About 15 years ago, we planted two rhododendrons named Pohjola’s Daughter. They were Finnish cultivars said to be cold hardy. They were sort of root bound, and I remember thinking that I could have done a better job freeing the roots when I planted them. Well, I was right, since they didn’t get appreciably bigger or bloom until this May, despite my constant fertilizing and fussing. The flowers were so pretty. It was a long wait, though, and I thought they were aptly named when I researched the story of Pohjola’s Daughter, and how she kept suitors away by giving them impossible tasks to complete before she would marry them. The story comes from the Finnish epic The Kalevala. Sibelius used the story for a tone poem. According to Wikipedia:
The tone poem depicts the “steadfast, old,” white-bearded Väinämöinen who spots the beautiful “daughter of the North (Pohjola)”, seated on a rainbow, weaving a cloth of gold while he is riding a sleigh through the dusky landscape. Väinämöinen asks her to join him, but she replies that she will only leave with a man who can perform a number of challenging tasks, such as tying an egg into invisible knots and, most notably, building a boat from fragments of her distaff. Väinämöinen attempts to fulfill these tasks through his own expertise in magic; in many of the tasks he succeeds but he is eventually thwarted by evil spirits when attempting to build the boat and injures himself with an axe. He gives up, abandons the tasks and continues on his journey alone.
I find our translation of The Kalevala pretty tedious to read, and I think I need to find a new one, since the stories are so interesting. I also find it interesting when life imitates art the way our rhododendrons did.
What is your favorite epic poem or story to read? When have you seen life imitate art?