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Lemminkäinen (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈlemːiŋˌkæinen]) or Lemminki (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈlemːiŋki]) is a prominent figure in Finnish mythology. He is one of the Heroes of the Kalevala, where his character is a composite of several separate heroes of oral poetry. He is usually depicted as young and good-looking, with wavy red hair.
The original, mythological Lemminkäinen is a shamanistic figure. In the Kalevala, he has been blended together with epic war-heroes Kaukomieli/Kaukamoinen and Ahti Saarelainen.
In one myth, he drowns in the river of Tuonela (the underworld) in trying to capture or kill the black swan that lives there as part of an attempt, as Ilmarinen once made, to win a daughter of Louhi as his wife. In a tale somewhat reminiscent of Isis' search for Osiris, Lemminkäinen's mother searches heaven and earth to find her son. Finally, she learns of his fate and asks Ilmarinen to fashion her a rake of copper with which to dredge her son's body from the river of Tuonela. Thus equipped, she descends into the underworld in search of her son. On the banks of the river of the underworld, she rakes up first Lemminkäinen's tunic and shoes, and then, his maimed and broken body. Unrelenting, she continues her work until every piece of Lemminkäinen's body is recovered. Sewing the parts together and offering prayers to the gods, the mother tries to restore Lemminkäinen to life, but while she succeeds in remaking his body, his life is still absent. Then, she entreats a bee to ascend to the halls of the over-god Ukko and fetch from there a drop of honey as ointment that would bring Lemminkäinen back to life. Only with such a potent remedy is the hero finally restored.
Lemminkäinen and the Scandinavian Balder have many things in common in their respective myths (for example, both are killed by a blind man at the feast of gods or heroes) which has led some researchers to believe they share a common origin.
Lemminkäinen in arts
He is the protagonist of the 1959 film, The Day the Earth Froze.
The Dungeons & Dragons character Mordenkainen is partially named after him.
- Pentikäinen, Juha (1987). "Kalevala Mythology, Revised Edition". Google Books (originally Indiana University Press). Retrieved 27 February 2017.
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