Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Kalevala in 'Hordes of the Things'

Kalevala is an epic poem, compiled in the 19th century from the oral myths and folklore of Finland.

Most of Kalekava revolves around Väinämöinen, the 'eternal sage'. His search for a wife brings the land of Kaleva into friendly but later hostile contact with its dark and threatening neighbour in the north, Pohjola. Ilmarinen, the primeval smith, and Lemminkäinen, a stone age Don Juan, also seek wives from Pohjola, though with varying success, and large sections of Kalevala are devoted to the tasks they have to perform to acquire their wives. Ilmarinen forges the Sampo, a task set by the Mistress of Pohjola in return for her daughter's hand. The Sampo, a magic mill which ensures unending wealth for its owner, triggers the main sequence of events in the second half of Kalevala. It becomes the cause of strife between Pohjola and the land of Kaleva when Väinämöinen and his followers travel to Pohjola in an attempt to retrieve the Sampo forged by Ilmarinen. After a furious battle at sea the Sampo is smashed and lost overboard, although fragments washed ashore in the land of Kaleva bring Väinämöinen's people growth and prosperity. Towards the end of Kalevala, Väinämöinen has to defend his land from successive acts of destruction caused by the Mistress of Pohjola in revenge for the loss of her Sampo, culminating in him returning to Pohjola in order to restore the sun and the moon to their rightful places.

These lists are based on elements throughout the work, but concentrate on the section where the heroes travel to Pohjola to take the Sampo. Warriors of both sides are described as using broadswords, spears and axes. Large numbers of bowmen are mentioned as well, but there seems to be little use of them; most shooting in the epic is ambushing by crossbowmen.

Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen both exhibit behaviour that could classify them as hero or magician, but the classifications below represent a 'best fit' approach. Lemminkäinen is certainly a hero. All three characters could be depicted mounted in sleighs.Lesser heroes are summoned to take part in the capture of the Sampo; they are classified as blades in order to make them more powerful than the Pohjolan foot they would have opposed. Ilmarinen conjours an eagle in order to help him capture the great pike of the Tuonela River.

Stronghold: Beached ship or longhouse.

1 x Magician general (Väinämöinen, sage and songster) @ 4AP
1 x Hero (Ilmarinen, master smith) @ 4AP
1 x Hero (Lemminkäinen, adventurer and romancer) @ 4AP
6 x Blades (Kalevalan warriors) @ 2AP
Alternatives: Flyer (Ilmarinen's eagle) @ 2AP

Louhi is certainly a magician rather than a fighter, so her classification is obvious. The Lord of Pohjola appears briefly to be slain by Lemminkäinen in single combat, but is considered a better fighter than the rest of the Pohjolan foot. Väinämöinen has no trouble in defeating the warriors of Pohjola single-handed, so they are rated as hordes, but some lesser heroes can be assumed, hence the warband option. Louhi summons various things during the course of the epic; the Frost Fiend prevents one Kalevalan expedition from reaching her shores, and an array of terrible diseases are sent against Kalevala in revenge for the loss of the Sampo. Nasshut the shepherd ambushes and kills Lemminkäinen, although Lemminkäinen's mother resurrects him later. Vipers and adders feature throughout the epic, and Louhi sends all three heroes on quests involving the capture or killing of mighty beasts within Pohjola, as well as sending a bear to ravage Kalevala itself. Louhi's eagle form was made up of herself and a number of her warriors merged together, so if it is used the extra points should be achieved by reducing the number of hordes available. The Sampo is only described as a mill that produces wealth and as having a rainbow coloured lid. Make of it what you will.

Stronghold: A sealed cavern in a hill of rock, containing the Sampo

1 x Magician general (Louhi, the Lady of Pohjola) @ 4AP
1 x God (Louhi's summonings such as the Frost Fiend or the Disease Children of Lowyatar) @ 4AP
2 x Beasts (Pohjolan creatures, such as the flame stallion of Hisi, bears or wolves) @ 2AP
1 x Blade (The Lord of Pohjola) @ 2AP
8 x Hordes (Pohjolan warriors) @ 1AP
1 x Lurker (Nasshut the shepherd with crossbow or various poisonous snakes) @ 1AP
1 x Water Lurker (Giant pike) @ 1AP
Alternatives: Aerial hero general (Louhi in eagle form) @ 6AP, Warband (Pohjolan heroes) @ 2AP

In terms of figures the safest bet is probably Vikings or Rus, but the story is a lot older than they are. At least one hero travels around in s sled, so that would make a nice element, and prevent the army from looking too much like a generic Viking one. There have been companies that have done figures for Nordic/North European Bronze Age armies in the past, and these may be a useful source of troops as well. I won't insult you by suggesting sources for the various monsters; they're all pretty much standard fantasy/mythology fare and any HOTT player worthy of the name will have their own favourite sources for such things.


  1. What I find so compelling about Hordes of the Things is the sheer imagination that goes into the creation of the Armies. Thanks for a handy posting on a fascinating topic, demonstrating the rich source of inspiration may be found in myth and legend.

  2. I've certainly read a lot of world mythology since I started playing HOTT. There are still a few armies I want to do based on it - Kalevala is one of them.

  3. Fascinating stuff. I can also see where Tolkien got some Silmarillion inspiration......


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