|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 HERO'S RETURN
T was midwinter in Wainola, and the shortest
day of the year. The sun had not been
able to rise above the horizon and short was
the interval between night and night. The
North Wind came hurtling over the sea, carrying
the storm spirit in his arms. He buried the
earth in snow and filled the air with blinding
frost. He roared on the hill-tops, and shrieked
in the tree-tops, and threatened to overwhelm
everything that stood in his way.
But, safely sheltered in their low-roofed dwellings,
the villagers thought but little of the turmoil
out-of-doors. They sat gossiping and nodding
beside their cheerful hearth-fires, and were
glad that their lives had been cast in the pleasant
Land of Heroes. To sleep, to eat, to rejoice
together in the hour that was their own—this, to
them, was the sum of all happiness—and this,
too, is wisdom.
Suddenly, far down the snow-drifted road, a
 sound was heard which was not the noise of the
wind, a cry was heard which was not the voice
of the storm spirit. It was repeated again and
again, each time a little nearer. Men heard it
and ran to their doors to look out and listen.
Women left off their knitting, they forgot their
baking, and peered out wonderingly, into the
gloomy twilight. Again the call was heard. It
was the call of a human voice; but by whom
was it uttered? Was it the cry of a stranger,
or was it the shout of a home-coming hero?
Presently, some of the watchers saw in the
distance a dim figure battling with the storm,
struggling through the heaped-up snowdrifts.
Friend or stranger, it mattered not, this man
needed help. A dozen heroes ran forward to
save him, a dozen strong arms were stretched
out to succor him—and lo! to the wonder and
joy of all, they perceived that it was Wainamoinen,
their honored neighbor, their best-loved
countryman. His face was haggard and worn,
and his body was bent with weariness from long
journeying and much buffeting with the storm.
"O sweetest of singers! Is this indeed you?"
cried his rescuing friends.
He could answer them not a word, so feeble
 had he become; his eyes grew suddenly dim,
and he fainted away in their arms.
They lifted him gently; they carried him to
Ilmarinen's dwelling and laid him on his own
bed. There the master Smith and his mother,
Dame Lokka, did all that they could for his
comfort. They covered him with soft robes,
they wrapped his half-frozen feet in warm
flannels and chafed his icy hands between their
own cheer-giving palms. Then, as he gradually
came to himself, the good matron brought him
that which would satisfy his hunger. She fed
him warm milk of the reindeer, food most
nourishing; soups and gruels she also gave him till
his strength revived. All this and more did
these kind people do for the returning hero—gave
him rest and quiet, asking no questions,
saying nothing, suffering no one to disturb him.
On the third day the poor man rose and sat in
his old accustomed seat by the fire—he seemed
quite well and strong. Then the neighbors
flocked in to see him. They came by twos and
threes—men, women, and children—and each
one brought him some gift to cheer him in his
"Why did you leave us, O best of singers?"
 they asked. "We have missed you sadly, and
great was our fear that we should never see you again."
"O my friends," answered the hero, "it is
only through Jumala's goodness that I am here!
For surely I have been in dreadful places, I
have seen dreadful sights, I have suffered dreadful hardships."
"Tell us about it," cried both men and
women. "Tell us of your dreadful places in
which you have been. It will ease your mind
and make you stronger."
"My friends," then answered the Minstrel,
"I have been to the land of Tuonela. Oh,
whisper not that name, breathe it not to your
children or to one another! For it is a land
indescribable, full of terrors, full of fearful
creatures. Many heroes have gone unwittingly to
Tuoni's kingdom, but none have ever returned.
O my friends, pray now to Jumala, the almighty!
Pray that the day may be far away
when you shall cross the dark river into that
He could say no more. His friendly neighbors
saw how sadly the memory of his journey
distressed him, and they asked no more questions.
 They talked of the storm, of their household
affairs, of their children, of Ilmarinen's latest
work in smithing; and all thoughts of the dark
river and Tuoni's kingdom were banished from their minds.
Days passed, and strength returned to the
hero minstrel. Soon all his ancient courage
came to him again, and the happy habits of
by-gone days were resumed. Again he sat with
the master Smith through the evening hours,
and pleasantly discussed the charms of the Maid
of Beauty; again in every dwelling he was a
welcome visitor, and his voice was heard
singing the sweet songs of the older times; and
again the children of the village clustered round
him to listen to his words of wisdom and to be
taught the lore of the ancients.
"Now, every child of Hero Land, listen to
me," he would say. "Here are five rules for you
to remember—yes, six which you must write
down in your hearts and never, no, never, forget:
Honor father, honor mother;
Kindly bear with one another;
Help the helpless, cheer the friendless;
Let your deeds of love be endless;
Cheat your trusting neighbors never;
Speak the truth, and speak it ever.
 Obey these rules, my children, and you will be
happy. And when the time comes for you to
cross the dark river you need have no fears of
King Tuoni, for messengers of light will lead
you into the valley of rest prepared for the
good and the true. Pray earnestly to Jumala
to help you."
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