Religion, Myth, and Folklore in the World's Epics

III. "Points of Comparison"















III. "Points of Comparison" : A. "Europe"






Russian and Finnish Epic Songs

Felix J. Oinas



Va:ina:mo:inen Poe:ms

David E. Bynum



Epics of the Eastern Uralic Peoples

Pe'ter Domokos



Fre'de'ric Mistral's Poem Mireille

Rudolf Schenda




Russian and Finnish Epic Songs

Felix J. Oinas


pp. 289-90 migration of byliny northward, and of Finnish epic songs eastward

p. 289

"The frequent mention of southern Russian {Dniepr River-Basin, i.e., Ukrainian} cities (C^ernigov, Kiev, Smolensk) and personages (... Kievan ...) gives an indication that they must in fact have originated in the south {i.e., in Ukraine}. A number of details refer specifically to Old Kiev, such as the Poc^ajna River ... and ... a ford at Vys^gorod ... ."

p. 290

"The Finnish epic songs, found primarily in southeastern Finland and Eastern Karelia, are not indigenous to this area ... . ... A. A. Borenius ... concluded that "ancient Finnish poems cannot have originated where they were last sung, i.e., in Carelia" (Hautala 1969:64). Referring to the presence of Swedish loanwords ... and the names of Roman Catholic saints ..., he concluded that "the poetry has come to Russian Carelia from the west, from Finland ..." (Hautala 1969:65)."

Hautala 1969 = Juoko Hautala : Finnish Folklore Research 1828-1919. Helsinki.

pp. 295-6 magical transformations; erroneous attribution (by modern compiler of Kalevala runes) of adventure to wrong mythic character-person; a borrowed mythic theme

p. 295

"Va:ina:mo:inen sings ... Joukahainen into the swamp, transforms his horse into a seal, the saddle into a duck, and the whip into

p. 296

a reed. In the poem about Va:ina:mo:inen's art of singing, he enchants the forest animals and nature spirits with his melodies (Haavio 1952:160-163 ....)."

"It was obviously Lemminkai:nen, not Va:ina:mo:inen, who originally paid a visit to Antero Vipunen (cf. Kuusi 1954:294-308). His major adventure involves a journey, full of dangers, to the home of a ... shaman ...,

a theme which is taken over from a Russian bylina (... Oinas 1985:115 ff.).

{unless, of course, the Russian bylina borrowed from the Finnish epos}

Another -- and final -- magical act of his entails the transformation of the garments of the participants in the festivities in Pa:ivo:la:, except for one, into gold and silver."

Haavio 1952 = Martti Haavio : "Va:ina:mo:inen, Eternal Sage". in FOLKLORE FELLOWS COMMUNICATIONS 144. Helsinki.

Kuusi 1954 = Matti Kuusi : "U:ber Wiederholungstypen in der Volkepik". STUDIA FENNICA 6. Helsinki.

Oinas 1985 = Felix J. Oinas : Studies in Finnish Folklore : Homage to the Kalevala. Helsinki & Bloomington (IN).

{LEMMIN-kai:nen was evidently originally intended as a LEMMINg-god.}

pp. 298-9 magical function of Russian byliny and of Finnish runes

p. 298

"They tell the bylina about Dobrynja, to calm down the blue sea ... (Rybnikov 1861:139)."

p. 299

""Fowlers, hunters, and woodsmen asked Va:ina:mo:inen to play his harp, so that its sweet music would call forth all the game ..." (Haavio 1952:171)."

"spring and autumn sowing were accompanied by Sa:mpsa: Pellervoinen's song, which reiterated the primeval sowing.

... the song of the forging and stealing of the Sampo and the pursuit of the mistress of Pohjola, was sung at the spring and autumn plowing.

Statements ... from some of the singers attribute the riches of the sea to the Sampo's falling into the water and point to a ritualistic use of the Sampo sequence ... also in fishing (Haavio 1952:180-189 ...)."

Rybnikov 1861 = P. N. Rybnikov : Pesni sobrannye P. N. Rybnikovym 1. Moskva.



Va:ina:mo:inen Poe:ms

David E. Bynum


pp. 313-4 1st Song in all 3 redactions of Kalevala

p. 313

"Va:ina:mo:inen ... "in the middle of the sea's navel",

{Cf. the god reposing on a tree in a swamp in CBM, p. 38, lower left)}

raises his knee,

{Cf. the "knees" of the bald-cypress, a swamp-tree}

p. 314

.. and the bird casts a copper nest upon it, in which it lays a golden egg.

