Bui Viet Hoa

The Kalevala Society granted the first Epic Award, EUR 5000, to Bui Viet Hoa on Kalevala Day 28 February 2009 for Bui’s work compiling a Vietnamese folklore epic and for translating the Kalevala into Vietnamese.

Bui Viet Hoa has spent a large part of her life making the Kalevala and the Kalevala poetry culture known to her own people. She discovered the Kalevala in the mid 1980s in Hungary, where she was studying at the time. From there she travelled to Finland, continuing her Finnish studies there. After mastering the language, she started to translate into Vietnamese the poems of the Kanteletar and the Kalevala. A selection of translated poems from the Kanteletar came out in 1990, and a full Vietnamese translation of the Kalevala was published in 1994. The next year, her translation was selected as the best translated work in Vietnam. In 1999, she published an abridged Vietnamese children’s Kalevala. In addition, she has edited and translated into Vietnamese an extensive two-part anthology of Finnish literature.

Bui Viet Hoa. Photo: Markku Nieminen

Bui Viet Hoa. Photo: Markku Nieminen

In addition to her work as a translator, Bui Viet Hoa has managed to complete a doctoral dissertation in Budapest on the similarities and differences between Kalevala-metre poetry and the mythology of the Vietnamese Muong people.

After completing her dissertation, Bu Viet Hoa took on an even greater challenge. She set about compiling a purely Vietnamese epic, drawing inspiration from the birth process of the Kalevala and the methods used by Elias Lönnrot. It was possible to compile a Vietnamese epic because among the minority peoples of Vietnam, of which there are 53, folk poetry is still vibrant. In addition, the oral epics of many peoples have been systematically collected by Vietnamese folklore researchers, and have been translated into Vietnamese. Therefore, in addition to the material from her own collecting trips, Bui Viet Hoa had at her disposal the manuscripts of approximately a hundred mini-epics.

Compiling a folklore epic took seven years. The epic, called The Children of Mon and Man, was published in 2008 in Vietnam. Bui Viet Hoa has in her epic used the mythologies of different Vietnamese peoples in such a way that as many people reading the epic as possible can find something from their own traditions.

The Vietnamese epic project, funded by the Finnish Foreign Ministry and inititated in 2002, was carried out by the Juminkeko Foundation partnered with the Department of Vietnamese Literature and the Vietnam Friends of the Kalevala Society. The project has been supported in various ways by the Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society, the Kalevala Institute and the Kalevala Society. The Children of Mon and Man was published jointly by the Kaunokirjallisuus publishing house and by the Juminkeko Foundation, and was very well received in Vietnam.