Eino Hjalmar Friberg was born in Merikarvia, Finland in 1901 and moved to the United States when he was still a child, in 1906. At the age of seven he was involved in an accident in which his eyes were damaged, which led to his eventual blindness at the age of 10. He attended the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts and then attended Boston University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts. He enrolled in a Ph.D. program in philosophy at Harvard University, but never completed his thesis. He eventually received a M.A. in philosophy from Harvard in the mid-1970s, after passing a French language examination.
In addition to his literary work, Friberg had an enormously varied career. He attended the Swedenborgian School of Theology and was ordained as a minister in the Swedenborgian, Congregational and Unitarian Churches, serving as a minister in Congregational and Unitarian churches in New England. In 1949, on the porch of his house in Westminster, Massachusetts, Friberg had a "mystical encounter," about which Friberg wrote an unpublished manuscript. Theologian Reinhold Neibuhr commented on the manuscript that "I know of no record of spiritual pilgrimage more authentic."
At the age of 75, he began to translate into the English Language the Finnish national epic The Kalevala, working from a Braille copy. This was the first time The Kalevala had been translated by a native Finnish speaker into English, and was the fourth full translation overall.