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Weaving and singing are tandem crafts, drawing on tradition and imagination to create beauty from the homely. Weaving is an act of pure creation, almost devotional in its transcendent simplicity.
Crafting the Kalevala
In creating an epic “according to literary standards current among European Romanticists,”  Lӧnnrot made a nationally, and internationally, intelligible narrative that did not rely on having an audience familiar with the characters and stories of the ancient folk tradition. Since then, Lӧnnrot’s Kalevala has been integrated back into traditional singers’ repertoire, reshaping the tradition. 
As he carved his ax’s handle
And my mother also taught me
Though she kept her spindle spinning 
Before he begins to spin his tale, the singer pays tribute to the tradition of song and craft that he has inherited. His songs are part of the shared folklore, for and of the domestic domain, telling of characters and plots well known to his audience. However, these songs are not the exact ones he learned as a child, nor will they ever be sung again in the exact same way. In an oral poetic tradition, each performance is unique, crafted in the moment by the singer—a temporal, physical, and ephemeral thing. As Albert Lord, a pioneering scholar of oral traditions, writes of the singer:
There is an internalized structure at the heart of oral traditions that provides the singer with the tools and the potential to generate new combinations.
Craft in the World of the Kalevala
But the muscles of my maker
That I go about this healing,
Not by virtue of my own strength,
Only by the power almighty.
There is no word in my mouth
But it comes from Jumala’s mouth.
If indeed my mouth is sweet,
Jumala’s mouth is far sweeter;
If indeed my hand is skillful,
Jumala’s hand is far more skillful. 
God is skillful, the most valuable and powerful of qualities in this world. It is the “silk of Jumala” that creates and protects us—us, the delicate, textile matter of creation.
And recant your incantations
I will give my sister Aino,
Let you have my mother’s darling
To keep your house and sweep your floors,
Scour your firkins, wash your clothes,
Weave you golden-threaded fabrics,
Bake for you the honey bread. 
As the weavers of textiles and the crafters of the home, women’s worth is partly measured in their skill as craftswomen. The quality of their dress and dowry demonstrates not only the wealth of their family, but the quality of their skill.
Carefully the silver threading,
Weaving with a golden shuttle
And a weaver’s reed of silver.
Swooped the shuttle to and fro,
Bobbed the bobbin back and forth,
With the brazen heddles humming
And the silver batten squeaking
As she wove the cloth of gold,
Carefully the silver threading. 
Her ability to weave “nimbly”  is analogous to her replying “skillfully”  and “cunningly”  to Väinämöinen’s advances with “wily words”  and increasingly difficult tasks to foil his quest for her hand in marriage. Aptitude in tactile crafts seems to transfer, at least for women, to skill with words.
Suihki sukkula piossa,
Käämi käessä kääperӧitsi,
Niiet vaskiset vatisi,
Hopeinen pirta piukki
Neien kangasta kutoissa,
Hopeista huolittaissa. 
With balanced symmetry, the lines of the first four lines above resonate with striking regularity and consonance. The two-word lines of nearly equal length suggest the careful weaving of the Rainbow Maiden that they describe. The set of three-word lines that follow quicken the pace of this verbal throwing of the shuttle back and forth as the description turns to the moving mechanisms of the loom. The pattern of trios in this new stanza is notably interrupted with a line that rings with familiarity. Nearly a repetition of a previous line, this final line ties the image together, drawing the weaving imagery to a close. The aspiratory h and s sounds soften the sharper consonants describing the active weaving as the activity slows, leading up to Väinämöinen’s interruption of the weaving woman.
Memories of bygone ages,
The oldest lore of origins,
When and how all things began—
Songs that children cannot copy
Nor even wise men understand
In these dreadful days of evil,
In this last and fleeting age. 
He is the “knower eternal” (82), the “eternal singer” (123), renowned throughout the world.
Stirred to anger and to shame,
He himself began to sing,
Conjuring with words of power.
They are not the songs of children,
Songs of children, women’s laughter;
They’re the songs of a bearded man
Which not every child can copy
Half the youths not imitate
Nor one-third the suitors either
In these dreadful days of evil,
In this last and fleeting age. 
