|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 SLAVE BOY
APPY, happy Ilmarinen! With her who
had been the Maid of Beauty as queen
of his household, naught but good fortune
was his. Wherever he went, whatever he
did, he was sure to prosper. His smithy was
full of rare and beautiful things, the work of his
own skilful hands. His barns were full of
grain, barley, and wheat, hay, and soft straw for
his horses. His farmyard was full of lowing
cattle, broad-horned milk cows, fat beeves, and
sleek-coated yearlings. And his house was full
of joy, the abode of peace, the home of plenty.
Now among the servants of the hero was
a young slave whose name was Kullervo. A
worthless fellow he was, ill-favored, ill-natured,
selfish, and unkind. When any work was given
him to do he was sure to spoil it; he could not
be trusted, he seemed to be unfit for any duty.
Ilmarinen had bought him for a small price:
two old cracked kettles, three broken books,
 four dull-edged scythes, and five toothless
"It is a good price for him, more than he is
worth," said all his neighbors, for they knew
that the slave would serve him ill. "Never will
he earn the food that is given him, never will
his master have any joy from his labor."
Ilmarinen smiled and said nothing. He gave
the boy an axe and bade him cut an armload of
kindlings for the fire; but the worthless fellow
began chopping the beams of the house. He
sent him into the garden to pull up weeds; but
the worthless fellow destroyed the useful plants
and flowers and left the weeds untouched. He
sent him to pick berries in the marshes; but the
worthless fellow picked only the green fruit and
trampled upon the ripe.
"The new slave is good for nothing," said
Dame Lokka, Ilmarinen's busy mother.
"No, no!" answered his wife, the mistress of
his household. "Every man has his place in
the world, and surely there is something for
this poor fellow to do."
And so, one day when Ilmarinen was far away,
she said to the mother, "I have a mind to send
Kullervo out with the cattle. Surely he can
 drive them to the hill pastures and the marshes,
he can watch them while they graze, he can
keep them from wandering in the woods and
"Do as you like," answered Dame Lokka.
"A herdsman's task requires neither skill nor
wearying labor, and perhaps the slave will find
his proper place among the cattle in the quiet
Forthwith the wife and mistress called to the
old cook, the kitchen wench, and said "The
new slave, Kullervo, is to go with the cattle
to-day. Make haste and put up a luncheon
for him—something that will stay his hunger
in the middle of the day, for he will be far from
home and the noon sun is hot in the lonely hill
"Yes, my mistress," answered the cook, "I
will fill a basket for him with food good enough
and wholesome enough for any such slave as he.
I will bake a fresh, hot cake for him and have
it ready when he starts with the herd."
So to her task she went, chuckling and growling,
for she hated Kullervo and not without
reason. First, she rolled out the dough and
then she baked the cake. The upper half was
 of wheaten flour, the lower half was of coarse
oatmeal, and in the centre was a round black
sandstone cunningly concealed.
"He will enjoy that when he comes to it,"
laughed the wicked wench, holding her sides
and grinning with mirth.
When the cake was baked very hard and dry
she took it from the oven and rolled it in butter,
laying a slice of raw bacon around it. The she
put it in a small basket and covered it with
green oak leaves.
"He must needs have strong teeth to eat it,"
she muttered, "but it is good enough for him."
Soon Kullervo come to get his luncheon. The
cattle were waiting to be driven to the pasture,
the milk cows were lowing impatiently, the yearlings
were browsing beside the hedges.
"Here's your luncheon, you worthless fellow,"
said the old cook. "It is fresh and hot, and far
too good for such as you; keep the green leaves
over it till you're ready to eat, for the flies are
many and very bad to-day."
The slave took the basket. Although
ill-favored, his face was not wholly bad, for his
father had been a freeman and a hero. His
coat was of coarsest cloth, much patched; his
 trousers were of reindeer skin; his stockings
were of blue-dyed wool; his shoes were heavy
and serviceable. No beard was yet on his chin
or sun-browned cheeks; his eyes were blue
with shades of savagery lurking in their depths;
his uncombed hair was yellow, long, and frowzy.
