|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 GOLDEN MAIDEN
AR away in northern inlets Ilmarinen and his friend the Minstrel
were catching salmon for the winter's store. The days were growing
shorter and the nights were getting cold. Ice was beginning to form
in the sheltered creeks and coves and frost lay white on the shaded
slopes of the hills.
Fishes were scarce and shy and the fishermen were disheartened. For
five days—yes, for six toilsome days—they had sailed hither and
thither, casting first on the landward side and then on the seaward,
and still the boat's hold was far from being filled.
"I wish I were at home," sighed the master Smith.
"There is no place so sweet as one's own fireside," responded the
"I long to see the faces of those whom I love," said the Smith. "I
am impatient to hear their voices."
 "Sweeter than the chirping of song-birds—yes, sweeter than the
warbling of meadow larks—is the merry prattling of one's own home
folk," returned the Minstrel.
They drew in the net. Not a salmon did it contain. Naught but
seaweed did they get.
"Oh, I am sick of this business," complained Ilmarinen. "I am sick
of fishing, sick of sailing on these barren waters, sick of life
"Take heart, brother, take heart," answered the Minstrel cheerily.
"To-morrow we shall have better luck; we shall make a great catch,
and soon we shall sail back to Wainola with a full cargo and great
plenty of salmon."
But on the morrow their bad luck continued. Their net was broken,
they lost their best whalebone hook, their boat was grounded in the
shallows, and half the day was wasted.
Suddenly from the shore they heard some ravens calling among the
storm-beaten pines. They listened to the voices of the ill-omened
"See those fishermen," said one. "See how they toil in these empty
"Caw! caw! caw!" answered its mate. "They are foolish. They know not
what is going on at home."
 "If they were wiser they would spread sail and hasten back to
Wainola," croaked a third.
"Hasten back to Wainola!" echoed the cold, gray cliffs and the
ragged rocks on the shore.
"Back to Wainola!" came a voice from the waveless waters.
"To Wainola!" shouted Ilmarinen, as he seized the ropes and
hurriedly hoisted the sail.
"Wainola! Wainola!" sang the ancient Minstrel as he wielded the long
rudder and deftly turned the vessel before the wind.
All night, all day, the willing little ship speeded southward,
cutting through the waves with lightning swiftness, throwing the
foam to the right and the left, leaving a track of boiling waters
behind it. And the word that was oftenest on the lips of Smith and
Minstrel was "Home! home! home!"
Three days they sailed, and then—ah, then! Who shall depict that
home-coming? Who shall describe the dismay, the grief, the
heart-breaking of the hero, Ilmarinen?
As the boat neared the shore he shouted a great, sky-shaking shout
as was his custom when arriving home from a long voyage. But no
answering cry of welcome came to his ears.
 He saw no faces of loved
ones waiting at the landing-place to greet him. Quickly, he leaped
ashore. He paused not a moment, but hastened along the silent
pathways towards the grove that sheltered his roomy farmhouse. But
ere he reached it his eyes detected many a sign of the fearful
scenes that had been enacted there. The hedges had been torn down,
the flower-beds had been trampled and destroyed, the bordering
fields were laid waste. The farmhouse itself had been ransacked from
kitchen to attic chamber, and not one article of ornament or use had
been left untouched or unbroken.
Frantically the hero ran from one spot to another loudly calling to
his mother, to his sister, the maid of the morning, to his wife, the
best beloved, the beautiful. But no voice answered him save the
echoes of his own words. The floor of the farmhouse was reddened
with blood; on every side were the marks of cruel teeth, the imprint
of sharp and pitiless claws. In the farmyard, he found the milking
stool and the pails, all battered and scarred and broken; and there,
too, he found a long lock of blood-covered hair which he knew too
well had once belonged to the Maid of Beauty, the
 mistress of his
household and his life. Then despair took hold of him and hope was
dead. He looked no farther, but sat down upon the ground and gave
expression to his overwhelming grief.
Thus, all day and for many days, Ilmarinen mourned and wept. Through
sleepless nights he bewailed his great misfortune, and through all
the hated mornings he lamented the loss of his wife, his mother, his
sister, his loved household. In his smithy the fire no longer
burned, the anvil no longer echoed his song. His hammer was idle and
his forge was cold. The beauty of life had departed and he longed to
die—to meet the shades of his loved ones in the land of Tuonela.
