Kullervo

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Kullervo's Curse by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

In the Finnish Kalevala, Kullervo was the ill-fated son of Kalervo. He is the only unredeemably tragic character in Finnish mythology.

His father dies in a clash with his own brother Untamo, who sells Kullervo as a slave to Ilmarinen. Later Kullervo flees and finds that his family is still alive except for his sister, who has disappeared.

Kullervo's father sends him to pay the taxes and on the way back he seduces his sister without realising who she is. Out of shame she commits suicide. Seeking revenge Kullervo kills Untamo and his family, only to find his own family dead when he returns home. In the end Kullervo also commits suicide.

Kullervo proved inept and ignorant, having not had a father to pass on knowledge and skills.

The death poem of Kullervo in which he, like Hamlet, interrogates his blade, is justly famous. Unlike the dagger in Hamlet, Kullervo's sword replies, bursting into song: it affirms that if it gladly participated in his other foul deeds, it would gladly drink of his blood also.

The tale of T˙rin Turambar in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion has similiarities with this myth, as it has with Oedipus and with Sigurd the V÷lsung. Michael Moorcock's tragic hero Elric of MelnibonÚ likewise contains many elements that may possibly be inspired by Kullervo (perhaps either directly or indirectly through Poul Anderson's novel The Broken Sword).


Kullervo is an opera by Aulis Sallinen.

Template:Opera-stub


Kullervo is also an extended symphonic poem in five movements for full orchestra, two vocal soloists, and male choir by Jean Sibelius. His story is also the subject of a briefer symphonic poem by Leevi Madetoja.

fi:Kullervo

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