Elias Lönnrot

Elias Lönnrot was born in Sammatti on April 9th, 1802. He was the fourth child of Fredrik Johan Lönnrot and Ulrika Wahlberg, and the middle one of seven siblings.

 

Lönnrot studied pharmacy from 1820 to 1822. In 1822, he signed in to Turku Academy where his fellow students were J.L. Runeberg and J.V. Snellman. He graduated with Bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1827, only three months before a tremendous fire destroyed the academy and three quarters of the whole city of Turku. The following year he moved to Helsinki to continue his studies in physics.

 

From 1828 to 1845 Lönnrot collected folk songs and tales on 11 trips, most of which he made to eastern Finland and Karelia. He also visited northern Finland, northwestern Russia and Estonia. He traveled mostly by foot and usually stayed several weeks or months on the road. On his travels he met Finnish and Karelian folk singers and taletellers whose songs, stories, poems and riddles formed the base to many of Lönnrot’s works. After his sixth trip in 1835 he put together the first edition of Kalevala which came out in two parts in 1835-36. The foreword was signed on February 28th, which was later named and reckoned as the Day of Kalevala and Finnish Culture.

Lönnrot continued his ventures in September 1836. He headed towards Karelia but faced trouble finding material. Loneliness and melancholy accompanied his journey and his visions turned strongly spiritual. In 1838, Lönnrot was on the road again and got material for a collection of old Finnish folk songs and hymns that was published as Kanteletar in 1840.

In 1849 a revised edition of Kalevala was published with 18 new poems. This edition still remains as a standard version of the epic.

 

Alongside being a folk song collector and a poet, Lönnrot also was an accomplished physician, linguist and a journalist. He worked persistently to build up the status of the Finnish language and extended vocabularies remarkably in many fields – science, law and herbology being on his main focus. He published an extensive Finnish-Swedish dictionary in 1862-1880. Lönnrot was also one of the establishing members of the Finnish Literature Association.

 

Lönnrot died in Sammatti on March 19th, 1884, being nearly 82 years old.

 

Lönnrot lived in Hövelö for almost a year, from March 1834 to January 1835. The Eino Leino heritage house dedicates also to the memory of Elias Lönnrot.