|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 UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
N his smoky smithy Ilmarinen was toiling
alone, fashioning crude bits of metal into
forms most delicate and beautiful. His face
and arms were begrimed with sweat and black
soot, his eyebrows were gray with ashes, his
shoulders and head were besprinkled with dust
and flaky cinders. Like a weird elf, or some
uncanny dweller in the underworld, he stood in
the lurid light of his forge and deftly wielded
his heavy hammer. His bellows roared and his
anvil tinkled sweet music, and a song burst
from his lips as he welded and wrought and gave
shape to wonderful things.
So busy, indeed, was the master Smith that
he heard nothing, saw nothing, thought of nothing,
save the work which he had in hand; therefore,
when his sister Anniki came suddenly to
the outer door and called to him, he did not
 "Ilmarinen, dearest brother!" she repeated.
But the Smith, invisible in the midst of the
smoke, did not hear her. He kept on singing
and hammering and blowing his bellows, altogether
forgetful of everything save the work in hand.
Anniki called a third time, a fourth, "Ilmarinen!
O Ilmarinen!" But the hammer continued
to strike, the anvil kept on singing, the
fire in the forge flamed higher, and there was no
pause in the Smith's sweet singing. His thoughts
were centred on the trinket he was forging and
shaping, but his song was of a maiden in a faraway land.
Anniki called a fifth time. Then, losing patience,
she ran through the thick of the smoke
and seized her brother's arm just as he was
taking a fresh bit of glowing metal from the fire.
"Ho! little sister of the morning!" he cried in
surprise. "What now? Have you finished your
washing? Have you brought me something
from the shore?"
"Yes, yes, dear brother!" she answered, still
breathless from running and excitement. "I've
brought you a great secret. What'll you give
 me for it? It's about Wainamoinen and the
Maid of Beauty. Would you like me to tell it
"Well, if it's anything important I will
listen," said Ilmarinen. "So, out with it
quickly, before this piece of metal gets cold.
Tell me your wonderful secret."
"Oh, but it is too important to give away,"
said his sister. "It concerns you, and the
Maid of Beauty, and the Frozen Land, and the
Sampo, and, and— Well, wouldn't you like to
know what it is?"
"Tell me about it, Anniki."
"What will you give me if I do?"
"A kiss, dear sister."
"Bah! kisses are for lovers. Will you make me a finger ring?"
"I will make you a dozen."
"No, of iron."
"Fie, fie! None of your jesting;" and Anniki
stamped her foot angrily, while she gave her
brother a look which told him more plainly
than words that this was no unimportant matter.
"I tell you that the Maid of Beauty is in
great danger. Now, if you wish to know more
 you must make me a gold ring—yes, six gold
rings to grace my pretty fingers."
Pouting and haughty, she turned as if going
away; but Ilmarinen held her by the hand.
"You shall have the six gold rings, my sister,"
he said—"yes, I will make you seven this
"And four or five pretty girdles inlaid with
"Oh, certainly, Anniki—anything that you
wish. But make haste and tell me the secret."
"Will you make me a pair of gold earrings
with blue stones in them?"
"If your secret is worth so much."
"And a brooch of woven silver?"
"I will make it."
"And a golden comb for my hair?"
"I promise it."
"Then, if you will surely keep your promise,
I will tell you all that I know, and tell you
truly. Is it a bargain?"
Ilmarinen looked down into his sister's dark
eyes and answered, "If what you tell me is
worth anything I will give you all that you have
asked for—finger rings, earrings, brooch, comb,
and five or six beautiful girdles. If you are
fool-  ing me, you shall have no trinket nor ring nor
precious jewel—for I will teach you not to
hinder me with trifles."
"I bring you no trifles," said Anniki; "and I
shall hold you to your promise."
Then, in a few words plainly spoken, she told
her brother all that she had seen and heard that
morning. She told him of the Minstrel's magic
boat, and of the voyage which he had planned,
and of his cunning scheme to gain possession of
the Maid of Beauty. "And now, brother," she
added, "why do you toil here in the smoke and
the heat while your false friend is hurrying northward
to rob you of the treasure that ought to be your own?"
"He shall not rob me," said the Smith coolly,
earnestly. Then he heaped some more fuel upon his
fire and blew his bellows till the flames leaped
up to the roof of his smithy. "Anniki, your
news is worth the price. I will fashion the
pretty girdles for you, I will make the rings and
the earrings and the brooch and the comb, and
I will bring them all to you before the sun goes down."
"That's a good brother!" cried the maiden.
"I knew you would do it. Now I am sure that
 a great resolve is in your heart, and you will do
something worthy of your name and fame.
How can I help you?"
"Hasten home and heat the bath house for
me," answered Ilmarinen. "Heap the wood
around the big bath-stones; put plenty of dry
kindlings underneath, then lay hot coals around
and make a roaring fire. Fetch water and fill
the pails and tubs, for I shall need not a
little of it. Make a handful of soap, for nothing
else will cleanse my smoky, grimy visage. Get
everything ready, and tell mother that I am
going on a long journey."
"Yes, brother," said Anniki. "I know what
is in your mind, and everything shall be done
as you desire;" and then with hasty steps,
smiling and proud, she ran out of the smithy
and hurried to her mother's house in the village.
"Mother!" she cried, "Ilmarinen is coming
home early to-day. I think he must be going
on a journey, for he wishes to take a bath."
"Well, then, my daughter," said good Dame
Lokka, "it is for you to make the bath house
ready. Put plenty of wood around the bath-stones
and build a roaring fire. See that the
water is ready, and put everything needful in
 the right place. And you should see that his
clothes are mended and brushed and fit for him
"Yes, mother!" answered the dutiful maiden.
