|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 LAND OF TUONELA
UONELA — the Land of Shades! Does
any one know where that country lies?
On what chart is its location shown?
Where are its boundary lines, and what is its
Many are they who have gone thither—some
by land, some by sea—yet none have returned
to tell others of what they have learned. They
who once enter that mysterious land may not
hope to depart therefrom, neither must they send
word home to their kindred and friends. They
are thenceforth the subjects of King Tuoni, and
must abide forever with him.
Is the place very far? Is the road thither a
long one? Is it difficult to find?
Oh, the distance is great, but all roads lead to
that land. You may arrive there quickly, in a
day, in an hour, perhaps even in the twinkling
of an eye—and quite before you expect to do so.
You need not inquire the way nor ask about the
 road—you cannot fail to find it; and sooner or
later you must walk in it, whether you wish or not.
The Minstrel's journey was both long and
for he had undertaken it of his own free
will. The road was exceeding rough, and perils
beset him at every step. Dark were the forests
through which he passed; broad and deep
were the rivers which he crossed; high and rugged
were the mountains which reared themselves before
him. For six days—yes, for seven painful
days he toiled through the thickets of thorns; for
seven eventful days he cut his way through a
magic wilderness of hazel; for seven other days
he groped through dark hedges of juniper and
tangled masses of wild briars; and then, for
three times seven days he wandered through
desert lands and wide wastes of snow where
there was no shelter from the storm and
no place to rest his weary feet.
Three score and ten days, three score and ten
nights, were the measure of his journey; and at
length he found himself on the shore of a
mighty river, deep, dark, and sluggish. He looked, and
on the farther side he saw a gray castle and a
 long white shore, and he knew that it was Tuoni's
land—the land of silence and of mystery.
He walked up and down the river bank, hoping
to find some way to cross, but the water was
everywhere deep, and the current, although sluggish,
was everywhere strong. At length, however,
he saw a sort of landing-place, where was
a post for mooring a boat, and at the top of
the post was a sign-board with words painted
FERRY TO TUONELA|
CALL TO THE KEEPER ON THE FARTHER SHORE;
THE KEEPER WILL QUICKLY FERRY YOU O'ER.
Wainamoinen stood upon the sand and shouted
with all his might:
"Ho! Keeper of the ferry! Bring thy boat
quickly. Here is a traveller who desires to be
carried over the water. Haste thee hither!"
The unwonted sound of a human voice rolled
thunderously across the river, stirring the sluggish
stream to its very depths; it awakened the
echoes in the distant colorless hills of Tuonela,
and with deafening roar broke the silence of ages.
 The water-door of the castle opened, and a
dwarfish maiden came forth, looking inquiringly
across the river. Very small she was, but
well-shaped and comely. Her eyes gleamed like
lightning and her face was stern and pitiless.
She was the daughter of Tuoni, and to her
belonged the duty of keeping the ferry whereby
the shades of mortals were carried to her father's
kingdom. Sharply, and in shrill, cutting tones,
she answered the call of the Minstrel:
"Who are you who calls so lustily? Why have
you come to this river with body so strong and
active? Tell me truly if you would be ferried
The Minstrel was old and cunning, and because
he feared to tell the maiden the truth, he answered
her with guileful words: "I am a poor
woodsman from the Land of Heroes. Yesterday,
as I was felling a tree, your father, Tuoni,
smote me. He smote me and made me his
thrall; he made me his thrall and bade me come
hither to his kingdom. This is why I stand on
the shore and call to you so lustily."
"You speak falsely!" cried the dwarfish
maiden, with anger in her tones. "If my father
had made you his thrall, he would be with you
 now. His hat would be on your head and his
gloves would be on your hands. His mark
would be on your forehead and your voice
would not resound like thunder upon the water.
Tell me who you are, and tell me truly, or never
will I ferry you to Tuonela."
But Wainamoinen still trusted in his cunning,
and he made up another guileful story to deceive
her, "Perhaps it was not Tuoni who sent
me," he said. "Now that I think of it, it was
Iron who smote me. Sharp Iron, pitiless Iron
in shape of a sword pierced my heart, and I
was forced unwillingly to seek the kingdom of
Tuoni. So come, I pray you, and ferry me over
The dwarfish maiden could scarce contain
herself for anger. She smote the air with her
fists and shouted, "Now I know that you are a
liar! If Iron had smitten you I would see
blood trickling from your wounds; your face
would be scarlet; your hands would be crimson.
But there you stand unscarred, unmarked, with
the hue of health upon your cheeks. What do
you hope to gain by trying to deceive me?"
"Far be it from me to deceive you," said the
artful hero, foolishly, and without judgment.
 "O daughter of Tuoni, I will tell you the truth!
Now that I think of it, I am quite sure that it
was Water that sent me hither. I was a fisherman,
and I sailed too far from the shore. The
deep sea overcame me, and the raging waves
seized me, and when my breath failed me and
my strength was gone, Water commanded me
to come quickly to Tuonela. So, hasten, I
pray you, and row me over the river."
The sharp-eyed daughter of the king was furious.
With savage looks and threatening gestures,
she answered the cunning Minstrel: "O
foolish fellow, why do you tell such falsehoods?
Do you think that I will believe you? If the
waves had overcome you, if Water had sent
you, your coat would be wringing wet and your
wan face would be overspread with moisture.
How, then, do you stand so proudly, your hair
dry, your cheeks glowing, and your clothing
untouched by dampness? Tell me the truth, for
you will gain nothing by falsehoods."
