|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 |
LREADY great changes were taking place in Pohyola. The frost
spirit, peeping over the mountains, saw that the hill of copper had
been robbed of its treasure, that the prison-house of the Sampo was
empty. He listened; he could no longer hear the whirring of the
wheels or the busy clacking of the pictured cover. So he stretched
his long, cold fingers over the land, and everything that he touched
was frozen and blasted. He breathed in the air, and chilling mists
hovered over the hills and descended upon the fields and gardens.
The reign of plenty in Pohyola was ended.
Dame Louhi, old and grim and undaunted, called loudly to her
serving-men, her warriors, and her sailors. As a mother hen summons
her chickens around her at the approach of a danger, so did she
marshal her swordsmen, her spearsmen, and her stout-hearted oarsmen.
 "Make ready now our great warship," she said. "We must pursue the
hated robbers; we must overcome and destroy them and bring the
precious Sampo back to our own shores. Lose not a moment, be
courageous, be skilful, be strong—and hasten, hasten, hasten."
They sprang forward by tens and by hundreds, every one eager and
impatient to obey her commands. They pushed the mighty warship out
into the deep water. They hoisted her mast and spread her broad sail
upon the sail-yards. The rowers sat down in their places and each
seized his long oar. The warriors shouted and all the crew joined in
singing the war-song of Pohyola. And the Mistress herself
stood at the helm and with gaunt hands wielded the great rudder and
steered the vessel out to sea. The friendly North Wind filled the
sail, the rowers bent to their oars, and the famous voyage was
Like a monstrous sea-bird skimming over the waves, or like a white
cloud scudding low upon the billows, so did the swift warship speed
onward over the vast and measureless sea. With lips drawn lightly
over her toothless mouth, Dame Louhi stood at her post, silent and
deter-  mined, and but one thought filled the minds and hearts of her
courageous crew—the thought to serve her and obey her.
Meanwhile the heroes on their storm-battered red ship were sailing
hopefully homeward, thanking Jumala for their escape from the fog
and the storm. The Sampo was still safely secured with strong ropes
to the bow beams of their brave vessel; its wheels were whirring;
its levers were at work; it was grinding out great streams of salt
to feed the hungry sea.
"To-morrow we shall turn it over," said Ilmarinen; "and then it will
pour out gold and silver enough for every hero in Wainola. To-morrow—but
who knows what may happen to-morrow?"
The Minstrel, with steady hand and hopeful heart, sat at the stern,
guiding the vessel straight through the pathless waters. "Ah! who
knows what may happen to-morrow?" he echoed, as he gazed with
expectant eyes toward the dim, distant horizon.
"Ahti," he cried, "climb up on the broken mast and look around at
the sea and the sky. Tell us whether the horizon is clear or whether
clouds are rising in the air to vex us. Look
be-  fore us, look behind
us, and then tell us what you see."
Quickly the long-armed one obeyed. He climbed the mast to its
splintered top, and there he stood, balanced on one foot, unmoved
and unafraid, as though on solid ground. Eastward he looked and
westward, and naught did he see but the trackless waters and the
unscarred sky. He looked toward the south, and a smile of pleasure
overspread his face.
"Far away, I see the lofty headland and the long, white shore of
your own dear country, "O heroes!" he said. "It is the same shore
from which the storm drove us three days ago; but the distance is
Then he looked toward the north and with his sharp eyes eagerly
scanned the horizon.
"Away, away in the northwest I see a little cloud," he said. "It is
a white cloud, and a small one, and it sits low down upon the
"Nonsense!" said Wainamoinen, losing patience. "No sailor ever saw a
white cloud in the northwest sitting low upon the water. Look
Ahti obeyed. "I see it more plainly now," he said. "It is not a
cloud but an island—a
 small island looming up on the horizon. And
I see dark specks hovering over it—they must be falcons or nesting
ravens flying among the birch trees."
"Nonsense!" a second time cried Wainamoinen. "Give your eyes a
moment's rest and then look again."
The long-armed one shaded his brows with his broad palm and looked
long and eagerly. Then he leaped nimbly down upon the deck as though
content to see no more.
"It is a warship from Pohyola," he said, trembling and much
disturbed. "It is a great ship with a hundred oarsmen and a thousand
armed warriors. It is pursuing us, it is gaining upon us. Look now,
and all of you can see it plainly."
Loudly then did the Minstrel call to the heroes. "Row, now, with all
speed, my brave men! Rush the ship forward! Let us not be
"Row, row, and let no man falter!" shouted Ilmarinen, himself
wielding the foremost oar.
Loudly did the rowlocks ring with the quick, even pressure of the
oars. The red ship swayed from side to side as its sharp prow cut
 through the billows. Behind it the water boiled as beneath a
mighty cataract. On the right and on the left the spray was dashed
as the rain in a furious hurricane. But, swiftly as the heroes
rowed, their vessel moved not half so swiftly as the warship of
"We are lost!" moaned the young men, desperately bending to their
oars. And the fifty maidens hid their faces in their bosoms and
echoed the hopeless cry, "We are lost!" Even the hero Ilmarinen, the
mighty wizard, could see no way of escape from their pitiless
pursuers, and he, too, losing all his courage, began to bewail their
luckless fate. But Wainamoinen, steadfast even in misfortune, spoke
up cheeringly and with encouraging words.
"There is yet one way by which we may escape," he said. "There is
still one trick of magic that I have reserved for a time like this.
I will try it."
From beneath his belt he drew his tinder-box of silver. He opened
it skilfully with his left thumb and finger. From its right-hand
corner he took a bit of soft pitch, black and pliable, and from its
left-hand corner a piece of tinder no larger than a pea. Then with
en-  closed the tinder within the pitch and cast it over his
left shoulder far out into the sea.
"O wonderful tinder and pitch," he said, "do marvellous things now,
and shield us from the wrath of Pohyola's mighty Mistress. Raise up
a barrier between her ship and ours—a barrier past which she
cannot sail. Work quickly, work powerfully, and help us soon to
arrive safe in Wainola's sheltered harbor."
And now the great warship was but a little way behind. The heroes
looking back could see a host of armed men standing beneath the
wind-filled sail. They could see the hundred long oars rising and
falling as though moved by a single hand. They could see the
Mistress herself, even Dame Louhi, sitting in the high seat at the
stern and shouting her commands to the crew. Her face was grim with
determination, her eyes shone green with the joy of expected
triumph, the sound of her harsh voice rose high above the din of
clashing oars and dashing waves and the shouts and cries of pursuers
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