|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 |
MITH ILMARINEN stood thoughtfully,
silently, beside the fire. The low, dark
hall was full of shadows; dim figures
lurked in the corners and danced among the
rafters; the air was grimy with smoke; the
flames burned blue and fitfully on the
Out-of-doors the storm was raging. The
winds whooped and howled in savage combat.
They reached their chilly fingers down through
the chimney-hole as though they would snatch
up the luckless Smith and bear him still farther
away into regions untraversed and unknown.
He stood and listened. He heard the shrieking
of the tempest demons; he heard the hail
pelting upon the roof and the rain dashing and
splashing upon the half-frozen ground; he heard
the sea roaring fearfully in the darkness and the
mad waves pounding upon the dumb and
 "In such a storm as this, any shelter is sweet,"
he said; and he stirred the fire logs till the sparks
shot upward and filled the hall with the sound
of their merry snapping. Then the thought
came to him of his own fireside at home—of his
mother and sister and the friends whom he
loved—and he groaned aloud in anguish.
"O Wainamoinen, prince of minstrels!" he
moaned. "Why have you treated me so unkindly?
Why have you betrayed me—me your
friend and brother? Never could I have
believed that your magic power was so much
greater than my own. Never——"
He paused suddenly, for he heard a rustling
which was not the rustling of leaves, a breathing
which was not the breathing of the South
Wind, a pitty-pat of soft footsteps upon the
floor. He turned and looked, and lo! a radiant
vision appeared before him in the firelight. It
was the Maid of Beauty, the peerless daughter
of the grim Mistress of Pohyola. Right
winsomely she came forward to greet him, her
cheeks blushing red, her eyes sparkling and
joyous. The Smith's heart was beating hard
and fast like a sledge-hammer beneath his
waistcoat. He trembled and grew pale. Never
 had he seen, never had he imagined, a maiden
so wondrously fair.
"O Prince of Smiths," she said in tones more
sweet than the warble of birds, "I welcome you
to our pleasant land of Pohyola."
Not even when the storm winds seized him
had Ilmarinen felt so helpless and utterly
overcome. He could scarcely say a word in answer;
he could hardly lift his eyes; his hands hung as
though palsied at his side; his feet were rooted
to the floor. Then, ere he could recover from
his confusion, he saw the Mistress herself
advancing—the grim and toothless Mistress of the
Frozen Land. She spoke, and her voice was
cracked and harsh and grating.
"O master of smiths," she said, "this is my
daughter, the fairest of all maidens. Now say,
will you not forge the Sampo? Will you not
hang its weights, adjust its levers? Will you
not hammer its lid of many colors, even as
your brother, the Minstrel, assured me you
"Yes, yes, yes!" stammered the poor Smith,
scarcely knowing what he said. "I will do anything,
everything that lies in my power. But I
have never seen a Sampo, and I know not what
 it is. Tell me what it is like; tell me of its various uses."
"The Sampo," answered the Maid of Beauty—and
her voice was like the ripple of wavelets
on the shore of the summer sea—"the Sampo is
the mill of fortune—the magic grinder that will
grind whatever its owner most desires: money,
houses, ships, silver, flour, salt—everything!"
"Silver, flour, salt—everything!" echoed the
"Yes. Do you think you have the skill to
"Well, I have done greater things than that,"
he answered boastingly. "Long ago, when the
world was young, I found Iron, ruddy Iron,
hiding in the bogs, skulking in the woods, basking
in the sunlight of the hills. I caught him
and subdued him; I taught him to serve me;
I gave him to the world to be a joy forever."
"We have often heard of your skill, and your
praise is in all men's mouths," said the eager
Mistress. "But the Sampo can be forged only
by a great master of magic. Your friend, the
Minstrel, although he was able to do many very
wonderful things, would not undertake a task
 "Truly, I have performed harder tasks,"
answered the boaster. "Why, it was I that
forged the blue sky that bends over the earth
in summer. I hammered it out of a single
piece of metal. I fashioned it into a dome-shaped
lid to shut down over the earth and air.
I painted it pale blue and azure and murky
brown. Nothing is too great for my magic.
Give me but one hint regarding its shape and
nature, and I will make the Sampo—yes, a
hundred Sampos—for you.
Toothless though she was, the wise old Mistress
smiled—she smiled fearfully, cunningly, as
one pleased and plotting.
I cannot describe its shape," she answered,
"for it is still uncreated and therefore formless;
but its composition is quite simple and its
ingredients are of the commonest kind. If by
your power in magic you can mix these ingredients
properly, the mill is made—it will do its work.
But talk not of a hundred Sampos; the world
can never hold but one."
"And I promise that with my magic skill I will
put that one together," said the Smith; "but
what can you tell me about its ingredients?
Tell me all you know about its composition."
 "I have a recipe which has come down
through the ages," said the woman, "a recipe
for making the Sampo; but no magician has
ever yet been wise enough, strong enough to
make use of it. Here it is, written in runes on
a white whalebone:
" 'Take the tips of two swan feathers;
Add the milk of a young heifer;
Add a single grain of barley;
Mix and stir with wool of lambkin;
Heat the mixture, quickly, rightly;
In a magic cauldron boil it;
On a magic anvil beat it;
Hammer its lid of many colors;
Furnish it with wheels and levers;
Set it up, and start it going.' "
Ilmarinen listened. "The directions are plain
and easily followed," he said. "To a smith
who has shaped the mountains and hammered
out the sky it will be an easy task, the pleasant
pastime of a few fleeting days. But it must
not be undertaken in the winter time. We
must wait till the sky is clear and the sun shines
warm on land and sea."
"And will you then forge the much-desired
Sampo?" inquired the Mistress.
"I promise you," answered the Smith.
 Thus the boasting Ilmarinen, having come
suddenly, unexpectedly, unwillingly to the land
of Pohyola, was conquered by the power of
beauty. And thus he promised, not once alone,
but thrice, promised solemnly on his honor, that
he with his magic power would forge the wondrous
mill of fortune and shape its lid of rainbow
colors. And the cunning Mistress grimly
smiled and joyfully gave him a home in her
broad, low dwelling—she gave him food and
lodging, the softest seat beside her hearth, the
warmest bed beneath her rafters. And he,
forgetful of his home and kinsmen, sat content in
the glow of the blazing fire logs, and counted
the days till the storm should pass, the weeks
till the winter should end.
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