{Often, "bald eagles" nest in a bald-cypress tree ("TWK").}

The bird's ... nest and egg ... shatter. Va:ina:mo:inen makes ... the welkin from the upper shell, the sun from the egg-white, the moon from the egg-yolk, and the stars from lesser fragments".

{The universe orginated from an egg which was broken, according to BAP 1:2:22.45-46.}

CBM, p. 38

"TWK" = "Trees With Knees".

BAP = Brahma-an.d.a Puran.a

p. 315 Song 15 of Proto-Kalevala = Song 30 of Old Kalevala = Song 3 of Classic

"Joukahainen ... promises his own sister as ransom. Va:ina:mo:inen accepts ..., and Joukahainen returns home to his mother ... . His mother replies ... that she has waited ... hoping ... to Va:ina:mo:inen for her son-in-law."

pp. 317-8 Song 6 of Proto-Kalevala = Song 9 of Old Kalevala = Song 16 of Classic

p. 317

"Va:ina:mo:inen ... goes to Tuonela ... . A river obstructs ..., he summons a girl ... to fetch a boat {ferry} to him ... across the river. ... .

{His name is phonetically similar to that of VEN.uMaNt, whose subcontinent is (according to BAP 1:2:14.27-30) Ven.u-man.d.ala ('reed-circle').}

p. 318

... the girl provides the boat ... . ...

{Cf. goddess Nin-lil's taking god En-lil aboard her river-boat.} {Cf. likewise heroine Matsya-gandha's taking a r.s.i aboard her skiff.}

Shifting his shape into that of a reptile, Va:ina:mo:inen flees the place ... by swimming ..., and so returns home."

{Cf. the snake noticing Bil-games^ while he is bathing in the river during his return-trip from his visiting of Zi-usud-ra.}

{Inaccurately, Ven.u-MAN.D.ALA is also known (VAP) as /Dron.a/ ('bucket') and as /LOLita/ ('dangling') : apparently referring to a bucket's dangling by its rope in a well -- which is "bucket-in-well" is the name of one of the manazil (<arabi lunar-mansion asterisms).} {More accurately, Dron.a is described (MKP 2:32) as son of MAN.D.ApaLA, Pra-LOLopa being an ancestor of theirs.}

VAP = Vara-aha Puran.a

MKP = Mar-kan.d.eya Puran.a (transl. by Manmatha Nath Dutt. Calcutta : H. C. Dass, 1896)

pp. 322-3 Song 6 of Proto-Kalevala = Song 10 of Old Kalevala = Song 17 of Classic

p. 322

"Va:ina:mo:inen cannot finish building a ship for want of three "words" wherewith to fasten ... parts of it in place. ... he goes to ... a ... sage of the past, Anter(v)o Vipunen, where the latter lies with

"a great ash tree (growing) on his shoulders,/ ... an alder on his jaws,/ a bird-cherry by his beard".

{That trees grow on sites of his body would indicate that he is identified with a mountain, which may be some well-known a site-of-pilgrimage.}

Seeking access to Vipunen, Va:ina:mo:inen walks on the edges of men's sword-blades for one day,

{Cf. the Taoist rite of climbing to Heaven via a ladder whose alternate rungs are sword-blades.}

on the points of women's needles for a second day,

{Cf. "even the place on which the feet rest, are armed with long nails pointing upward, and sticking deep into the flesh of the occupant." (RSCh, p. 984)}

and on the third day he slips and falls into the crevasse of Vipunen's open mouth. There, ... using his knees for an anvil, ... elbow for hammer, and fingers for tongs, Va:ina:mo:inen shapes

a cowlstaff, which he then deploys as a brace

[cf. infra III.C.2 "Mongolian Epics", p. 464]

p. 323

to keep Vipunen's mouth from closing on him.

... Va:ina:mo:inen obtains a wealth of precious words from him before departing. Va:ina:mo:inen then finishes the building of his ship."

