|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 BRIDEGROOM'S TRIUMPH
HE short summer was ended and the days
were growing cold. The song of the
cuckoo was hushed, and the wild geese
in the inlets were huddling together and
preparing for flight. The cranberries had disappeared
from the marshes. The meadows were
purple and golden, but fast putting on their
accustomed robes of dreary brown.
In the long, low dwelling by the sea the fires
had been rekindled, for the air was crisp with
frost and the wind of the North was blowing
strong. Upon her couch the Mistress was
reclining, grim and gray, toothless and unlovely,
as of yore. Beside the hearth sat Wainamoinen,
the prince of minstrels, sad of face, but resigned
and wisely contented. And at her loom the
Maid of Beauty plied her daily task, weaving
fine blankets for winter wear, and sighing as
she looked out from her narrow window and out
upon the lonely sea and the lonelier land.
 "Will he ever come?" she murmured, half
aloud though speaking to herself; and her
mother, Dame Louhi, from her couch echoed
her words, "Will he ever come?"
Then suddenly up spoke a little child who
was sitting on the floor—a little child too young
to walk, too small to know the meaning of his
"I see an eagle coming to our house. He is
a great eagle, a beautiful eagle. With one
wing he fans the air, with the other he flaps the
sea. He is coming nearer and nearer; he is
hovering above our dwelling. Now he rests
upon our roof. He is whetting his beak. He is
looking down at our doves. Soon he will fly
right into our house. He will seize the best
one of all our birdlings—the rosiest, the whitest,
the sweetest-voiced, the shapliest. He will fly
away with her; he will carry her far, far away
into his own country, there to live with him forever."
"What does the child mean?" queried the
Mistress, rising half-way from her couch beside
the fire. "Surely, never have I heard an infant
speak in this way."
"He speaks in riddles," answered
Waina-  moinen, "yet he speaks wisdom and truth. No
doubt we shall understand him soon."
"True! true!" croaked Sakko, the earth
woman, from her snug corner beyond the hearth.
"See you not that dark cloud hovering in the
sky? It is the wing of the mighty eagle. See
you not the shadow that has fallen on our
threshold? It is the shadow of the eagle's noble
form. He is peering in. He is looking for the
birdling that is his own!"
The Minstrel rose from his seat and went
quickly to the door. He threw it wide open
and looked out. The Mistress also rose, slowly,
painfully, her stiffened joints creaking. The
Maid of Beauty rose from her loom, joyful
because her task was finished. All three looked
out through the narrow door. Before them was
the bare ground, sloping gently towards the
shore and the smooth gray surface of the little
inlet; above them was the cloud-flecked sky,
cold and cheerless, without sign of bird or other
The child on the floor laughed.
They looked a second time, and from the
meadow pathway they saw the hero coming,
even Ilmarinen the Smith, the mightiest of all
 wizards. Gaunt and tall he was, and pale and
wan from long toil and endless wanderings. His
garments were soiled and torn, his feet were bare
and scarred with wounds, his head was uncovered.
But his step was firm as the step of a
conqueror, and his eyes glowed brightly with
joy as the eyes of one who has been victorious
And on his shoulders he carried the monstrous
head of the Pike.
"Welcome, welcome, friend and brother!"
cried Wainamoinen, rushing out eagerly,
boisterously, to meet him. "Long indeed have we
waited for you."
"Welcome, welcome, hero of the later day!"
muttered Sakko, small of stature, weak of body,
wisest of earth women. "Bravely have you
proved yourself a hero, thrice bravely have you
shown your wizard power."
And Louhi, the gray Mistress, also cheerily
cried, "Welcome, welcome! You have won
the prize, Ilmarinen; your courage has been
tested, your wisdom has been tried, and now
you shall be rewarded. The duckling that I
have cherished shall be yours, to sit on your
knee, to nestle dove-like in your arms, to be the
 queen of your household, the mistress of your
But where was the Maid of Beauty? She
was not with those who stood at the door to
welcome the conquering hero. Her seat at the
fireside was empty; her place at the loom
was vacant. She was hiding in her own room,
her body all a-tremble, her face bathed in tears.
Proudly and joyfully then did the hero enter
the low-roofed dwelling.
"O Jumala!" he murmured. "O giver of
good gifts, grant thy blessing to this house!
Bless all that live beneath this roof!"
"All hail, all hail!" cried the Mistress earnestly,
but with voice cracked and broken. "Welcome
to the great large man who deigns to enter
this lowly cottage, this poor little house of wood,
this humble hut so unworthy of the presence of
one so noble!"
Then she called to her waiting-maiden, and
bade her hasten to bring a light, that all might
see the hero and be glad.
"Kindle the fattest knot of pine and fetch it
hither blazing," she said. "Fetch it quickly
that we may see the hero's eyes whether they
 are blue or grayish, whether they are green or
The waiting-maiden ran quickly to obey.
She lighted a pine-knot that was always ready,
and brought it blazing to her mistress.
"Ah! no, no!" shouted the aged wise one,
grim and gray in the flickering light. "See
how the ugly torch flares and sputters, and how
the black smoke rises in clouds above it. The
hero's face will be smutted, his eyes will be
filled with soot. Take the cheap thing away
and bring us better torches, torches made of
white wax, cleanly and beautiful."
The maiden obeyed. She brought torches of
the purest wax, white and clear, and held them
before the Mistress, before the waiting hero.
"Now I see his eyes!" cried the wise one.
"They are neither blue nor whitish. They are
not green, they are not gray; but they are
brownish like the sea-foam in the shadow of a
rock, brownish like a bulrush in the early days of
Then Ilmarinen took the head of the Great
Pike from his shoulders and set it upon the floor
by the side of the hearth. And all that were in
the house admired its size and its wonderful
 shape and the mighty teeth that were set in
the mighty jaws. But most of all, they wondered
at the manner in which the bones were
laid, this way and that, and knit firmly into a
framework both neat and strong.
"It will serve you as a throne, O mother of
my Maid of Beauty!" said Ilmarinen. "I will
dress it, and polish the bones, and make of it a
great chair wherein you can sit on winter evenings,
feeling yourself the queen of all that is around you."
Then, while food was brought to him and the
people of the household both high and low sat
round him listening, he told the story of his
adventure by the shore of Tuonela's river.
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