|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 |
THE WEDDING FEAST
HO shall find tongue to tell of the
wonderful feast at Ilmarinen's wedding?
Who shall invent words to describe
its vastness, its grandeur, its joy?
Dame Louhi, the wise, the cunning Mistress,
planned it. She it was who provided the food
and the drink; she it was who directed the
cooks, the butchers, the brewers, the bakers, the
serving maidens; and she it was who invited
First, she built in Pohyola a house so roomy
and large that even minstrels blushed to tell its
dimensions, and story-tellers feared to speak the
truth. It was so long that when a dog barked
at one end the sound of his voice could not be
heard at the other. The roof was so high that
when a cock crowed on the ridge-pole the hens
on the ground below could not hear him. In
this house the fires were kindled, the tables were
set up, and the feast was prepared. Here, back
and forth upon the planking, the aged Mistress
 walked, pondering, planning, instructing, commanding.
"We must have roast meat and plenty of it,"
she said. "So bring hither the great bull of
Carelia and let him be slaughtered. No finer
beef was ever fattened; no nobler beast was
The great bull was quickly brought—a ship's
rope around his horns, a hundred strong men
tugging at the rope. A stupendous ox he was,
larger by far than any that grows in our degenerate
times. Six fathoms long were his horns;
and his back was a highway where squirrels
frisked and birds built their nests as in the
branches of a tree.
Think you he yielded much meat for the
feast, much food for the hungry? Of roasts and
steaks there were certainly a hundred barrels;
of sausages in large round links they made a
hundred fathoms. Seven boat loads of blood
flowed from the great beef's veins. Six strong
sledges could scarcely hold the fat that was
rendered from him.
"Surely now we have meat in plenty," then
said the Mistress; "but what shall we do for
pleasant drinks to give joy to our guests? How
 shall we brew enough ale for the multitude that
will come to the wedding feast?"
Forthwith she ordered all the tubs in Pohyola
to be half filled with water, fresh water from the
springs and rivers. Then into each she poured
new barley and added flowers of hops in greatest
plenty, stirring all with a magic paddle. Quickly
the ale began its working, it filled the tubs, the
white foam rose like mountains and poured itself
in bubbles over the ground.
"Surely the guests shall not go thirsty," said
the Mistress, well contented with her labor.
And she called the serving-men to store the ale
safely away in rock-walled cellars till the time
for the wedding feast.
Thus did Dame Louhi, the wise one, provide
everything needed for eating or drinking. All
the kettles were singing, all the stewpans were
hissing on the glowing coals. The pots were
full of porridge. In the ovens loaves of bread
in great plenty were baking for the banquet.
All day, all night, the fires were glowing; all
day, all night, the bakers, the brewers, the
kitchen maids were running hither and thither,
each busily working, each busily preparing his
part of the wonderful feast.
 Then the Mistress, the wise but loveless one,
sent out her messengers to invite the guests.
"Invite all the folk of Pohyola," she said;
"forget not one. Invite the people of Hero
Land to come in boats, in sledges, by sea, by
land. Ask Wainamoinen, the prince of minstrels,
to come with his sweet songs. Call the
blind, the lame, the poor and wretched. Lead
the blind ones kindly with your hands, bring
the lame ones in sledges or on your backs, fetch
the children, fetch the old and feeble, let not
one be slighted or forgotten."
And the messengers departed, carrying the
invitations northward, southward, eastward,
westward. In four directions they went, yes
in eight directions they hastened, telling all the
world how the hero, Ilmarinen, was to be wedded
on a certain day to the Maid of Beauty, whom
all the world adored.
The day came, the morning dawned. Bright
was the sun above Pohyola's chilly shores. The
sea was calm, the air was mild, the meadows
were golden. Dame Louhi, wisest of women,
rose early to put her house in order. First, she
busied herself in-doors, then out she hastened.
 She put her hand to her ear and listened. Far
out on the sea she heard the sound of oars
splashing, she heard the rippling of the waves
as they were cut by the prows of many vessels,
she heard the voices of a multitude approaching.
On land she heard the clatter of reindeers' hoofs,
the galloping of horses, the rattle of sledges and
the grating of their birchwood runners upon the
"What do I hear? What do I see?" cried
she. "Is this a hostile army coming to attack
me? Or is it only the billows breaking on the
beach, or the wind whistling and moaning
among the pines?"
She looked again, and again she listened.
Her face was less grim, her voice was less harsh;
never did she appear so handsome.
"Oh, no, no!" she muttered. "I thought I
heard the North Wind blowing, a pine tree falling
in the forest, the billows roaring and the
breakers beating. But it is not so. The air is
mild, the sea is calm, no storm is near. That
which I hear is not the wind, it is not a hostile
army. It is the multitude of guests assembling,
the hosts of friends coming to rejoice with us
because it is Ilmarinen's wedding day."
 "How shall we know the bridegroom when we
see him? How can we distinguish him in the
great crowd of friends and neighbors?" asked a
"You shall know him as you know an oak
among the willows, as you know the moon
among the tiny stars," answered the Mistress.
