruling monarchy adopted Christianity in the 16th century they began to attack traditions in Finland and to destroy pagan rituals, as I also wrote last year.

Not all was lost. The following video is of Jussi Huovinen who is said to be one of the only people able to sing a traditional rune of Finland that could be as old as 1000 BCE.

National Geographic explains the significance

A collection of these runes, comparable to India’s Ramayana, or the Greek Odyssey, is known in Finland as the Kalevala, and those who sing its lyrical verses from memory are known as rune singers. These elders long carried in their minds the entire record of the Finnish language.

“In an oral tradition, the total richness of the language is no more than the vocabulary of the best storyteller,” Davis explains. “In other words, at any one point in time the boundaries of the language are being stretched according to the memory of the best storyteller.”

The video and the article both speak of how the information is written permanently to memory. It begs the question of the strength of controls in poetry and story-telling (alliteration, consonance, rhyme, rhythm, hymn, repetition).

Kalevala has eight syllables per line, stressing every other one (using rules similar to trochaic tetrametre).

Syllables fall into three types: strong, weak, and neutral. A long syllable (one that contains a long vowel or a diphthong, or ends in a consonant) with a main stress is metrically strong, and a short syllable with a main stress is metrically weak. All syllables without a main stress are metrically neutral. A strong syllable can only occur in the rising part of the second, third, and fourth foot of a line.

Amazing how we can have confidence in this data storage integrity method; that a story remains the same over thousands of years when no one but a few, or even just one, can remember them.

Posted in History, Poetry, Security.


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