|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 TREE OF MAGIC
ERY early in the morning the Minstrel
rose from his couch. He opened the door
and looked out. The sun was not yet up,
but a tinge of yellow in the eastern sky
foretold the coming of brilliant day. The stars
of the Great Bear were still visible, twinkling
dimly above the pine trees. The air was sharp
and biting; the frost lay thick on the hilltops
and the barren moorland; patches of
newly formed ice glared white in the marshes.
"What a fine day for my journey!" said the Minstrel.
Presently the Graybeard's son brought the
red reindeer to the door and harnessed it to the
"You will have a fine day for your journey,"
The Graybeard helped the Minstrel into the
sledge; he wrapped the robes of fur around him
and threw over his shoulders a bearskin cloak
 that was both ample and warm. Then he
packed beneath the seat a store of food for the
long journey—eight large jars of bread and
deer meat, yes, nine great jars of toothsome
"Farewell, kind host and skilful surgeon!"
"Farewell, great guest! My blessings go ever
Thus the good-bye words were spoken. Then the
Minstrel seized the reins and cracked his
long whip. The reindeer leaped forward;
the journey was begun.
Swift as the wind the well-built sledge glided
on its course. Loudly the birchwood runners
rang upon the frozen ground, smoothly they
sped over the hoarfrost and the glistening ice.
Through fens and woodlands, across the meadows
and the moorlands, the red reindeer rushed
unwearied, never pausing to rest, never thinking
For one whole day the Minstrel held the reins
and shouted urgently to his faithful steed.
Yes, for two days and two long, silent nights he
sat in the sledge and drove onward with no
slackening of speed—so impatient was he to
reach his dear home land, to behold his own
fire-  side. The third day came, and still onward
flew the tireless reindeer. The fourth day came;
it was half gone when the Minstrel uttered a
shout so joyful that the woodlands rang with
the sound, and the wild geese in the marshes
answered it gleefully.
He shouted again and again, for now he was
among familiar scenes. Here was the forest
road which he had often travelled in his youth
and later manhood. Here was the long, rough
causeway across the treacherous fen land—he
knew it so well that it seemed like the face of a friend.
Straight ahead, only three leagues farther, the
little village of Wainola was nestling
warmly in a wooded glen close by the sea; in
that village was the snug cottage which the
Minstrel called his home; and in that cottage
was the fireside around which his friends were
sitting and bewailing his absence. What wonder
that he shouted so joyfully!
All at once, however, his joy was dimmed;
the memory of something unpleasant came
into his mind. A cloud passed over his face, and
the last shout died, half-uttered, on his lips.
The birchwood runners bumped hard on the
rough causeway. The reindeer slackened its
 speed; it seemed ready to sink in its tracks.
The Minstrel's mind was far away; it was with
the grim, gray Mistress of the Frozen Land.
For suddenly he had thought of the promise he
had given her—"I will send you Ilmarinen,
the skilfulest of smiths; he will forge the Sampo
In another hour—yes, in half that time—he
would meet Ilmarinen face to face. Would he
be able to redeem his promise?
"I am a wizard; I can do wonderful things
by magic," said the Minstrel to himself. "If
my friend, the Smith, will not be persuaded, I
will prevail upon him through other means."
Then he chuckled to the reindeer, and the
birchwood runners glided more smoothly
over the causeway.
On the farther side of the great fen there was a grove of
pine trees, and in the midst of the grove
was a green grassy space as round as the
moon and as level as the sea. At this spot the
Minstrel paused; he brought the reindeer to a
sudden stop. He leaped from the sledge and began
to draw magic circles upon the ground.
He muttered strange words which only wizards and
magicians know. He lifted his arms above
head and sang a song so weird and wild that
the pine trees shuddered and shrieked.
He ceased; and instantly in the centre of the green
space a slender twig sprang out of the ground
and grew. It grew and grew, unfolding leaves and
buds and blossoms. It grew and grew
until it became a flower-crowned tree
which seemed to pierce the clouds and sweep
the solemn sky. No one knows how tall it might have
grown. It might have grown till it touched the stars had
not the minstrel bidden it to cease expanding.
Then he sang another song quite different from the
first—a song so sweet, so persuasive, that the
wild creatures in the forest and the
fen came out of their dens and listened to it.
The white-faced moon heard, and sat herself down
among the branches of the tree of magic.
The seven stars of the Great Bear also heard;
and they came circling from the sky and began
to dance and play amid the leaves and blossoms.
Cunning, indeed, was Wainamoinen, cunning
and old; and when he saw the work of his magic,
he was pleased beyond measure. He clapped
his hands together in triumph; he leaped and
danced around the tree like one gone mad.
 Then he climbed into the sledge and sat down
upon the furry robes; he shook the long reins
and spoke gently to his steed. Slowly and
thoughtfully, as one well contented with himself,
he drove onward along the well-known pathway
that led towards the village. His sharp
gray eyes looked first this way and then that;
his ears were open to the slightest sound; all
his senses were alert.
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