|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 GRAYBEARD AND HIS SON
LL night the Minstrel rode wildly towards the South
Country, never looking behind him, never pausing to
rest. The day was breaking when he reached the end of
the mighty forest. There, on the slope of a barren
mountain, the road divided into three paths, and at
the end of each path he saw a small house with smoke
rising from the chimney. And now his pain increased,
and the blood began to pour anew from his deep wound.
Weak and weary, he turned boldly into the lowest
pathway and drove his steed up to the little
"Hail, ho!" he cried; and a piping voice inside
answered, "Hail, ho!"
The door was open, and the Minstrel saw a little child
sitting on the hearth beside the blazing fire.
"Hail, ho!" he cried again; and the child laughed and
said, "Welcome, stranger!"
 Wainamoinen sat upright in his sledge; his wound
pained him; he was in much distress.
"Is there any one in this house that can heal the
wounds of Iron?" he asked.
"No, no," answered the child. "All gone but me. Drive
away, big man! Drive away to some other house."
The Minstrel pulled the reins and turned his sledge
about. He cracked his whip, and the steed leaped
forward. Soon he came into the middle pathway, and
madly he drove to the second little cottage. He drove
right up under the window and looked in. There he saw
an old woman resting on a couch, while another woman
was spinning by the fire. They were telling pleasant
tales of their neighbors and of goblins and ghosts and
"Hail, ho!" cried the Minstrel, not too loudly.
The women jumped up in alarm; but when they saw his
pale and weary face they answered, "Welcome stranger!
Alight, and rest thyself by our fireside."
Wainamoinen sat still in his sledge. The blood was
pouring in torrents from his wound.
"Tell me," he said, "is there any one in this
that can stop the flow of blood, that can heal the
wounds of Iron?"
"Ah, no!" answered the elder of the two and her three
teeth gnashed together. "Naught do we know about blood
or iron. Drive away to some other house. Speed thee,
Again the Minstrel pulled the reins and turned the
sledge about in the narrow pathway. Again he cracked
his whip, and the steed rushed onward. With furious
speed he drove into the upper pathway, and paused
not until he reached the highest cottage. There he drew
up before the doorway and called as before, but very
feebly; "Hail, ho! Hail, ho!"
"Welcome stranger!" was the answer from within. Then an
old Graybeard opened the door and repeated, "Welcome,
"Welcome, stranger!" echoed the Graybeard's son,
peeping over his father's shoulder. "Alight and rest
yourself and your steed."
"First tell me," said the Minstrel feebly, "tell me if
you can stop this flow of blood and heal this wound of
"Three magic words may stop the flood, three magic
drops may heal the wound," answered the Graybeard.
 And the young man added, "Come in and let us see what
can be done."
The Minstrel climbed out of his sledge slowly,
painfully. He staggered into the house. He lay down
upon the couch by the fireside. The wound was bleeding
"Ah, save us!" cried the Graybeard. "What hero is
this? Bring something to catch the flowing blood."
His son ran quickly and fetched a golden goblet; but
it was far too small to hold the gushing blood. He ran
for other vessels. Seven pails he brought, then eight,
and all were filled to overflowing. The Graybeard
shook his head; he lifted his eyes; he clinched his
fists. Then he spoke harshly to the crimson flood:
"Hear me, O thou blood-stream! Cease thy flowing. Fill
no more pails. Flow not upon the floor. Stay in the
veins of this hero and give him strength. Stay in his
heart and give him courage. Hear me, O
Forthwith the red stream grew smaller; but still the
drops trickled from the wound. All the strength of the
Minstrel was gone.
The Graybeard looked upward, he turned his
 face towards
heaven. He spoke in tones that were soft and pleading:
"O thou great Creator, thou lover of heroes! Come down
and help us. Stop this rushing red river. Heal this
gaping wound. Restore to this hero the strength that
is rightfully his."
Then he grasped the Minstrel's knee just above the
place where the wicked axe had struck it. He pressed
the sides of the wound together firmly, gently. The
bleeding ceased; and now not even the smallest drop
escaped. The Graybeard bound soft bands of linen
around the limb, he laid the Minstrel upon his own
rude bed, he covered him with the warm robes and bade
him rest quietly.
"The flow of blood is stanched," he said; "we must now
heal Iron's bitter bite, we must close up the gaping,
Then turning to his son, he said "Go now to our smithy
on the mountain. Take with you a supply of healing
herbs, as I have taught you. Bake them, boil them, mix
them, brew them into a magic ointment that will heal
all manner of wounds. When you have finished the
mixture and tested it, bring it hither to me."
"That I will do, father," answered the young
 man; and
with a basket on his arm and a glad song rising from
his lips, he hastened away.
Half-way up the mountain side he came to a gnarly old
"Friend oak, so good and strong," he said, "have you
any honey on your branches?"
"Look and see," answered the oak. "Yesterday I had
such plenty that the bees came to carry it away."
The young man gathered many handfuls of slender twigs
from the tree, and saw that on each twig was a tiny
drop of dew. Then he wandered hither and thither among
the rocks, seeking all kinds of healing herbs and
putting them in his basket. When, at length, the
basket was filled, he went on, whistling, to the
little smithy on the mountain top.