"The steed which he drives is as black as a
raven. His magic sledge is glowing bright and
golden as the sun. Six yellow birds sit on his
shafts sweetly singing, and of bluebirds there
are seven perched gayly on the dashboard.
You cannot fail to distinguish the noble hero."
Even while she spoke there was a clatter in
the roadway, a humming and a bustling and a
tramping of many feet. The bridegroom had
arrived with all his friends around him. Swiftly
he drove his bright-hued sledge into the courtyard,
and quickly he alighted while the bluebirds
sang and the cuckoos called lustily to the
swallows beneath the eaves. The young men
shouted, the old men laughed, and the very air
was bubbling with joy.
"Hostler, hasten!" called the Mistress.
"Take the bridegroom's horse, and loose him
 gently from the shafts. Remove the copper-plated
harness, the silver breast-band, the reins of
silver. Lead the noble steed to the spring
and let him drink his fill of the gushing water.
Then put him in the hindmost stable, in the
stall reserved for heroes' horses. Tether him
to the ring of iron that is set in the polished post
of birchwood. Set three trays of food before
him, the first filled with oats, the second with
soft hay, the third with finest chaff. And when
you have curried him and smoothed his shining
hair, cover him with a soft blanket and leave
him alone, locking the stable door behind you."
"I will do everything as you have bidden me,"
answered the serving-man, and he led the steed
gently from the courtyard.
"Now, my boys," said the Mistress, "you
little lads of Pohyola! Conduct the bridegroom
to the house and show him the doorway. Take
off his hat gently, gently. Remove his gloves
Let us see if the door is wide enough for him
to pass through; let us see if it is high
enough to admit so great a hero."
Without delay the waiting-lads took their appointed
places, four at the right hand and four
 at the left, six in front of him and six behind,
and thus they marched lightly and orderly into
"Now let all give thanks to Jumala, the
gracious," said the Mistress, and her unlovely
face grew pleasanter for the moment. "Give
thanks to Jumala, for the hero has passed
through the door in safety, he has entered the
house of the bride."
And the bridegroom responded, "Give thanks
to Jumala, and may his blessing rest upon this
house and all that abide beneath its roof."
The table was ready, the feast was spread,
the guests were waiting. The lads, with much
ado, let the bridegroom to his place—the highest
seat at the end of the room. He sat down by
the side of the blushing bride, the Maid of
Beauty, while all the guests clapped their hands
and shouted for joy.
Then, as one accustomed to entertaining a
multitude, the wise old Mistress feasted her
guests in the noblest fashion. Busy, very busy,
were the little waiting-maidens, serving food to
all the people. Of roast beef and savory sausages
there was great plenty. Broiled salmon, pork,
the meat of lambkins were served to each
 guest's liking. The whitest of bread and the
yellowest of butter, cream cakes, nuts, and
apples—who could ask for more than these? And
there was the ale, the foaming white ale which
the Mistress herself had brewed—it was handed
round in great tankards so that each of the
heroes present might drink his fill. When it
came to the Minstrel, old Wainamoinen, he rose
and sang a new song:
"O ale, sweet ale!
Let no one fail
To sing of thee
And merry be.
"O hero, strong!
List to my song,
Be glad, be gay
On your wedding day."
Then, changing his theme and the subject of
his song he tuned his voice to a higher key.
"What would our Creator do
If to-day he sang to you?
He would sing the sea to honey,
Sing the stones to precious money,
Sing the sand to foaming ale,
Sing the rocks to rain and hail,
And the mountains sing to lakes,
And the hilltops sing to cakes.
"As a minstrel and magician,
He would bless this land's condition;
He would fill the fields with cattle,
Make our treasure boxes rattle;
He would fill the mines with metal,
Fill each pot and fill each kettle;
He would fill the lanes with flowers,
Bless each day, bless all the hours.
"As a minstrel and a singer
He would with this household linger,
Give the bride a ring of gold,
A dress of silk, and wealth untold;
And to the bridegroom, he would give
More skill than to all smiths that live.
Let us therefore crave his blessing,
All our prayers to him addressing."
Thus did people feast, and thus did the
mighty Minstrel sing on Ilmarinen's happy wedding
day. All day, all the long night, the guests
sat at the table, eating and making merry and
listening to the songs and pleasant speeches
that were made in honor of the bride, the bridegroom,
and the noble hostess.
Much good advice was given to her who had
lately been the Maid of Beauty but was now
the Bride of Beauty: how she should keep her
husband's house in order; how she should obey
and serve him; how she should love and cherish
her mother-in-law and all the members of
 her family. Much sage counsel also did the
hero, Ilmarinen, receive: how he should always
be very gentle to the dove that he had captured;
how he should not forget to praise her industry
in the kitchen, at the loom, in the hay field;
how he should never upbraid her in hissing
tones, or beat her with a slave whip; but how
he should stand like a wall before her to protect
and defend when others were unkind.
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