Anniki ran into the forest and gathered armloads
of pine-knots, dry and resinous and impatient
to be burned. She carried them into the
bath house and heaped them up on the big
hearth; she brought hot coals from the kitchen
and made a roaring fire. She filled the pails and
the great kettles with water. She placed the
bath-stones where they would heat the quickest.
She dipped some sprigs of white birches in wild
honey and threw them into the water. Then
she ran again to the kitchen and brought a
handful of reindeer fat. She mixed this with
milk and ashes, and thus made a magic soap
that was pure and white and cleansing.
"My brother will have a good bath when he
comes home," she said. "It will not be my
fault if he doesn't come out of it clean."
Meanwhile the master Smith was toiling
steadily at his forge, making the ornaments
which he had promised to give to his sister.
First, he hammered out the finger rings of gold
and the precious earrings. Then he made six
 girdles of rare and most wonderful beauty; nor
did he forget the comb and the brooch and some
golden pins which he knew would please Anniki's
fancy. He finished all these quickly, skilfully.
Then he raked the coals from his forge;
he laid his hammer down in its place beside the
anvil; he took off his leather apron and hung it
on a peg; he went out of his smithy and closed
the door behind him. With long, impatient
strides he hurried home and laid the precious
gifts in his sister's hands.
"Here are your wages, Anniki," he said.
"Oh, brother, I thank you," she answered.
"They are even more beautiful than I expected.
Now make haste and take your bath. The bath-stones
are hot, and the fire burns low; your
soap, your brushes, your combs—all are ready.
And your best clothes, they are hanging on the
pegs close by the bath-kettle."
Ilmarinen surely needed a washing. Grimy
with soot and gray with ashes, he quickly obeyed
his sister. He stepped into the bath house.
Out of doors the sun was shining; by the window
a cuckoo was calling; in the air sweet
voices were sounding. He looked, he listened,
his heart throbbed with joy as he disrobed
him-  self and poured the water slowly upon the red-hot
bath-stones. Soon the house was filled with
a mighty steam; the Smith was lost to view in
the dense hot vapor.
An hour passed by, the sun went down, and
at length the Smith came forth from his bathing.
Who would have known him? Who would
have thought that a bath could work such wonders?
His hair was a golden yellow; his cheeks
were as ruddy as cranberries in the late days of
autumn; his eyes sparkled like two full moons
when the sky is clear and the winds are at rest.
And he was clothed, oh, so beautifully! His
coat was of linen, dyed yellow and beautifully
embroidered by his mother. His trousers were
of soft flannel, scarlet-colored. His vest was of
crimson silk. His stockings, too, were silken and
very long. His shoes were made of softest
leather—leather tanned from the skin of a reindeer.
Over his shoulders he wore a sky-blue
shawl, thick and soft. Around his waist was a
magic girdle fastened with gold buckles. His
hands were incased in reindeer gloves of
wondrous warmth and beauty; and on his head was
the finest cap that had ever been seen—a cap
 which his father and grandfather had worn in
their youth when they went wooing.
Anniki clapped her hands for joy when she
saw her brother thus arrayed, and Lokka, his
mother, threw her arms around his neck and
wept for very pride and happiness.
"O my beautiful boy!" she cried. "Never
was your father more handsomely dressed.
Never was any bridegroom more fitly arrayed.
Good luck to you! Good luck to you!"
Ilmarinen put her off gently, kissing her on
the cheek and thanking her for her words of
praise. "Now bring me the horse," he said.
"Harness my trusty steed and hitch him to my
enchanted sledge. I am going to the North
Country, to the Frozen Land and the dreary
shores of Pohyola. Long will it be ere I again
return to home and country."
"Which steed shall it be?" asked the serving-man.
"There are seven racers in your stables,
all trusty and true—seven fleet-footed steeds of
rare strength and mettle. Which shall it be?"
"The gray is the best," answered Ilmarinen.
"Hitch the gray steed to my enchanted sledge.
Put in food and feed for seven days' journey—yes,
for eight days of wintry weather.
Remem-  ber, too, the big bearskin and the soft fur robes to
be wrapped about me, for in the North Country
the air is always chilly and the winds are always
"Everything shall be done as you wish, my
master," said the serving-man.
Very soon the fleet-footed gray steed and the
enchanted sledge were brought to the door.
The soft fur robes, the skins of two great bears,
blankets in plenty were put in their proper
places; a jar of reindeer meat, a string of smoked
herring, food for many days, were stowed beneath
the seat; everything was done to speed the
traveller on his way.
The hero had bidden his mother good-bye, he
had kissed Anniki's lips and whispered a word
of magic in her ear, and he had sent messages of
love to all his friends. Now he stepped out of
the door, clad in his beautiful garments, princely
in form and bearing. He climbed quickly into
the sledge and sat down upon the great bearskins.
They wrapped the warm robes around
him and put the long reins in his hands. The
last good-byes were spoken. The hero cracked
his whip, and the gray racer bounded forward
and sped swiftly away. Like the wind he flew
 through the woods and the marshes and along
pebbly shores of the sea; and the heart of
the brave Smith was cheered with courage and hope.
Then in the dim evening twilight the hero
perceived six cuckoos perched on the dashboard
before him, and beside them seven small bluebirds
were sitting. They had been placed there
by the trusty serving-man, and now they all
began twittering and singing, and the faster
they travelled the louder was their sweet music.
"They are omens of good fortune!" cried Ilmarinen.
" 'Tis thus that the merry springtime
journeys to the Frozen Land! Good luck,
good luck, good luck!"
Then he cracked his whip again and shouted
loudly, joyfully. The gray racer neighed shrilly
and flew onward with redoubled speed. The
waves of the sea rippled with joy upon the sands,
and the very stars in the sky twinkled and danced
as the enchanted sledge glided like a swift meteor
toward the frozen North Country.
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