Finnish Girl with Kantele
…at least, I’m pretty sure it’s a kantele, which falls into the category of zithers, or lap-harps. It’s related (according to Wikipedia) to the Russian gusli, the Latvian kokle and the Lithuanian kanklės; these instruments, along with the kantele, fall into the more narrow category of zithers known as psalteries. I play (poorly) a much less sophisticated cousin of these instruments, called the mountain dulcimer or Appalachian dulcimer. But there are varieties of kantele which have as few as five strings that might be within my ken.
The Finnish epic poem Kalevala holds that the mage Väinämöinen crafted the first kantele from the jawbone of a giant pike onto which his boat had run “aground”, as it were; he used hairs from a stallion’s mane for the strings. The first kantele was lost in the sea after further misadventures, but Väinämöinen carved a new one from birchwood.
The Kalevala is a fascinating read, though I don’t anticipate tackling it in the original Finnish anytime soon. Another fun read is The Wall of Serpents, part of the Compleat Enchanter comical fantasy series by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. In Serpents, a small party from our universe (along with Belphoebe, the huntress from Spenser’s The Faerie Queen) travel into the universe of the Kalevala and interact with all the major characters. I recommend it highly.
My thanks, of course, to Kirsi for sending me this terrific postcard. The kantele is renowned for its bell-like tones; please enjoy this sample.