Oral poems in manuscripts – The case of Arhippa Perttunen

Jukka Saarinen

The object of my study is Arhippa Perttunen, the famous singer and performer of Kalevalaic poems and one of the two singers mentioned by Elias Lönnrot in his foreword to the Finnish national epic Kalevala (1834). Arhippa lived in Latvajärvi village in Archangel Carelia and was born most probably in 1769, and died in 1841. The following three collectors wrote down from him Kalevalaic poems: Elias Lönnrot in 1834, J. Fr. Cajan in 1836 and M. A. Castrén in 1839. They noted down from him almost 6000 poetic lines, containing 19 000 words. His poems have been studied by many scholars from different angles, for example from the point of view of parallelism (see Steinitz 1934) and metrics (cf. Leskinen and Särkkä 1985).

The collectors were not striving for an exact representation of Arhippa's words and lines as performed in his local dialect. They used very often abbreviations and (more or less) standardized Finnish forms for the local Karelian lexical and morpho-syntactical units. As a result there is a clear difference to be seen if we compare the texts of these collectors to those of later collectors, who used systems of phonetic transcription. In my presentation I will explore the problem of reconstructing the original text of the singer on the basis of (often) very fragmentary notes written down by the collectors. The reconstructed text cannot be exactly "the original one" and many questions will remain unsolved. However, it may give us a much better understanding on the process of using metrics, alliteration and other primary features of Arhippa's poetics.