Pohjala’s Daughter

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?

27 thoughts on “Pohjala’s Daughter”

    1. I was thinking of Ruth McKenzie’s version too. Never seen it but have the CD. Haven’t listened too it in a long time.


  1. I read The Illiad a long time ago; that was tough to get through. The Odyssey, that’s more fun. I have several versions of that. Kids versions, adult versions, real translation versions.

    Life imitates art too often. I have to think of examples but I know it does.

    Oh, son, the police officer, has a story of a suspect handcuffed in the back of a police car. He somehow manages to get out of the car; stands on the street yelling “I’m free!” and the cops tackle him and put him back in a car. That’s something you’d see in a movie.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. As an English major, there were a number of epic poems that were required reading. The Odyssey, The Iliad, The Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, The Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, the list goes on and on. Some I found enjoyable, though difficult, to read, others were pure agony. I especially enjoyed Chauser’s wit.

    The only “epic” poem that I can think of that I’d willingly read again is Henrik Ibsen’s Terje Vigen. It is a compelling story, and Ibsen’s use of language is masterful; I can’t imagine that any translation of it would be able to do it justice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OT – Don’t know how many of you are Spider John Koerner fans, but this celebration is going to be vintage Koerner in its eclecticism and whimsy. It takes place at The Cedar.

    Celebrate Spider John Koerner’s musical legacy on the evening of the 1000th full moon of his lifetime, this Monday June 17th !

    This vaudeville-esque evening of entertainment will include short musical sets from Daddy Squeeze Trio, Nirmala Rajasekar, Jack Klatt, Charlie Parr, Adam Kiesling, Mumblin’ Drew, Dakota Dave Hull and more, tango dancers, a yo-yo trickster, and cosmic oddities displayed around The Cedar’s hall. And, if the stars are aligned, there may be a short post-retirement performance by Spider John Koerner himself.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Did any of you see Charlie Bethel doing his one-man retelling of Gilgamesh or Beowulf? He was incredible and did it all without props or costume, except for the suggestion of a campfire.
    In looking for a clip, I’ve learned he died in 2017.

    Here’s a clip. It’s a little racy but you can take it…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. At one bookstore in the late 80s, we sold tapes, I believe, that were 3-minute summaries of classics like Gone with the Wind. I can’t find that online, but there is a link to written summaries of many books from classic literature:
    Here’s Beowulf:

    Grendel: Mmmm, people, nom nom.
    Beowulf: (rips Grendel’s arm off)
    All: You rule, Beowulf. Time for irrelevant speeches!
    Beowulf: (kills some stuff) Oh dear, I’m dying. See that my funeral is as great as I am.
    Wiglaf: Ok.


    Liked by 3 people

  6. If a perpetual motion machine is a form of art, my mom and I just watched life imitating art… On nice days I take her outside, where we can see pre-schoolers on a playground in the distance – she has the best time watching, and observes: They never walk – hey run, skip, march, jump, slide roll, chase…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. i am going to try to get to work on thev100 books you should read list and the iliad and oddesyvare in there
    can i just count o brother where are you instead i liked that

    life imitating art… ya

    Liked by 2 people

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