|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 FORGING OF THE SAMPO
HE four winds heard the magic call of
Ilmarinen, and they hastened from the
corners of the sky to do his bidding.
First came the East Wind, riding over the sea,
combing the crests of the waves with his clammy
fingers, and rushing with chilly breath through
the dank marshes and across the lonely meadows.
He knocked at the door of the smithy,
he rattled the latch, and shrieked down the
"Master of wizards and prince of all smiths,
what will you have me do?"
And Ilmarinen answered, "Set my bellows to
blowing that I may forge the wondrous Sampo."
Next there was heard a joyous whistling
among the pine trees, and a whir-whirring as of
the wings of a thousand birds; and there was a
fragrance in the air like the fragrance of countless
wildflowers, and a soft breathing like the
breath of a sleeping child. The South Wind
 crept softly up to the smithy door, it peeped
slyly in, and said merrily:
"What now, old friend and companion? What
will you have me do?"
And Ilmarinen answered, "Blow into my furnace,
and blow hard, that I may forge the wondrous
Then came the jolly West Wind, roaring
among the mountains, dancing in the valleys,
playing among the willows and the reeds, and
frolicking with the growing grass. He laughed
as he lifted the roof of the smithy and peered
down at the furnace and the forge and the tools
of the Smith.
"Ha, ha!" he called. "Have you some work
for me? Let me get at it at once."
And Ilmarinen answered, "Feed my fire, so
that I may forge the wondrous Sampo."
He had scarcely spoken when the sky was
overcast and heavy gray clouds obscured the
sun. The North Wind, like an untamed monster,
came hurtling over the land, howling and
shrieking, as fierce as a thousand wolves, as fleet
as the swiftest reindeer. He filled the air with
snowflakes, he covered the hills with a coating
of ice. The pine trees shivered and moaned
be-  cause of his chilly breath, and the brooks and
waterfalls were frozen with fear.
"What do you wish, master of wizards?" he
called from every corner of the smithy. "Tell
me how I can serve you."
And Ilmarinen answered, "Fan the flames
around my magic caldron, so that I may forge
the wondrous Sampo."
So, the chilling East Wind, the whistling
South Wind, the laughing West Wind, and the
blustering North Wind, joined together in giving
aid to the wizard Smith. From morning
till evening, from evening till another morning,
they worked with right good will, as their master
directed them. The great bellows puffed and
groaned and shook the very ground with its
roaring. The flames filled the furnace; they
wrapped themselves around the caldron; they
burst out through a thousand cracks and
crevices; they leaped, in tongues of fire, through
the windows of the smithy. Showers of red
sparks issued from the chimney and flew upward
to the sky. The smoke rose in clouds of
ink-like blackness and floated in vast masses
over the mountains and the sea.
For three anxious days and three sleepless
 nights the winds toiled and paused not; and
Ilmarinen sang magic incantations, and heaped
fresh fuel upon the fire, and cheered his helpers
with shouts and cries and words of enchantment
which wizards alone can speak.
On the fourth day he bade the winds cease
their blowing. He knelt down and looked into
the furnace. He pushed the cinders aside; he
uncovered the caldron and lifted the lid slowly,
cautiously. How strange and beautiful was
the sight before him! Colors of the rainbow,
forms and figures without number,
precious metals, floating vapors—all these were
mingled in the caldron.
Ilmarinen drew the vessel quickly out of the
furnace. He thrust his tongs into the mixture,
and seized it with the grip of a giant. He pulled
it bodily from the caldron, writhing, creeping,
struggling, but unable to escape him. He
twirled it in the air as blacksmiths sometimes
twirl small masses of half-molten iron; then he
held it firmly on his anvil of granite, while with
quick and steady strokes he beat it with his
heavy hammer. He turned it and twisted it
and shaped it, and put each delicate part in its
proper place. All night and all day, from
star-  light till starlight, he labored tirelessly and without ceasing.
Slowly, piece by piece and part by part, the
magic Sampo with its wheels and levers grew
into being. The wizard workman forged it with
infinite skill and patience, for well he knew that
one false stroke would undo all his labor, would
be fatal to all his hopes. He scanned it from
every side; he touched up the more delicate
parts; he readjusted its springs and wheels; he
tested its strength and the speed of its running.
Finally, after the mill itself was proved satisfactory,
he forged the lid to cover it; and the lid
was the most marvellous part of all—as
many-colored as the rainbow and embossed with gold
and lined with silver and ornamented with
At length everything was finished. The fire
in the furnace was dead; the caldron was empty
and void; the bellows was silent; the anvil of
granite was idle. Ilmarinen called to his ten
serving-men and put the precious Sampo upon
their shoulders. "Carry this to your Mistress,"
he said, "and beware that you touch not
the lid of magic colors."
Then, leaving the smithy and all his tools in
 the silence of the forest, he followed the laborers
to Pohyola, proud of his great performance, but
pale and wan and wellnigh exhausted from long
labor and ceaseless anxiety.
