[A shorter version of this article appears in this month's issue of Uncle Scrooge (#334) to accompany Don Rosa's "Quest for Kalevala." We thought Scoop fans would be interested in seeing the full version, with illustrations.]

When Don Rosa's work was published for the first time in the Finnish Aku Ankka (Donald Duck) Weekly in 1990, it drew a lot of attention from the readers. The story was the 10-page "Mythological Menagerie," and readers' response was two-fold: some thought that the artwork was too crude, too "underground," some saw beyond that and commented that it was one of the funniest Duck stories they had read in years. (Aku Ankka is the biggest periodical in Finland with a circulation of 295,000 copies, and it is read by 1.3 million Finns, children and adults alike, every week-in a country with a population of 5 million!)
More of Rosa's stories were published steadily in the early 90s, and his popularity among readers grew with every story. It was only natural that we decided a collection of his works would be in order, and in 1995 the first hardcover book of reprinted stories was published in Finland. Don also visited Finland for the first time in the fall of 1995. His second visit was two years later when we published The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, and during these trips Don witnessed how popular he had become in Finland. Literally hundreds of fans waited in lines in bookstores for his autograph, and press conferences drew dozens of journalists from newspapers, magazines, TV networks and radio channels. But all this was nothing compared to what happened in 1999.

Rosa had come to know Finnish editors and fans, and when talking with them he couldn't avoid coming into contact with a book that continues to have a big influence on the Finnish everyday life and culture: the Finnish national epic, Kalevala.

Kalevala was compiled from folk poems sung in eastern Finland and Karelia. The first edition of Kalevala was published in 1835, and it was collected and edited by Elias Lönnrot, a medical doctor, who had also studied literature, Latin, Greek and history. The oldest of Kalevala's poems had survived for three thousand years by oral tradition, although there are more recent layers in them as well. The mythic poems of Finland's pagan past were sung in an archaic trochaic tetrametre, also known as Kalevala metre.
Lönnrot made several trips to eastern parts of Finland, which at that time was still an autonomic part of the Russian empire, and made notes of poems performed by several singers, the best of whom could remember thousands of lines. Lönnrot then organized and edited the material to achieve a unified body of poetry after the model of Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" and the Scandinavian "Edda" poems. So, in that sense Kalevala is the composition of a single man.
Lönnrot expanded and re-edited the poems, and in 1849 New Kalevala was published, comprising fifty stanzas and almost 23,000 lines, telling of heroes of the olden days, their journeys and a version of the creation of the world.
The central character and the hero of the Kalevala is Väinämöinen, a singer, shaman and sorcerer, who can sing and play his harp-like instrument kantele so beautifully that even the wild beasts come to listen to it. Väinämöinen can also use his words as weapons. He can for instance put a spell on his opponent so that he sinks up to his neck into a swamp.
The central epic is that of Sampo, a mysterious object that is forged by Väinämöinen's brother, blacksmith Ilmarinen, and brings wealth and prosperity to its owner. It is not told explicitly what Sampo actually is, but one quite common concept is that it is a kind of a magic mill that can produce salt, grain and gold. It certainly is a treasure Scrooge would like to have, as Don Rosa has realized.

When Kalevala was published, it had a huge impact on Finnish culture and the strengthening of national identity (resulting finally in the Finnish independence in 1917). The national romantic movement in Europe emphasized the importance of national language and folk poetry, and the Kalevala served as an invaluable source of inspiration to numerous Finnish novelists and poets, as well as composers like Jean Sibelius and painters like Akseli Gallén-Kallela. Even nowadays Kalevala's influence can be seen in everyday life in the names of people, companies, streets, city districts, and different products.

Kalevala has been translated into 51 languages. The first translation of the New Kalevala was into German in 1852. As an interesting side note, Kalevala is indirectly present in one of Carl Barks' stories, too. In "Land of the Pygmy Indians" (US 18) he wrote the Peeweegah Indians' speech in pentametre that was borrowed from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic "The Song of Hiawatha." Longfellow had originally borrowed the metre from Kalevala's German translation.

In 1999 Don Rosa decided to combine the two cornerstones of Finnish culture, Kalevala and Donald Duck, as a special treat for the Finnish Duck fans. In his introduction to the hardcover book he anticipated that it would be a huge success. And a success it was: the Kalevala Duck story was headline news. Rosa was interviewed in the news broadcasts of every major TV channel, and over a hundred newspapers and magazines published big articles on the story. Don Rosa toured in Finland's three biggest cities, giving interviews for the media and autographs in the bookstores. Don became a genuine celebrity who was recognized on the streets, in taxis and restaurants. Don Rosa became almost a household name, the best known comics artist in Finland, along with Carl Barks.

Jukka Heiskanen
Editor in Chief
Aku Ankka, Finland