The Kalevala Prize was founded in 1935 by the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the national epic. The fund was established through a donation by the State of Finland. According to the statutes, the aim is “to support research illuminating the ancient past of the Finnish people and its traditional, spiritual folk culture”. The Kalevala Prize, presently 10,000 FIM, is awarded “every three years for the best study on the Kalevala or affiliated problems published during past three years”.

Many of the prizes during the past decades have been awarded to young Doctors of Philosophy whose dissertations have excelled among peers. The recipients of the Prize have represented several disciplines, such as ethnology, folkloristics, and literary history. The thematic range of eligible studies has been given a relatively liberal definition since studies on the Kalevala as an epic have not been very frequent.

The Kalevala Prize 1998 was awarded to Jyrki Pöysä Ph.D. (Helsinki) on April 6, 1998 at the annual meeting of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters in Helsinki. He received it for his doctoral dissertation Jätkän synty. Tutkimus sosiaalisen kategorian muotoutumisesta suomalaisessa kulttuurissa ja itäsuomalaisessa metsätyöperinteessä [The Birth of the Lumberjack. The historical formation of a social category in Finnish culture and Eastern Finnish folklore about lumberjacks].

The study focuses on the jätkä “lumberjack” figure, highly idealised in literature as a masculine, independent, hard-working, honest and happy fellow. Folk narratives, jests and anecdotes about the lumberjack differ from the stereotype and reflect the worldview of the loggers themselves. The analysis focuses on the narrator, hero and opponents in relation to the social category of the lumberjack. In the lumberjacks’ own folklore a jätkä is not always defined as one involved in logging, but rather as an outsider or a rascal.

The bulk of the research material derives from the lumberjack tradition collection competition organised by the Finnish Literature Society in 1969. Other sources were newspapers, literature, films, popular songs, and various archive collections. This is the first study extensively using the material of collection competitions and is as such pioneering in many ways.

(FFN 15, April 1998: 10)

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