For two, four—yes, six—long and dreary months he mourned, and
his strength waned and he grew weak from sorrow. He ate little,
slept little, talked not at all, mingled never with his friends and
neighbors. Often, in the still hours of midnight, he fancied that he
heard the voice of his dear one calling him by name. Often in fitful
dreams he reached his hand out in the darkness thinking to touch
hers, but grasping nothing, seizing only empty air.
 At length, in his madness, he said to himself: "With gold and magic
and smithing skill I will shape a body like hers—beautiful beyond
compare—and then perhaps she will return from Tuonela and dwell
therein as she did in her former body of flesh and blood."
And so, from the rocks by the seaside, he gathered flakes of gold,
scales of gold, nuggets of gold, until he had filled a basket almost
as large as himself. Then from the forest he cut and brought
together many logs of willow and white maple and mountain ash, and
of these he made charcoal for his smithy. With much care he prepared
his furnace, and in the midst of it he set a magic caldron, large
and round and deep. He heaped the wood around it, he threw on coal,
he kindled the fire; and all the while he sang runes and songs of
wizardry and power which no lesser man would have dared to recite.
Then he called loudly to his slaves and working men: "Now, my
faithful ones, start the bellows to blowing. Make it roar like a
storm at sea, like a whirlwind in a mountain valley.
Blow, blow, and cease not until I command you."
The men obeyed. With their bare hands they laid hold of the long
lever, they put their naked
 shoulders against it and worked steadily
with might and main. And Ilmarinen stood by his magic caldron,
throwing into it great handfuls of gold, smaller handfuls of silver,
cakes of fine sugar from the red mountain-maple, honey and
honeycomb, daisies, buttercups, wild flowers of every hue, and a
hundred strange and potent articles the names of which I have not
the courage to pronounce.
For a brief hour the workmen toiled and paused not. Then one said,
"I am tired," and slunk away in the darkness; and the second said,
"I am faint with the heat," and let his hands fall from the bellows;
and the third said, "The work is too hard for one man alone to
perform," and he, too, abandoned his post. The bellows ceased
blowing, the fire was fast dying down.
"Blow, my men, blow!" cried Ilmarinen, and then, lifting his eyes,
he saw that he was alone in the smithy.
Angry and half-despairing, he seized the lever of the bellows in his
own hands, he put his own naked shoulder to the work, and again the
flames leaped up, the fire glowed, the caldron quaked and trembled
in the terrible heat. For
 hours and hours he toiled, till the sweat
poured in torrents from his brow, and his hands were blistered and
his fingers cramped with grasping the long, unyielding lever of
iron. At length he paused from his labor and looked down into the
furnace. He lifted the lid from the caldron and sang a wild, weird
song, every word of which was a word of enchantment. And what do you
think arose from the mixture in the vessel, from the gray clouds of
vapor which filled it?
It was not that which the Smith had hoped to see, for the
ill-working serving-men had broken the spells that he was weaving.
It was not a golden war-steed with shoes of silver. It was not a
monstrous eagle with beak of hardest iron.
It was only a young lamb, small and feeble, with fleece of mingled
gold and silver.
Ilmarinen looked at the tiny beast and felt no pleasure. A child
might have liked it as a plaything, but a hero delights not in
"I did not call for you, my lambkin," he said, disappointed and
sorrowing. "You are gentle, you are harmless, but my magic spells
should have wrought something far better and more beautiful. I
desire a golden maiden and no other form will please me."
 So saying, he thrust the lamb back into the boiling caldron, forcing
it down to the very bottom. Then he threw in more gold, and with
each handful of the yellow metal he muttered a new rune of magic
words and magic import. The fire burned fitfully beneath and around
the caldron. Tongues of blue flame encircled it, sheets of white
flame enveloped it, a sound like the humming of bees issued from its
Ilmarinen threw fresh coal into the furnace and heaped it high above
the draught hole. He worked the bellows, steadily, gently,
persistently. The fire roared, the flames danced; the heat became
intense. For hours the hero labored without cessation; for hours he
muttered spells of enchantment, suffering nothing to break in upon
his thoughts or distract from the mystic power of his words. When he
at last, had reached the end, had recited all the proper runes and
sayings, he stopped blowing the bellows, and with great caution
stooped down and looked into the caldron.