With the basket on his arm he opened the
farmyard gate and shouted to the cattle. The
broad-horned oxen crowded themselves out into
the road and walked briskly but sedately down
the well-worn pathway towards their accustomed
pasture, the mild-eyed milk cows followed, and
the calves and yearlings hurried impatiently to
The wife and mistress, she who had been the
Maid of Beauty, was sitting in her chamber
counting the days that must pass before her
husband's return. She heard the tinkling of
the bells and the hoarse discordant mooing of the
beasts. She heard the shouts of the slave boy
and the trampling of the younger cattle. She
rose quickly and hurried to the door, waving
her hand to Kullervo and calling to him in
shrill, commanding tones:
"Have a care that you do your work well
to-day, young man. Drive the milkers to the
 high meadows where the grass is green and sweet.
Drive the oxen and the yearlings to the woodlands;
let them browse among the bushes and
lie down in shady places. See that you guard
them all to keep them safe from wily wolves
and lurking bears. Watch them well, and when
the day is almost done, bring them home. Woe
be to you if you leave one of them behind.
Bring them home and drive the milkers into
the paddock; then call loudly, and I will come
down with the milkmaids to milk them. Do
you hear, Kullervo?"
The slave boy growled a surly answer, and
went slouching behind the herd, shouting to
the laggers and casting stones at the browsing
THE SLAVE BOY
He drove the milk cows to the meadow pastures
where the grass was tall and green, but
the oxen and the younger cattle he allowed to
wander as they would in the open fields or the
marshy thickets. Then, at length, when all
were peacefully feeding, he sat down upon a
grassy hummock and looked around him, sad,
lonely, vindictive. The autumn sun beamed
hot upon his head, and the fresh sea breeze
fanned his face and played in his yellow hair.
 The grasshoppers chirped at his feet and the
crows scolded him harshly from the treetops.
Kullervo looked and listened, but he saw nothing
beautiful, he heard nothing musical. His heart
was filled with dismal thoughts, and he loudly
bewailed his wretched fate.
"Ah, me! ah, me! Wheresoever I go I am
still a miserable slave and hard tasks are set
for me to do. While others are happy and free
I am forced to trudge unwillingly among briars
and thorns, over hills and through marshes,
watching the tails of hateful cattle. O Jumala,
giver of good! Let the sun shine gently upon
me, a wretched slave boy; but make it scorch
and blister my master and my master's household.
Turn their boasting into grief and their
success into dire misfortune. So hear me, O
Jumala, friend of the friendless!"
The noon hour came, the sun began its downward
course. In the farmhouse the Smith's
mother, Dame Lokka, was sitting in sweet content.
On her right sat Anniki, the maid of the
morning, and on her left was Ilmarinen's wife
and mistress whom he had won in the far-off
North Land. Joy beamed in every face and
pulsed in every heart.
 The table was spread and the mid-day meal
was served—white bread fresh from the bake-oven,
choice butter and yellow cream from the
dairy, tid-bits of beef and smoked salmon.
How good was everything!
"Praise be to Jumala for all these blessings!"
said Dame Lokka, fervently.
"Praise be to Jumala!" echoed both the
Meanwhile the slave, Kullervo, was still sitting
on his lonely hummock, keeping watch
over the cattle and nursing his evil thoughts.
The crows among the pines cawed loudly; the
grasshoppers at his feet chirped mockingly.
"Wake up, sad slave boy! The day is past
the noon," croaked an old crow.
And a thrush in the thicket of bushes sang,
"O orphan boy, the luncheon hour has come!
Take the fine cake from the basket where the
old cook so kindly placed it. Eat it. Feast upon
it and forget your sorrow."
Kullervo was hungry, for his breakfast had
been light. He picked the oak leaves from the
basket and took the round buttered cake in
his hands. It was heavy, and he eyed it closely.
He turned it over and examined the under side.
 "It looks good, it smells sweet," he said.
"But the handsomest of people are sometimes
rotten at heart, and the handsomest of cakes
are sometimes unfit to be eaten."
He took his hunting knife from the sheath that
hung at his belt. It was but half a knife, the
edge nicked deeply, the point broken off. But
its temper was good, for it had been forged by
a master smith in the days when men did honest
Kullervo cut through the upper crust of the
cake, he cut through the wheaten layer at the
top; but when the knife struck the stone in
the centre it broke short off at the hilt and
only the handle remained in his grasp. The
slave looked at it, and as the blade fell to the
ground he burst out weeping.
"Oh, sorrow upon sorrow!" he moaned.
"This knife was my only friend. I had no one
to love but this iron, so true, so ready to help.
