|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 MAID OF BEAUTY
WIFTLY as a shooting star did the reindeer rush
through the forest ways. In his sledge, the Minstrel
sat upright and deftly handled the whip and the reins.
His eyes were upon the road before him, and all his
thoughts were about his home land and his own pleasant
fireside so far, far away.
Now he was among the snowy mountains; and now his
sledge was skimming along untravelled paths in the
deep and shadowy valleys. Suddenly his thoughts were
disturbed by a strange sound in the air above him. Was
it the song of a bird? Was it the sighing of the
wind? Was it the humming of wild bees? Or was it the
sound of some distant waterfall?
He listened. Could it be the buzzing of a weaver's
shuttle shooting through some loom on the craggy
heights above him? It certainly sounded so; and yet it
was so loud, so musical. Forgotten, then, was Dame
cau-  tion. Quickly the Minstrel checked
his reindeer steed; quickly, and in wonder, he lifted
his eyes and looked aloft. High in the sky he saw a
rainbow, and on it sat the Maid of Beauty, busily
weaving with a golden shuttle. Swiftly, to and fro,
she drove the shuttle, and the fabric which she wove
was wondrously fine. Threads of silver, threads of
gold, threads of every brilliant color were mingled in
that web of magic. But fairer than that fairy fabric,
fairer than all else in that radiant vision was the
maiden's radiant face.
Wainamoinen pulled upon the reins with all his might;
his steed stopped short upon a hillside. Then he
called loudly to the maiden on the rainbow.
"Come hither, come hither, most beautiful one," he
said. "Come down and sit in this sledge by my side."
Faster and faster flew the magic shuttle, and the
buzzing sounded louder; but the maiden had heard the
Minstrel's call. She turned her face towards him and
"Who are you?" she asked. "And why should I sit in
"I am Wainamoinen, chief of singers, master
wizards," answered the hero. "I am now on my way to my
sweet home country, the Land of Heroes. I know you
would love that land, and I would rejoice to take you
thither with me. You shall be the queen of my house.
You shall bake my honey cakes, fill my cups with
barley-water, sing at my table. All my people will
The Maid of Beauty looked down from her rainbow seat
THE MAGICIAN AND THE MAID OF BEAUTY
"You are a foolish old man," she said, "to think that
I care for you or for all that you promise. Let me
tell you a story."
"Certainly," said the Minstrel.
"Well, yesterday I was walking in the meadows of the
West. I was picking flowers and making this wreath
which you see on my head. Suddenly I heard a thrush
singing sweetly to his mate and nestlings. I stopped
and listened to the little songster, and this is what
I heard him sing:
"Summer days are warm and bright;
A maiden's heart is always light.
Winter days are bitter cold;
Beware, beware of the suitor bold—
Beware the more if he is old."
 "That was a very silly bird," said Wainamoinen, "and I
wonder that his mate listened to such foolish
"But his song was very pretty," laughed the maiden.
"I too can sing," said Wainamoinen. "I am the sweet
singer of Hero Land. I am a great wizard. I am a hero.
Come with me to my dear home and be my queen."
The Maid of Beauty looked down from her rainbow
throne, and the mountains echoed with her laughter.
"If you are indeed a wizard," she said, "show me some
of your magic arts. Can you split a hair with a knife
which has no edge? Can you snare a bird's egg with a
thread too small to be seen?"
"Nothing is easier to one skilled in magic," answered
the hero. And thereupon he picked up a golden hair
which the maiden had let fall, and with a blunted
knife he split it into halves and quarters. Then from a
bird's nest on the side of the cliff he drew up an
egg with a snare too fine for eyes to see.
"Now I have done what you wished," he said. "Come and
sit in my birchwood sledge.
 Swiftly will we speed to
Hero Land, and great honor shall be yours, for you
shall be a minstrel's queen."
"Not yet, not yet, O matchless hero," she answered,
still laughing. "Let me see some more of your
wonderful magic. Split this cliff of sandstone with
your bare fingers. Then cut a whipstock from the ice
in the gorge below you and leave no splinter."
"Nothing is easier to one skilled in magic," answered
the hero. Then he climbed the tall cliff and split the
sandstone with his fingers; and next he leaped upon
the river of ice beneath him and cut therefrom a
slender whipstock, losing not the smallest fragment.
"You have done well," said the Maid of Beauty, and she
smiled from her rainbow throne. "But I will give you
another task. Here is my spindle and here is my
shuttle. See, I break them into splinters and I throw
the fragments at your feet. If you wish me to go home
with you, you must pick up these fragments and build a
boat from them. Then you must launch the boat, using
neither arm nor foot to set it floating. Is your magic
equal to that?"
Wainamoinen stroked his gray beard, for he
 was puzzled. "Your task is very hard," he said, "and I am
the only person under the sun who can perform it. But
perform it I will, and you shall see what a master of
magic I am."
Then he picked up the fragments of the spindle, he
took the splinters of the shuttle in his hands, and
began to build the fairy boat. But such a task could
not be done in a moment. It required time. One whole
day he swung his hammer; two whole days he plied his
hatchet; three days and more he worked to join the
many pieces together.
At length the boat was almost finished. Proudly the
Minstrel looked upon it. He hewed it on this side, he
shaped it on that, he smoothed it fore and aft; and the
Maid of Beauty looked on and smiled. Suddenly the
hero's sharp-edged hatchet of iron flew from his
grasp. It broke the fairy boat in pieces, undoing the
work of many days. It struck the Minstrel's knee,
cutting a red gash that was both wide and deep.
A stream of blood gushed forth; it flowed like a
crimson torrent down the mountain side; it stained the
snow in the forest and the brown grass in the meadows.
Great pain fell upon the Minstrel, and yet he was
un-  daunted. He quickly gathered lichens
and mosses from the tree trunks and the rocks, and
these he bound upon the wound to stanch the bleeding.
"O cruel hatchet," he cried, "why were you so
disobedient, so ungrateful? You may cut the pine tree
and the willow; you may cut the birch tree and the
cedar; but turn not your edge against your master."
He looked upward. The rainbow had vanished and the
Maid of Beauty had fled. Then, too late, he remembered
Dame Louhi's caution: "Keep your eyes upon your pathway.
If you should gaze towards sky or mountain top, sad
misfortune will befall you."
His wound was very painful, so painful that he groaned
with anguish. He felt that he must find help, and find
it quickly. He looked about for the reindeer which the
Mistress had lent him and which had wandered into the
woods while he was working magic. When he had found
the beast he harnessed it to the sledge again. Then he
climbed in carefully, painfully, and sat down on the
soft furs. He cracked his whip, he shouted, and the
long-legged racer flew swiftly over meadows and
forests, over mountains and lowlands.
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