The flames died suddenly away, and out of the vessel there sprang a
wonderful image—the image of a beautiful maiden. In face and form
 she was indeed lovely—lovelier than any other woman, save one,
that Ilmarinen had ever seen. Her head was of silver and her hair
was golden. Her eyes sparkled like precious stones and were blue as
the summer sky, yet she saw nothing. Her ears were dainty and
blushing like pink rose leaves, yet she heard nothing. Her lips were
tender and sweet and red like twin cranberries meeting beneath her
faultless nose, yet she tasted not, smelled nothing. Her mouth
served not for speaking nor yet for eating or smiling. Her fingers
were long and tapering and her hands small and shapely, yet she felt
nothing. Her feet were well-formed and comely, yet they would not
support her, she could not stand.
THE GOLDEN MAIDEN
"O my loved one! O my lost one! O thou who wert once the Maid of
Beauty, come and dwell in this golden body!" cried the enraptured
Smith. "Come, and once more be the joy of my poor life!"
He lifted the Golden Maiden and placed her in the cushioned seat
wherein his lost wife had often reposed. He put his arm around her
waist, but she did not return his caress. He kissed her cherry red
lips, but they were cold,
 cold, cold. He spoke many endearing words
in her ear, but she gave him no answer. He took her hands between
his own, but there was no throbbing of life in them.
"She is cold, so cold!" he muttered. "She is like ice, like snow in
Then he laid her on a silken couch, put soft pillows beneath her
head, and covered her with warm blankets and quilted coverlets. And
as he did so he prayed unceasingly to the dear dead one whom he had
loved so much:
"O thou who wert once the Maid of Beauty, come and dwell in this
body of gold! Come and give life to this precious maiden; fill her
veins with blood, give warmth to her body, sight to her eyes,
hearing to her ears!"
All night long he sat beside the couch, holding the maiden's hands
and breathing his own warm breath into her face. All night long he
moaned and wept and called the name of his lost wife whom the beasts
had devoured. At length the new day dawned and the sunlight streamed
into the room and fell upon the couch. The Golden Maiden was as cold
as before, her face was white with frost, her body was frozen to the
 "Ah, me! there is no hope!" said the Smith, despairing utterly; and
he lifted the image from its resting place. "Never will the dead
come to life again, never will my loved one return to me. Henceforth
I shall walk alone upon the earth."
He took the Golden Maiden gently in his arms, he smoothed the
drapery about her, and carried her to his old friend, the Minstrel.
"O Wainamoinen, tried and true!" he cried. "Here I bring you a
present—a maiden of great worth, golden and beautiful. See her
fair face, her comely form, her feet so small and shapely."
The Minstrel, wise and steadfast, looked at the image closely,
admiringly. Then he said, "She is indeed a pretty maiden, and the
likeness is perfect. But wherefore do you bring her to me?"
"Dear brother, friend, companion," answered the Smith, "I bring her
to you because I love you, because I would make you happy. Years ago
we both wooed the same Maid of Beauty. I won her because I was
young; you lost her because you were old. I know what must have been
your sorrow and disappointment. Now, when there can be no more joy
for me, I bring
 you this Golden Maiden to be your solace and
delight. She has the form and features of the Maid of Beauty, and I
doubt not she will please you. She will sit on your knee and nestle
dovelike in your arms—and she is worth her weight in gold."
"I want no golden maiden!" cried the Minstrel half angrily, sternly.
"For what is gold without sense, without soul? I have heard of young
fools who wedded silly maidens, brainless women, soulless ladies,
just for gold. But think you that one in my position would stoop to
"I know that you are wise, my brother," said the Smith, "and you are
the master of all magic. Perhaps you might endow this Golden Maiden
with sense, with warm blood, with a noble soul."
"Jumala alone has that power," answered Wainamoinen, "and to Jumala
let us give all praise. Carry this image back to your smithy, thrust
the Golden Maiden into your furnace, and then you may forge from her
all sorts of objects, beautiful, useful, precious. For never will
your Maid of Beauty return from Tuonela to dwell in a body so base
 Sorrowfully, regretfully, Ilmarinen obeyed. Back to his smithy he
carried the golden image; he thrust it into his furnace; he watched
it melt and disappear in the terrible heat. Then he turned himself
about and walked out silently into the darkness. And for many a sad
day the people of Wainola sought him in vain and then mourned him as
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