{"As part of the ordination ritual, a candidate must climb a ladder of thirty-six swords" (ET"O--O&P", p. 18, Fig. 2). [The 36, consisting of 18 real swords + 18 wooden swords, would correspond to the 36 Puran.a-s, consisting of 18 Maha-puran.a-s + 18 Upa-puran.a-s.]} {Sometimes, instead, "there are twelve rungs in the ladder" (RSCh, p. 1249). [These 12 could correspond to the 12 heavens in the Maori cosmology.]}

ET"O--O&P" = Livia Kohn : "Overview -- Ordination and Priesthood". In :- Fabrizio Pregadio (ed.) : The Encyclopedia of Taoism. London : Routledge, 2008. pp. 17-20.

RSCh = J. J. M. de Groot : The Religious System of China. E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1910. and also

p. 330 Song 16 of Proto-Kalevala = Song 32 of Old Kalevala = Song 50 of Classic

"A male infant is born illegitimately ..., and then named by its maternal kin while they are still ignorant of its paternity.

Va:ina:mo:inen is asked ... his opinion of the naming, but he evades the question and desires instead that the infant not be named at all. ...

{Cf. Odusseus's, when asked his name, calling himself /Ou-deis/ ('No-one').}

But the child miraculously speaks out ..., and in turn accuses its judge {i.e., Va:ina:mo:inen} of ... illegitimately begetting it himself ... . In some variants the christening of infant then proceeds with ... a coronation, he being declared a king.

Va:ina:mo:inen goes down to the sea, sails away upon it until he reaches a maelstrom,

{Cf. the encounter by Odusseus of the whirlpool Kharubdis.}

where he disappears into the depths."

{An indirect connection with Kalevala 6=9=16 may exist through the sequence of (MKP 73) 3rd manu-antara's /UTTAMa/ (= /od-UTTEUs/, i.e. /od-usseus/) being succeeded by (MKP 74:18-43) 4th manu-antara's /LOLa/, comparable with /pra-LOLopa/.}



Epics of the Eastern Uralic Peoples

Pe'ter Domokos


pp. 347-52 epics, their redactors, and dates of publication




title or length (in lines)

date of publ.



S. C^avayn, O. Ipay, & O. S^abdar

Song about Knight C^otkar




M. Hudyakov





K. Z^akov

Byarmia (7,000)




V. Lytkin





V. Voldyin

Tak Molupsi





Fringe of the Earth





Sudbabc; Jarabc





Itye and Punegoosee


{The Permyak "archaic Kudim-Os^ (i.e. bear-ancestor)" would be aequivalent to the Korean "Kuma" (bear-ancestor).}

p. 354 Saami (Lappish) epic

"O. Donner recorded four lengthy epic songs of 600 lines ..., which were published in 1876 ... . ... . ... these songs ... are ... made of Lappish folklore and mythology ... from several dialects".



Fre'de'ric Mistral's Poem Mireille

Rudolf Schenda


pp. 361-2 contemporary Provenzal poe:sy

p. 361

"in Provence a that time [19th century Chr.E.] ... three schools, that of Avignon, that of Aix, and that of Marseille."

p. 362

"The poets of Aix ... with those of Crousillat, Gaut, and d'Astros, were ... flourishing;

but those of Marseilles ... utterly tasteless; ladies attending their meetings were forced to blush and take their leave".

p. 362 old troubadour poe:sy

"Provenc,al ... major troubadour anthologies compiled by Franc,ois-Juste-Marie in 1816-1826".

pp. 364-6 cantos of the epic Mireille ["published in Avignon by Roumanille in 1859" (p. 363)] ["an epic in twelve cantos ... written between 1852 and 1858"]


canto #

its content

p. 364


"One of the girls sings the "Magali" song, about the magical transformations of two lovers."

p. 365


"Mireille takes him to the Fairy cavern of witch Taven, a journey to the underworld during which they meet ghosts, goblins, the Weathermaker witch, ... the Wild Hunter, seven black cats, two dragons, a white cock, etc."

p. 366


"The Saint Marys recount how they travelled from Jerusalem to Provence, and how Provence was converted by the Saints Trophime (Arles), Marthe (Tarascon), Martial (Limoges), Saturnin (Toulouse), Eutrope (Orange), Lazare (Marseille), and Maximien (Aix)."

p. 370 themes in Mireille

"the chapbook of Magelone the Fair and her quest for her beloved, Peter of Provence; ...

the saga of the giants of the Crau, who wanted to overthrow God ...;

the legend of St. Gent, who harnessed a wolf to his plough".


RELIGION AND SOCIETY, 30 = Lauri Honko (ed.) : Religion, Myth, and Folklore in the World's Epics. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, 1990.