The foolish Minstrel listened, and his heart
grew stubborn. Then he answered her with
flattering words, deeming that thus she would be
pleased and therefore easily deceived. "O
lovely keeper of Tuoni's ferry, speak not so
 harshly to a lone, weary traveller! Never have
I seen such beauty as yours; never have I heard
a voice so sweet. And now I will tell you truly
why I have come hither. I am the victim and
the thrall of Fire. Three days ago I was seized
by Fire, the elder brother of Iron. Very roughly
did he handle me, and little mercy did he show.
And this is why my clothing is dry and my hair
untouched by dampness. So, sweet lady, hasten
to be kind and carry me over the ferry."
Tuoni's daughter trembled now with rage and
shame. Her patience was wellnigh gone, she
no longer felt pity for the aged traveller. Yet
she answered him once again and in tones
decided and severe:
"O foolish, foolish fellow!" she said. "If
Fire had seized you and sent you hither, your
hair and beard would be singed, your eyebrows
would be scorched, your feet would be blistered.
Three falsehoods you have told me—yes, four
barefaced lies you have shouted across the water.
Now, beware that you tell me not another.
Speak with clean lips and say truly why you
have come hither with healthy body and with
red heart beating lustily."
Then Wainamoinen saw it was vain to
 practice deceit with one so skilled in the ways
of life and death. So he answered her truthfully
and half-ashamed: "I pray you, pardon
the slippings of my tongue, for my heart does
not lend itself to falsehood. Months ago I began
to build a magic vessel in which to sail the
northern seas. With one song I laid the keel,
with another I framed the gunwales, with a third
I fastened the ribs in their places. All my tools,
my hammer, my auger, my saw, my chisels,
were words of magic. But when my work
was almost finished, lo! my tools failed me.
Three smooth holes still need boring, three
strong bolts still needing driving, three broad
planks still needed fastening—and I lacked the
three mystic words with which to do these things.
So I have come boldly to Tuonela to borrow the
tools which I desire so greatly—the three lost
words that shall make my boat seaworthy and
safe. This, fair maiden, is the truth!"
"Stupid fellow!" cried Tuoni's daughter.
"You have neither wit nor wisdom. Have you
lived to be an old, old man and yet never
learned that the liar is sure to be discovered?
And now that you speak the truth, do you think
that you deserve any favors from me?"
 "I deserve nothing," answered the Minstrel,
humbly, contritely, yet cunningly. "I only
pray you to do me a great, although undeserved,
favor. Come and ferry me over the water."
The dwarfish maiden hesitated, standing beside
her boat. Then in half-sad tones, as though
in pity, she said, "You do not know what you
ask, foolish hero. Never has any one who came
to my father's palefaced country returned to
home or friends. This river being once crossed
by you, you can never cross again. Turn back
while you can, and think not to visit my father
in his strong castle. Hasten away, and seek
your own home and kindred ere it is too late."
The Minstrel heeded not her warning; for
never had he abandoned a task once begun.
"I am old," he said, "and many are the perils
I have faced and many the dangers I have
escaped. I am not a woman that I should say,
'I cannot'; I am not a coward that I should say,
'I dare not!' So, come now, tiny daughter of
Tuoni. Come, and quickly row me over your ferry."
The maiden said not another word. She
leaped into her boat, she seized the oars, and
 with lightning speed she crossed the river. The
broad, flat-bottomed vessel grated against the
shore where the Minstrel was standing; he saw
that it was roomy and large, and he stepped
quickly aboard, not looking behind him. Then,
instantly, and without sound, ten thousand
shades who had been waiting unseen and
intangible on the shore, glided also into the boat
and stood beside him. The tiny maiden received
each one silently, taking note of every mark or
sign or other means of recognition. When all
were safely aboard, she again seized the oars
and with swift and sturdy strokes rowed her
strong craft across the stream.
"Farewell, brave but foolhardy hero!" she
said as the boat touched the farther shore and
Wainamoinen leaped out upon the beach. "None
but the prince of wizards could thus have come
to Tuonela; and yet there is no magic strong
enough to save you from your doom."
But the Minstrel was undaunted. He buckled
his girdle about him, and with long strides hastened
toward the great house which he knew
must be King Tuoni's palace.
At the door the queen met him and softly
welcomed him. "Come in, most honored of
 guests!" she said. "Never before has a living
hero dared to cross this threshold."
She led him into the broad hall, she seated
him on soft cushions, she threw a mantle of
finest cloth over his shoulders. Then she
brought him food and drink, and bade him
refresh himself and be joyful. But when he lifted
the covers of the enticing dishes, and when he
looked into the foaming pitchers, what did he
see? Vile things in plenty—the poison of serpents,
the spawn of toads, shiny lizards, squirming
worms,—a medley of horrors indescribable
"I thank you, mighty queen," the Minstrel
said politely, "but my errand in Tuonela permits
neither eating nor drinking. No morsel of
food will I taste until I have made known the
business that brings me hither."
Then in a few words wisely spoken he told
her plainly, truly, the object of his visit.
The queen listened, and her ashy-pale face
grew paler still and an unpitying smile overspread
her joyous countenance. When he had
finished she answered him briefly and sternly:
"Truly there are magic words in plenty stored
up in Tuoni's treasure houses; but they are
 neither sold nor lent nor yet given away. The
king imparts his knowledge to none; the secrets
of his kingdom remain unknown forever. Rash
man! You have come hither uninvited; you
shall not soon depart."
Even while she was speaking she began her
spells of enchantment. She waved her wand of
slumber and chanted strange runes never heard
on this side of the dark water. Softly, very
softly, she began to sing a weird lullaby—a song
of the silent land. And Wainamoinen neither
spoke nor made resistance, but, wrapping his
cloak about him, he laid himself down to sleep
on the dread couch of King Tuoni.
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