The Wise Woman was standing in the doorway
of her smoke-begrimed dwelling. She
smiled grimly as she saw the working men
returning. She welcomed Ilmarinen not unkindly,
and he placed before her the results of his long
and arduous labors.
"Behold, I bring you the magic Sampo!" he
said. "In all the world there is no other wizard
that could have formed it, no other smith
that could have welded its parts together or
forged its lid of many colors. You have only
to whisper your wishes into the small orifice on
the top of the mill, and it will begin to run—you
can hear its wheels buzzing and its levers creaking.
Lay it on this side and it will grind flour—flour
for your kitchen, flour for your neighbors,
flour for the market. Turn the mill over, thus,
and it will grind salt—salt for seasoning, salt for
the reindeer, salt for everything. But the third
side is the best. Lay the mill on that side and
whisper, 'Money.' Ah! then you will see what
comes out—pieces of gold, pieces of silver, pieces
of copper, treasures fit for a king!"
 The Mistress of Pohyola was overcome with
joy. Her toothless face expanded into a smile—a
smile that was grim and altogether ill-favored.
She tried to express her feelings in
words, but her voice was cracked and broken,
and her speech sounded like the yelping of a
gray wolf in the frozen marshes. Without delay
she set the mill to grinding; and wonderful
was the way in which it obeyed her wishes.
She filled her house with flour; she filled her
barns with salt; she filled all her strong boxes
with gold and silver.
"Enough! enough!" she cried, at length.
"Stop your grinding! I want no more."
The tireless Sampo heard not nor heeded. It
kept on grinding, grinding; and no matter on
which side it was placed, its wheels kept running,
and flour or salt or gold and silver kept
pouring out in endless streams.
"We shall all be buried!" shouted the Mistress
in dismay. "Enough is good, but too
much is embarrassment. Take the mill to some
safe place and confine it within strong walls,
lest it overwhelm us with prosperity."
Forthwith she caused the Sampo to be taken
with becoming care to a strong-built chamber
underneath a hill of copper. There she
impris-  oned it behind nine strong doors of toughest
granite, each of which was held fast shut by
nine strong locks of hardest metal. Then she
laughed a laugh of triumph, and said; "Lie
there, sweet mill, until I have need of you again.
Grind flour, grind salt, grind wealth, grind all
things good for Pohyola, but do not smother us
with your bounties."
They closed the strong doors and bolted them
and left the Sampo alone in its dark prison-house;
but through the key-hole of the ninth
lock of the ninth door there issued a sweet delightful
whirring sound as of wheels rapidly turning.
The Sampo was grinding treasures for
Dame Louhi's people, and laying them up for
future uses—richness for the land, golden sap
for the trees, and warm and balmy breezes to
make all things flourish.
Meanwhile Ilmarinen sat silent and alone in
the Mistress's hall, thinking of many things, but
mostly of the reward which he hoped to receive
for his labor. For an hour he sat there, waiting—yes
for a day of sunlight he remained there,
his eyes downcast, his head uncovered.
Suddenly Dame Louhi, the Wise Woman,
came out of the darkening shadows and stood
 before him. The flames which darted up, flickering,
from the half-burned fagots, lighted her
grim features and shone yellow and red upon
her gray head and her flour-whitened face.
Very unlovely, even fearful, did she seem to
Ilmarinen. She spoke, and her voice was gruff
"Why do you sit here idle by my hearthstone?"
she asked. "Why indeed, do you tarry
so long in Pohyola, wearing out your welcome,
and wearying us all with your presence?"
The Smith answered her gently, politely, as
men should always answer women: "Have I not
forged the Sampo for you—the wondrous Sampo
which you so much desired? Have I not hammered
its lid of rainbow colors? Have I not
made you rich—rich in flour, rich in salt, in silver
and gold? I am now waiting only for my reward—for
the prize which you promised."
"Never have I promised you any reward,"
cried the Mistress angrily. "Never have I offered
to give you a prize;" and her gaunt form
and gruesome features seemed truly terrible in
But Ilmarinen did not forget himself: the
master of magic did not falter.
 "I have a friend whose name is Wainamoinen,"
he answered. "He is first of all minstrels,
a singer of sweet songs, a man of honor, old and
truthful. Did you not say to him that you
would richly reward the hero who should forge
the magic Sampo—that you would give him
your daughter, the Maid of Beauty, to be his
"Ah, but that was said to him and not to you,"
said the Mistress, and she laughed until
her toothless mouth seemed to cover the whole
of her misshapen face.
"But a promise is a promise," gently returned
the Smith; "and so I demand of you to fulfil it."
The features of the unlovely Mistress softened,
they lost somewhat of their grimness as
she answered: "Willingly would I fulfil it,
prince of wizards and of smiths; but I cannot.
Since Wainamoinen's visit, the Maid of Beauty
has come of age. She is her own mistress,
she must speak for herself. I cannot give her
away as a reward or prize—she does not belong
to me. If you wish her to go to the Land of
Heroes with you, ask her. She has a mind of
her own; she will do as she pleases."
 She ceased speaking. The firelight grew
brighter and suddenly died away, and the
room became dark.
"I will see her in the morning," said Ilmarinen.
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