Saturday, April 13, 2013

Belovedling's Mum

When you've blogged for a while, as I have (horrifying but true – it is seven years since I started), it can happen that first you think, "right, I'll write about this thing then" – and then you think, "but no, hang on a minute, haven't I already done so once?" And then you daren't, for fear of appearing like a senile-dementic fool in full-frontal public view.

Except that you can also think, "see if I care", and write anyway. Which is what I'm going to do now.

Did I show you this before? No matter. This is a ridiculously-well-known painting depicting a famous scene from the Kalevala. The corpse is that of Lemminkäinen, whose unwieldy name has such connotations that make it possible for me to translate it as Belovedling. A typical young man, in love with his own good looks and sexual prowess, forever getting into seventeen sorts of trouble; now he has, finally and as was always going to be the case, got himself into The Big Trouble of somebody getting pissed-off enough with him to kill him.

I can't remember what exactly he did and it barely matters. The fact is he landed up dead, and not only that, but also chopped up into several pieces and chucked into the River of Death. This is where it gets interesting: his mother, as mothers do, went after him into the Land of the Dead and, with a long rake, fished out the pieces of her son. We see them at the moment when she's pieced him together, but he is still quite dead. But all is not lost. See the golden, wavy lines she is looking up at? There is the breath of life from heaven, carried by a bee (which you can just about make out if you zoom in). She has asked the bee to come and sting Belovedling back to life. Which he does. I can't remember if Belovedling wises up after this escapade, but I think it unlikely.

What matters is it's all in a day's work for a mother.


Reading the Signs said...

Beautiful. Thanks for the story and this wonderful image. I didn't know that Osiris's mother did the same for her son. The death-defying power of a mother's love.

Anna MR said...

Schwesterlein, thank you. The older my children get, the more I understand this tale – only one step removed from realism, wouldn't you say?

The thing about isis and Osiris really blew my mind (Isis was his wife, but, as was the case with the Egyptians, they were also related in some way, I can't quite remember if they were mother and son or brother and sister, but that's right beside the point). My initial thought, when I made the connection a couple decades ago, was "how can the story possibly have travelled four thousand years and twice as many miles to be told by the forest-dwellers of Karelia?" But, well, since then I've discovered more about the nature of life and love…and realised that it's just an archetypal tale á la Jung, something told by people the world over, in some form or another, because, well, it just describes life and the human experience.

Please find attached the piece "Swan of Tuonela", Tuonela being the Land of the Dead. You see the swan in the painting. I am no super great Sibelius aficionado – not even all that knowledgable on him – but I do like the mysterious feel of this piece.