Väinämöinen sings and the earth shakes—“cliffs were cracking, boulders breaking” (283). He enchants Joukahainen’s sword, crossbow, sleigh, dog, and his clothes into parts of the scenery, elements of nature. Finally, he sings Joukahainen into a quicksand swamp, and the trapped and terrorized young man pleas “Wise Väinämöinen, knower eternal, / Now reverse your incantations / And call back your magic spells!” (331–2). Joukahainen offers all he has as ransom for his life, trying to appease the magician as he sinks into the swamp. Finally, he promises his sister for Väinämӧinen’s wife, an offer that is accepted.
On the singer’s rock he settled;
Sang and hour, sang another,
Through the third hour singing also:
Sang his magic backward now
And reversed his incantations. 
Just as undoing a length of woven textile requires a reversal of the weaving process, a backwards-weaving, so too are charms undone through reversal. As Friberg notes: “charms, good or bad, could be undone if they were reversed, that is, said backwards.”  To say, let alone sing, something backwards is, presumably, very difficult. As is captured above, to manipulate the power of words is a laborious process in and of itself, and even more so when it used to undo previous creations. Väinämöinen sings for three hours to reverse his charms, an exhibition not only of the intricacy of the vocal craft, but the staying power of well-crafted magic. Like a well-woven textile, a sound charm is a tightly wound, carefully composed, and sturdy text. To undo such woven rows on a loom requires that each step of the weaving process is done in reverse, an awkward break in the flow of the weaving, and a slower process than creating. This demonstrates that not only is Väinämöinen’s magic packed with power, but is surely also a suggestion of the skill of the singer of the Kalevala poem itself, a testament to the hidden complexities of the warp and weft of the words.
made a boat with his knowledge
built a craft with his singing:
three words were lacking
as he reached the stern
at the midship point.
Old Väinämöine himself
went off for words from Tuoni
songs from Manala. 
Later in the poem, Väinämöinen fells the trees that have grown from the bodies of the dead singing ancestors, and at the base of these trees “he found a pair of words— / even as many as three.”  Words are the base unit of knowledge and therefore power in this magical world. This transfers gracefully from a state within the text to a commentary on the nature of the oral text itself. Just as Väinämöinen is in need of three specific, missing words, so too is the runo-singer searching for each word carefully. And for each specific singer, this choice will be different. As Lord writes of oral traditions in general: “At all stages in our musings about oral epic we find it necessary to recreate in our imagination not a general but a specific moment of performance. The singing bard must be our guide; and the singing bard is never a type, but an individual.”  The runo-singer is a guide, creating, like Väinämöinen, a world to fit his needs, a world that necessarily follows from the word that came before.
The most skillful of all craftsmen,
Who hammered out the vault of heaven,
Forged the sky-lid there above us
Without leaving mark of hammer
Or trace of tongs upon it. 
Nor desirous of your silver;
Gold is good for children’s gewgaws,
Silver fit for jingling horsebells. 
And inscribe the ciphered cover,
Make it from a swan’s quill point,
From the milk of a farrow cow,
From a single barleycorn,
From a single fleece of ewe. 
Ilmarinen’s powers come from his ability to craft a powerful object from raw materials of lesser value. Words and objects may hold inherent value, but power lies with those who can most skillfully manipulate them. Thus, the most powerful characters are those who are most skillful in their craft, through which they can harness energy beyond their own bodies to shape the world to their benefit.
Mother Knows Best: A Woven Resurrection
Even then I’d not believe it:
There’s no magic singer in you
To outsing the lads of Lapland.
You don’t even know their language,
Not a single spell in Lappish. 
She is the clairvoyant voice of reason, blunt and unpoetic—clairvoyant, specifically, because her warnings seem to stem from some vision of the future, an intuitive understand of how the various threads of the present scenario will weave together in the future. But, of course, her irrational son pays her no heed, and leaves to meet his doom.
Not remembering to inquire
Of my mother, of my bearer,
For at least two magic charms,
Powerful ones, perhaps for three—
How to live or how behave
In these days of evil omen. 
