In the Finnish epic Kalevala, Lemminkainen is a handsome and brave, yet flawed young hero.Lemminkainen set out to woo the maiden Kyllikki, while still flirting with other young women. He carried Kyllikki off and married her but quickly grew tired of his young wife.

Lemminkainen abandoned Kyllikki and pursued the Maiden of Pohjola, the daughter of Louhi. He managed to charm the citizens of Pohjola with his magical singing, save for one person, a cowherd, who did not fall under his spell.When Lemminkainen asked Louhi for her
daughter’s hand, she responded that he must hunt and kill the demon’s elk, the demon’s firebreathing gelding, and finally the swan in the Tuonela River, which was the boundary between this world and the next. Lemminkainen completed the first two challenges, but, at the Tuonela River, the cowherd ambushed and killed him.

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The cowherd cut up Lemminkainen’s body and threw the pieces into the river. Lemminkainen’s mother, who had been warned of her son’s death, hunted for him. She raked the pieces of her son’s body out of the Tuonela River and put them back together, restoring him to life.

Still Lemminkainen had not learned his lesson. The master smith, Ilmarinen, had by this time won the Maiden of Pohjola. Lemminkainen arrived at the wedding banquet uninvited and started trouble, killing the master of Pohjola.

Lemminkainen fled Pohjola and hid for a time on Saari Island, home of his forgotten wife, Kyllikki. Upon his return, he found his house burned down and his mother in hiding. Lemminkainen knew this tragedy was the work of the people of Pohjola. He set out to seek revenge, but Louhi cast a cold spell that froze the sea and forced Lemminkainen to return home once again.