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Laboratory - Wolff and the Kalevala


Lönnrot, the Author of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, and K.F.Wolff, worked on the legendary material available to them in a way substantially alike, but have met with a largely different fortune among critics and researchers. The parallel with the Kalevala also underlines the shamanistic aspects of the Fanes' society and maybe of the anguane themselves.

I attended a lecture kept by prof. Pentikainen, a well-known researcher of the Kalevala (the Finnish national epic), where I had a chance to appreciate some aspects that can be related to the Fanes’ saga.


In first place, it is interesting to observe that Lönnrot, who transcribed the epic in the first half of the XIX century, deriving it from a huge amount of poems that had been preserved through the centuries by generations of bards, behaved rather exactly the way Wolff did several years later with Ladinian legends: he stitched together, recomposed, reordered, maybe also introducing something of his own, and created a very poetic whole that only in part was traditional. Nobody dared, however, criticizing his action as a disrespect of the genuine folklore, and everyone on the contrary plauded as aiming to the birth of a Finnish national spirit, which his countrymen acutely felt as missing, in that romantic and nationalistic period. Was Wolff acquainted with the Kalevala? I really think so, because the age and the environment of his studies were the correct ones; although in Wolff I’m finding no explicit reference to the Kalevala, I’m convinced that he took from it a broad inspiration in the conception of his work. However, both had a quite different fortune. It seems that the Ladinian nationalistic spirit was not such as to being fueled by Wolff’s work…


Further, the environment of Kalevala is that of a society dominated by shamanistic concepts. Shamans enter a trance state through music and this way get in touch with the world of spirits, deriving several advantages from it; but their main function is that of healers. While all this sounds as a parallel with the shamanistic behaviour of the Fanes queen, it also recalls me a possibile parallel with the anguane, who are known both as singers and as healers. The existence of a relationship between the Fanes queen and the anguane is clearly evidenced by the legend anyway. For the moment this possible parallelism remains a suggestion, but still it exists.

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