Child of chaos

10 September 2010 | Comics, Fiction

Kullervo the (anti)hero by Gene Kurkijärvi

A cornucopia of exciting plots and strange characters, the mythic epic Kalevala has inspired innumerable artists since its first publication in the 1830s. A recent interpretation of the story of an extremely tragic hero named Kullervo takes the form of a graphic novel by Gene Kurkijärvi: his urban Kullervo lives in a grim environment – not unlike Helsinki, but carrying with dystopian overtones – where the heroes and/or villains are steely androids and hairy weirdos who shoot drugs and use foul language. This 21st-century Kullervo is a surrealist cyberpunk tragedy – laced with pitch-black comedy.

Extracts from the graphic novel Kullervo by Gene Kurkijärvi (Like, 2009; captions translated by Owen Witesman)

Kalevala, canto XXXIV, 40–90

Kullervo: Why was I ever born? Untamo! It’s his fault I’m so miserable. One day he’ll pay. Old hag: Hey, you! Aren't you Kullervo, son of Kalervo? (Kalevala, canto XXXIV, 40–90)

Kalevala, canto XXXIV, 100–160

Kullervo: What's it to ya? Old hag: Your father and mother are still alive. What would you pay me if I told you where they live? Kullervo: How ‘bout I kill you? Old hag: Don'tI'lltellyouwhatIknow yourfamilylivesbytherailroadthereistheaddresswritt... Kullervo: Thanks a fuckin’ lot. (Kalevala, canto XXXIV, 100–160)


Kalevala, canto XXXIV, 170–190

Kalevala, canto XXXIV, 170–190

Kullervo: Mother! Mother: Who're you supposed to be? Kullervo: Momeee! I'm your son, Kullervo! Mother: Kullervo? (Kalevala, canto XXXIV, 170–190)

Kalevala, canto XXXIV, 200–240

Mother: I thought Untamo killed you after you was born. Kullervo: Nah, he couldn’t ghost me. Mother: Now it’s just your older sister that’s missing. Kullervo: Where’d she disappear to? (Kalevala, canto XXXIV, 200–240)

Kalevala, canto XXXV, 180–205

Mother: Who knows. Her sense of direction weren’t the best. She ain’t been seen since she went on some errand. – Just give us a hand and carry that. (Kalevala, canto XXXV, 180–205)

Kalevala, canto XXXV, 180–205

Kullervo: Oh-ho-yeah... Kullervo’s sister: What’s your name anyway? Kullervo: Kullervo, son of Kalervo. And yours? (Kalevala, canto XXXV, 180–205)

Kalevala, canto XXXV, 205–285

Kullervo’s sister: Son of Kalervo… I’m your sister! I wish I was dead. (Kalevala, canto XXXV, 210–245)

Kalevala, canto XXXV, 250–285

Kullervo: Shit…what’s mom going to say when she hears about this… (Kalevala, canto XXXV, 205–285)


Mother: What?! Kullervo: I think I’m gonna go have a throwdown with Untamo about this. Mother: You’re not going anywhere! Kullervo: I’ll give you a ring!

Kalevala, canto XXXV, 250–295

Kullervo: What have I done with my life? (Kalevala, canto XXXV, 250–295)

Kalevala, canto XXXV, 300–330

‘Kullervo, Kalervo's son / snatched up the sharp sword / looks at it, turns it over / asks it, questions it; / he asked his sword what it liked: / did it have a mind / to eat guilty flesh / to drink blood that was to blame?’ Kalevala, canto XXXV, 300–330. Translation: Keith Bosley, 1989

Kalevala, canto XXXV, 335–340

‘Kullervo, Kalervo's offspring, / With the very bluest stockings, / On the ground the haft set firmly, / On the heath the hilt pressed tightly, / Turned the point against his bosom, / And upon the point he threw him, / Thus he found the death he sought for, / Cast himself into destruction.’ Kalevala, canto XXXV, 335–340. Translation: W.F. Kirby, 1907

Kalevala, canto XXXV, 345

‘Even so the young man perished, /Thus died Kullervo the hero, / Thus the hero's life was ended, / Perished thus the hapless hero.’ Kalevala, canto XXXV, 345. Translation: W.F. Kirby, 1907

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  1. Kullervo | Owen Witesman Freelance Translation

    […] Extracts from the graphic novel Kullervo by Gene Kurkijärvi (Like, 2009; captions translated by Owen Witesman)
    (Warning: contains some explicit languages and images) […]

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