It was once my father's knife, and well it served
him in the chase and in the fight. And now it
is broken by this cake of stone which Ilmarinen's
women have given me for food."
He picked up the broken blade and tried to
fit it in the handle. It was vain; both blade and
 handle were useless. With a cry of despair he
flung them far from him; with a cry of wrath
he threw the stone-filled cake still farther, and
it fell with a thud among the bushes. Then
up flew a pair of ravens, one lighting upon a
blasted pine and one taking shelter in a grove
"Caw! caw!" cried the one in the pine.
"What can ail the wretched slave boy?"
"He is angry," answered the other. "His
mistress has treated him badly. She has given
him a stone for bread."
"It is thus that the rich feed the poor," said
the one in the pine. "But what will the slave
do about it?"
"If he is wise he will pay them well for their
cruel jest," cawed the one in the oak. "He
will seek revenge, he will have it. Caw!
Kullervo leaped up and stood upon the hummock.
He stretched out his arms and shook
his clenched fists in the face of the sky.
"Hear me, Jumala!" he cried. "O Jumala,
friend of the friendless, help me. I will have
revenge. I will pay those women well for the
sorrow they have made me feel. The slave will
 whip the master, and the master shall serve the
All the savagery that had been lurking in his
blue eyes burst forth, as lightning bursts from
the drifting clouds. He ran to the woody
thicket and broke off a long branch of hemlock
to serve him as a whip. Slashing it this way
and that, he rushed hither and thither collecting
his herd. With great ado he drove the lazy
milkers far into the savage woods. He gathered
the yearlings together and, after much shouting
and cursing, chased them into the tangled
thickets where the wild beasts had their lairs.
Out of the shady places wolves leaped up,
howling, snarling, snapping their teeth. The
bears were roused from their lurking holes and
came forth growling, their tongues lolling out.
The gentle milk cows, the timid yearlings, even
the stolid oxen, were overcome with fear. They
ran together in groups, trembling and helpless.
Instantly the wild beasts leaped upon them
with bared claws and gnashing teeth. If any
escaped the wolves, they were seized by the
bears; if any fled from the bears, they were
devoured by the wolves. The whole herd perished.
 From a safe seat in the crotch of a pine the
slave boy looked on and watched the slaughter;
and he laughed a wild, discordant, triumphant
laugh. Then, clapping his hands together and
knocking his knees against the trunk of the tree,
he began to sing. He sang a wild, strange song
of enchantment—a song he had learned from a
witch woman in the land of mists and shadows.
And as he sang, behold, a wonderful thing
occurred: all the wolves so lately feasting were
changed into sleek, fat yearlings, and all the
bears so lately gorging themselves became fine
milk cows with mild, soft eyes and pendent
The slave boy descended from the tree, still
singing, still shouting, still working the magic
spell. The beasts with one accord looked up
to him as their master. One after another,
they marched slowly and orderly out of the
marshes and out of the woods, the false milk
cows going foremost calmly chewing their cuds,
and the false yearlings gambolling behind. The
sun was now well down towards the western
hills, and the evening milking time was nigh at hand.
Homeward, over the hills and along the
well-  known pathways, the slave boy drove his herd.
With noiseless steps he ran among the beasts,
breathing words of magic, words of cunning in
"Spare not the mistress when she comes out to
milk you," he whispered to one.
"Seize the maidens when they come with
pails to milk you," he said to others.
"Seek the old cook in the kitchen and remind
her of her cake," he muttered to still another.
"Be bold, be fierce, be very hungry," he
counselled them all.
The sun was still above the hills when he
drove the herd into the farmyard. He put the
milkers inside the paddock, the yearlings following
after. Then he closed the gate without
locking it and climbed up on the fence. From
his belt he unloosed his herdsman's whistle, a
whistle carved from an ox's horn; he put it to
his lips and blew it loudly, shrilly. It was the
signal by which the mistress and her milkmaids
would know that the cows had been brought
home and were ready for the milking.
Five times—yes, six—Kullervo blew a long,
piercing blast which might have been heard
half-way across the sea. Then, as the last
 echoes died, he leaped nimbly to the ground
and ran out of the farmyard. Half crouching,
he slunk away behind hedges and bushes until
his ungainly form was lost to sight among the
evening shadows. Never more would his feet
cross the threshold of Ilmarinen's dwelling.
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