May 29, 2016

Kalevipoeg: Gay Epic Hero of Estonia

When I was visiting Estonia in the summer of 1998, I couldn't go anywhere without hearing about Kalevipoeg.  There were a dozen public statues of him, a naked, muscular god carrying small people.

There was a Kalevipoeg Sculpture Park in Tallinn.

There was a Kalevipoeg Museum near Kaapa, which became a full Theme Park in 2007.

There was a chain of Kalev Chocolate Shops.

Teenagers were filming adaptions of his adventures for  school projects.







Kalevipoeg Imprisoned, Enn Poldroos
Museums were crowded with sculptures, murals, and paintings, often emphasizing the god's superheroic endowment.



















Kalevipoeg at the Gates of Hell, Kristjan Raud
Or muscular backside.

Bookstores were teeming with books that praise Kalevipoeg as "James Bond and Chuck Norris put together."

So who is this guy?

He's the son of the god Kalev in The Kalevipoeg,  the Estonian national epic, culled from ancient myths by Friedrich Kreutzwald and published in 1853.

The youngest of  Kalev's children, but the biggest, strongest, and most resourceful, Kalevipoeg has many adventures.  He:
1. Swims to Finland to rescue his mother from an evil wizard
2. Gets a cursed sword from the Finish god Ilmarin.
3. Wins the throne of Estonia in a stone-throwing contest.






Kalevipoeg, Amandus Adamson
From then on, his companion is Alevipoeg, with whom he:
4. Fights a water demon and a sorcerer.
5. Travels to Porgu (Hell) twice.
6. Seeks out the edge of the world.
7. Fights an apocalyptic battle with the demon Sarvik and his army.

When Alevipoeg is killed, Kalevipoeg is so grief-stricken that he gives up his kingdom and becomes a hermit.  When he dies, he goes to Heaven, but is deemed so valuable that he is tied to the gates of Porgu to keep the world safe.

Kreutzwald was inspired by the Finnish Kalevala, also compiled from ancient myths, and set to verse by Elias Lönnrot in 1849.

But there's a big difference: the Kalevala is all about the quest after the Eternal Feminine, the gods Ilmarin, Väinämöinen, and Lemminkäinen searching for wives.





Kalevipoeg, Drisil Woan


But except for one short maiden-seduction early on (which, admittedly, gets a lot of attention), Kalevipoeg is oblivious to women.  When he rescues three maidens from Porgu, he busily tries to find them husbands, never attempting to seduce them himself.

He is all about masculine buddy-bonding, first with his brothers, and then with Alevipoeg.


A gay epic hero?









Kalevipoeg Mural, Tallinn
In addition to the many literary and artistic adaptations of The Kalevipoeg, there's been a ballet featuring the Kalevipoeg Suite, by Eugen Kapp, and a stage play, a "Cool Epic" starring Tanel Saar, that has toured Europe and the U.S.

See also: Kristjan Raud: Mesmerized by Male Beauty and Yuri and I Cruise in Estonia.