Here, then, is a critical moment of acknowledgment of motherly power. Not only did dismissing his mother’s warnings lead to this fatal blow, but in failing to recognize her as a valuable resource, he does not have the tools to save himself. Lemminkäinen did not respect his mother’s knowledge—not of the world and its people, nor of charms and magic—and thus traps himself. While it could be argued that Lemminkäinen’s mother is also culpable, in omitting to prepare her son with the appropriate charms, she is hardly aware of her own powers. Not only is Lemminkäinen too ill-tempered to be likely to take the time to learn from his mother, but, as will be evidenced below, she does not have full command of her own strength, in knowledge and action, until she is truly desperate.
Suffered, watching over me!
If you knew, if you sensed
Where your miserable son is now,
You would come without delay,
Hasten hither to his aid.
You would rescue your poor boy
From this downward deadly road,
From slipping to his final slumber
In the vigor of his youth. 
Again, Lemminkäinen recognizes the unique powers of his mother. Whether her singularity comes from her knowledge or by virtue of being the only person who would sacrifice her own safety for his, she alone is called for—not the young wife Kyllikki nor any of the gods. Here Lemminkäinen’s instincts prove true, for once, but it is not with hope that he calls out, for he has met his end. His mother cannot save him from the poison or the angry cowherd, who cleaves his body into pieces and throws them into Death’s angry rapids, to “wallow” in the “backwaters” of the Land of the Dead. 
Long she sought but does not find.
Finally she meets the sun,
Down she humbly bows before him:
“O you God-created sun!
Have you not seen my son,
My golden apple, staff of silver?”
Now indeed the sun knew something,
And he told her what he knew:
“You poor woman, he has vanished,
Lost and dead your darling boy,
Gone down Tuonela’s dark river,
Timeless carrier of the dead;
Hurtled down the tumbling rapids,
Taken by the downward current
To the homes of Tuonela,
To the caverns of the dead.” 
It is the sun that helps the despairing mother to find her son, and heeds her call again when she asks him to shine low and bright on the people of dark Deathland, to tire them out and keep her safe from their evil powers. While the duality of sun/son is not paralleled in the original Finnish, what the above text has translated as “sun” could also be “day”—päivyt in the original, which is alliterative with poika/poikasi (boy or son). Here again we see how Friberg crafts the English language—through homophones and word play, for example—to approximate the playful language and complex structures of the Kalevala.
asked questions, spoke up:
“Will a man still come of you
a new hero be active?”
“There’s no man in the one gone
no hero in the one drowned:
down there is this heart of mine
beside a blue rock, within
the liver-coloured belly.”
“My mother, my only one
not of me will a man come
of father’s son no hero:
there’s no man in the one gone
nor in one who is quite lost.” 
Here, the mother’s work is futile, there is no way to bring a soul back to her son’s body; her rhapsody is not successful, the reconstructed body does not reconstruct the soul. If Lemminkäinen’s mother is unsuccessful, the power of craft and motherhood must be questioned. Is her failure due to an imperfect or less skillful weaving process, or was her goal always impossible? If she had recovered her son’s heart from “down there” would he have come back to life; is the soul contained within that heart, or is the life-force extra-corporeal? If her failure is her own doing, then there is a limit to the power of motherly love and the utility of craft. Her labors are unable to undo death and the damage of Death’s river, and thus the gods have the final say.
Lain for eons longer there
Without your bad, old mother here,
She the wretched one who bore you. 
She indirectly reminds Lemminkäinen of his folly and disobedience. When, however, Lemminkäinen relates how the cowherd vanquished him, the Mother is harsher in her chastising:
Boasted he’d outwit the wizards
And outsing the Lapland warlocks
And not know the dragon’s hate,
Keen pains of the cowbane arrow! 
She is incredulous, frustrated that her massive labor to resurrect her son was caused by a simple ignorance about the dangers of a common water hemlock. She then immediately recites the “charm of origin”  for cowbane, turning the moment of resurrection into a lesson. Then she nurses her son back to health, back not only to his former self but “a little better than before / And more gentle than of old.”  When she asks her son “anxiously” if there is “anything amiss,”  doubting the skill of her craft, Lemminkäinen has the nerve to say he is still pining for the Northern Maiden. This time, however, the mother will not stand for any disobedience, demanding that he forget his ill-fated quest, thank the gods for his good luck, and return home with her. And so he does, setting out “homeward with his mother, / With his most devoted mother, / With his much respected parent.”