|by James Baldwin|
|Far away in the Frozen Land in the long ago time a master wizard forged the wonderous sampo or mill of fortune, which ground out all sorts of treasures and gave wealth and power to its owner. This story, retold in from the Finnish Kalevala, tells of the making of this mill and the adventures of the heroes who sought to gain possession of it. Ages 11-14 |
AD were the days and joyless were the months in the Land of Heroes.
The sky was cloudless and gray and the ground was parched and dry
for long lack of rain. In the fields the crops failed and the cattle
died. In the forest there was no game for the huntsmen. In the sea
the fishes had fled to other waters, leaving the fishermen to toil
in vain. In Wainola the children were crying for food and the men
and women were sitting on their doorsteps, silent, with stony faces,
hopeless, helpless, despairing.
Then one day a little boat came creeping into the harbor with but
one man on board. Many of the people saw the lone sailor as he
moored his vessel to the shore, but none had the courage to go and
meet him. He walked slowly up the deserted pathway to the village,
looking at the barren fields and the fruitless trees, the empty
barns and the gloomy houses, the many
 signs of poverty and distress.
His eyes wandered onward to the ruined farmhouse, and past it to the
smokeless smithy which had once been the joy and the pride of the
"Ah, me! Can this be Wainola, the village once so happy and
prosperous?" he said to himself. "Can this be the smithy, can this
be the home which echoed to the merry sounds of love and peace?"
Then from out of the shadows an old man, feeble and tottering, came
to meet him. It was Wainamoinen, pale with fasting, gaunt with
hunger, but brave and steadfast as in former days.
"Hail, stranger!" said the Minstrel. "Welcome to Wainola and to the
best that its people can offer!"
"Hail, friend and brother!" answered the stranger heartily and with
gentleness. He lifted the cap which had concealed his forehead, he
loosed the broad scarf that had been well drawn up about his chin
and cheeks. His ruddy face was wrinkled with sorrow although for the
moment it was wreathed in smiles.
The Minstrel old and feeble uttered a cry of joy. "O Ilmarinen!
Ilmarinen! Have you
re-  turned? We had mourned you as dead! We had
given you up as lost!" And the next moment each was locked in the
"Now, tell me, my young brother, where have you been since you
departed from Wainola and the Land of Heroes? Word came to us that
you had perished, that you had gone to dwell in Tuonela; and when
this great blight of famine and sorrow came upon the land, we were
fain to believe that it was indeed so. Why did you leave us? Where
have you been?"
"I went away from Wainola because of my sorrow," answered Ilmarinen
sadly. "I went to the far North Land, to Pohyola's shores, because
the voice of my dear lost Maid of Beauty seemed to call me thither.
For twelve months—yes, for two long, sorrowing years—I sought
her in that land. But Tuoni holds her captive in his castle beside
the river of silence. She cannot come to me, but I can go to her. I
am even now seeking the road to Tuonela."
"You need not go far to find it," said the Minstrel. "Look around
you and see your neighbors starving, dying—hear your neighbors'
children moaning, crying. The road to Tuonela is here, and many are
the feet that are
travel-  ling in it. But tell me, was it thus in
Pohyola? Have they a famine there also?"
"A famine! Far from it," answered Ilmarinen. "Never was there a more
prosperous people than those of Pohyola. They plough, they sow, they
reap in great abundance. Of grain and fruit there is no end, and no
man nor woman, child nor dog, knows the meaning of hunger."
"How strange that a land of mists and fogs, a land so dreary and
forbidding, should be so blessed with plenty!" said the Minstrel.
"Is it by some power of magic that this is so? Why is it that you,
the prince of wizards, cannot find some way to bless and save our
own kinsmen, our own people?"
"Do you remember the Sampo?" said the Smith. "Do you remember the
magic mill which I made for Dame Louhi many years ago? That mill is
still grinding in Pohyola, its lid of many colors turns and turns
and turns forever. Safely locked in a stony cavern, still it grinds
wealth and food and clothing without end. The soil draws richness
from it, the fields of grain thrive upon its grindings, the fruit
trees send their roots downward and suck up the wealth which it
 "The Sampo, the Sampo!" said the Minstrel, feebly as in a dream. "If
only we might bring it to our own country, how quickly we could save
"It was I that forged the wonderful mill, I, the prince of smiths
and wizards," said Ilmarinen with a far-off look in his eyes. "Never
can another be made that is like it."
"And if you forged it, why is it not your own?" queried Wainamoinen,
wise though feeble.
"I forged it for another," answered Ilmarinen. "I made it for wise
old Louhi, the Mistress of Pohyola; and the reward which she ought
to have given me, I obtained by other means. Neither gold nor silver
nor aught else have I ever received for my labor."
"Then surely you have a valid claim upon the Sampo," said
Wainamoinen. "O my friend and brother, we must hasten to Pohyola
and seize that mill of plenty, that we may bring it to our own sweet
land. We must save our starving people."
"Nay, nay, it cannot be," returned the Smith. "The mill is securely
stored away in a stony cavern beneath a hill of copper. Nine heavy
doors shut it in, and nine locks of strongest
 metal make each door
fast and safe. No man nor men can seize the mighty Sampo."
But the Minstrel persisted. All that night he held the Smith's
strong hand and talked of naught but the Sampo and how, by it, they
might save the lives of their famishing friends and neighbors. At
length Ilmarinen ceased objecting. "You are wise, my elder brother,"
he said, "much wiser than I. The task is a mighty one, but for the
sake of our people and our country I will not shrink from it. None
but women say, 'I cannot,' none but cowards say, 'I dare not.' "
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