Soon a fire was roaring in the furnace. A pot was
filled with the herbs and twigs and set to boiling on
the coals. The pungent odor of the mixture pervaded
the air; every corner of the smithy was lit up with
the glare of the flames; the smoke rolled in clouds
from the smoke hole in the roof.
For three sunny days and three lonely nights the youth
stood over the furnace and stirred
 the magic mixture.
He threw fuel upon the flames, he poured fresh spring
water into the seething pot. And all the while he sang
weird songs and muttered strange charms such as his
father had taught him. Then for nine nights he caught
the moonbeams and mingled them with the mixture; and
for nine days he entrapped the sunlight and added it
to the magic ointment.
On the tenth day he looked into the pot and saw that
all was of a rich golden color, bright and sparkling,
with pretty rainbows mingled here and there in many a
"It is done," he said. "I will test its power."
He lifted the pot from the fire and allowed the
mixture to cool, still singing his songs of magic.
Then he went out to find something that had been
wounded and might be healed.
Half-way down the mountain side there was a giant pine
tree which the lightning had split from crown to
roots. Its two halves gaped wide apart; its torn and
broken branches hung dangling in the wind.
"Ah! here is a case to test," said the young man. Then
with the greatest care, he took a small portion of the
ointment upon his finger; he smeared it gently upon
the trunk and branches
 of the wounded pine; he sang
softly a little song of magic:
"Make it whole and make it strong.
Heal it all its length along;
Join part to part, restore its heart,
And make it straight as hunter's dart.
Thus your magic power show,
And let all men your virtue know."
As he spoke the last words he clapped his hands
together and shouted; and lo! the parts of the pine
tree came suddenly into their right places, and it
stood there as whole and as beautiful as it had been
before the lightning smote it.
"Good!" cried the young man. "The ointment is as it
should be. None could be better."
Then, with the pot balanced carefully on his shoulder,
he started homeward. Every now and then, as he went
down the slope, he paused to try the healing mixture
on splintered rocks and broken bowlders; and he smiled
as he saw the rough stones knit themselves together
and the gaping fissures close up and disappear.
When at length he approached his father's cottage he
heard loud groans within—groans of some one
suffering deadly pain. He listened and knew that they
came from the wounded
 Minstrel; he knew that now there
was great need of his magic ointment.
Then Graybeard met him at the door. "What news, my son?"
"Good news, my father," he answered.
"Never was there better salve than this. I
could fuse the hills together with it if I had the
mind to try."
The father took the pot and carried it into
the house. He dipped his finger gently into the
ointment; he touched it to the tip of his tongue.
"The mixture seems perfect," he said. "Now
we shall see wonders."
The Minstrel was lying upon the bed and
groaning at every breath. True, the bleeding
had ceased, but the fever of Iron was upon
him. He knew not where he was. He had forgotten
his family, his home, and his sweet country.
The madness of Iron had clouded his mind.
The Graybeard smeared a little of the ointment
on the Minstrel's wounded knee; he
stroked the poor man's back, his hands, his
head. He waved his palms slowly to and fro
before his eyes. And all the while he softly
muttered a little song of wisdom and power.
The groans of the wounded man waxed
 louder and louder. He turned this way and
that, seeking ease; but at each moment the
pain grew greater, and he writhed in anguish.
Then the Graybeard raised his voice and angrily
commanded the pain to depart.
"Hear me, pitiless pain!" he cried. "Go
away from this house! Depart! Vanish! Leave
this worthy stranger and betake yourself to
your own place. Hide yourself in the Hill of
Tortures. There, if you choose, you may fill
the stones with anguish; you may rend the rocks
with torment. But now let this hero rest
in peace. Depart! Depart! Depart!"
As he uttered the last word the pain vanished.
The Minstrel's mind grew clear; he felt
his strength returning; he laughed right joyfully
and rose from his bed. The wound was healed,
the ugly gash had disappeared, every trace of
pain had vanished from his body.
"I never felt so well in my life!" he shouted
as he danced about the room. Then remembering
himself, he threw his arms around
the Graybeard's neck and thanked him for his
"No thanks are due to me," said the old man,
leading him to a seat by the fireside. "I have
 done nothing myself; Jumala did it all. Give
praises to Jumala, the great Creator, from
whom all good things come."
Thereupon the Minstrel raised his hands towards
heaven, and cried, "To thee, O Jumala,
the gracious, I humbly offer thanks. To thee I
owe my life, my strength, my all—accept my
"Jumala only is good," said the Graybeard.
"He only is merciful and kind. But what shall
we say of Iron—of Iron, the spiteful, the treacherous,
the wicked? Tell me, my friend, why
should Iron bear a grudge against you? Why
should he seek to destroy your life?"
Wainamoinen, first of minstrels, answered,
"Iron has no grudge against me. He wounded
me, it is true, but not purposely. Had it not
been for a wicked hornet, Iron would never
have harmed me—would never have harmed
any one. Blame not Iron. Blame the hornet
that made him what he is."
"Pray tell me how that can be," said the
Then, sitting by the pleasant fireside, the Minstrel
answered him by telling a story—a story
as old as the race of man on earth.
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