Those Wacky Finns!

You know, I’m amazed at how much Kullervo resembles the soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings.

For those unfamilar with Kullervo (and that’s just about everyone outside of Finland) it’s the first major work by the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). It’s based on a section of the Kalevala, Finland’s national epic, and tells the story of Kullervo son of Kalervo, who’s travelling home after paying his taxes (any other nation in Europe would have had him coming back from a war or something, but hey, this is Finland we’re talking about*Sorry, that was unecessesarily mean-spirited 🙂). On the way he notices a fairly attractive maiden, and suggests she might like to join him in the back of his cart for a while. She quite effectively tells him to bugger off, so he goes on his way. Further on he meets her again, and makes the same offer. She is even more emphatic and he carries onwards. Then he runs into her a third time, and makes one last try. When she refuses he apparently decides that enough is enough, and hauls her into the cart (did I mention by the way that this Kullervo guy is a complete bastard?).

Naturally enough she’s not very happy about this, but changes her tune when Kullervo shows her all the silver and fine fabrics he has (even after paying his taxes) and lets him have his way with her (because you know, it’s perfectly OK to assault women if you’re rich*Need I actually point out that this is sarcasm?). She then decides that introductions are in order and asks him who the heck he is. So he explains that he’s Kullervo son of Kalervo. This turns out to be rather unfortunate as the maiden is in fact his long lost sister*This kind of thing goes on all the time in ancient epics.. So they both lament a bit and go on their respective ways*Actually I think she kills herself out of horror, but you wouldn’t really know it from reading the lyrics..

So, some years later Kullervo is travelling home from war (probably something to do with taxes) and happens over the spot where the awful deed was perpetrated. He gets a long overdue attack of remorse, has a conversation with his sword, then kills himself. End of story.

Anyway the music for all of this is intensely dark and brooding (as you’d expect given the subject matter) and what with the massed choir singing and chanting in Finnish and all the drums and horns and things, it really sounds like Howard Shore’s score for The Fellowship of the Ring*Particularly The Prophecy, parts of The Bridge of Khazad D

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