The character of Väinämöinen has multiple layers as is so typical of the many mythical heroes of the ancient North. Actually the core of his character may be very hard to define.

To a casual reader of the old Finnish poems he appears as an old hero doing many brave tasks like bringing back Sampo from the North. Also when confronted with young Joukahainen, another mythical hero with somewhat more earthly characters, Väinämöinen casts him into a bog with a magic chant and as a price for Joukahainen`s freedom wants his sister! What an undivine wish!

Väinämöinen also makes the first kantele, an ancient Finnish harp, using bones of a giant pike and hair of a maiden. This is very significant since kantele was the instrument used with chanting rhymes and spells.

What makes things complicated is Kalevala, the collection of the ancient poems. We must bear in mind that the modern Kalevala reflects the personal view of Lönnrot . The old mythical poems of Finland are the largest in volume in the world So Lönnrot had a very complicated job collecting, editing and connecting them into a coherent story. Lönnrot also had in his mind an idea of a volume that would be in harmony with the other mythologies of the world and especially those of the Far East. That is why other, controversial opinions have emerged as comes to the sequence and also contents of the poems, and especially the creation-poems and the influence of Väinämöinen in them.

In Lönnrot`s Kalevala Väinämöinen plays the role of an eternal sage, a hero of the ancient Finnish people. In the beginning of Kalevala the Maiden of the Air creates the universe and then gives birth to Väinämöinen. However, this version of Lönnrot`s has been challenged by later scholars. See here.

In the original old poems Väinämöinen is the creator of the Universe. While floating in the primaeval sea Väinämöinen creates the land and finally ends up in the mythical shore of the North where the idea of Sampo is also aroused. He is the first consciousness, the first power of will in the universe. See the Creation Myth.

Väinämöinen is also the cause of the Blood Flood which has been seen as the first sacrifice, the sign of a fresh start, union of all the mankind. By stopping the blood flow Väinämöinen initiates the Cosmos out of Chaos, brings Order in the Universe.

The most interesting aspect however is the chanting duel of Väinämöinen and Joukahainen. The two gods meet riding on a narrow path and neither wants to give way. So Joukahainen challenges Väinämöinen with the eager of youth and limitless self-confidence. The battle is waged by chanting magical songs and, as a consequence, Joukahainen finds himself in a bog. He didn`t know whom he was dealing with. This duel of two gods is a very ancient and fundamental theme in mythology. The scene can be seen as a concrete road or a metaphorical Road above the primaeval sea.

In the mythical, heavenly Road the ride of the two gods is first parallel but becomes then separated and finally facing each other. This theme of two gods confronting each other was popular as an ornament in various objects. The ride has been seen to start from the sun, which is the source of all life. The falling of Joukahainen can be seen as the Origin of the Matter, the first step in bringing order into Chaos. So the role of Väinämöinen in this interpretation is a very fundamental one.

Joukahainen does not accept his defeat and searches for revenge. He shoots an arrow to Väinämöinen who falls into the sea and while floating there creates the lands and finally ends up in the North. The succession of events differs thus from Kalevala. In this interpretation of the Duel Myth the floating of Väinämöinen in the sea can be seen as a consequence to the first spark of Order in the Chaos.

In the end of Kalevala Väinämöinen retreats, defeated by the Christianity. But in his last words he woes to come back some day:

Let the time pass, let days go

and needed will I be again,

needed will I be, longed for, looked for

To forge the New Sampo, to make the New Kantele

to move the new moon, to change a new day