|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 |
A DREADFUL VENGEANCE
ESIDE the door of Ilmarinen's dwelling the women of the household
were assembled. Dame Lokka, best and busiest of matrons, was
planning the evening meal. Sister Anniki, maid of the morning, was
assorting the week's washing and toying with the ribbons in her
hair. And she who had been the Maid of Beauty—she who was now the
wife and helpmate of the master Smith—was busy at the churn.
Suddenly the sound of the slave boy's whistle—the herdsman's
whistle—aroused and startled them. The sound filled the air with
its shrill but welcome music, and was echoed sharply from the hills
and the forest beyond. Again it was heard, and again and again, each
time more distinct, more persistent, less musical.
"Praise Jumala!" cried the wife and helpmate. "There is the
herdsman's horn. The cows are at home and it is milking time."
 "The slave boy has tended the cows well, I hope," said Dame Lokka.
"If he has not lost any of them he shall have a good supper
"But why does he blow so loudly?" said Anniki, holding her head.
"The sound is deafening. My ears are surely split and my head will
burst from the unearthly noise."
"Never mind, sister," said the wife and helpmate, gently,
soothingly. "That was the last blast and we shall not hear another.
Does your head ache? You shall have the first cup of milk that is
taken from Brown Bossy to-night. I myself will milk her, and I will
give it to you, warm and frothing and fit for a queen. Surely that
will heal your ear-drums, surely that will ease your throbbing
Then she called cheerily to her milkmaids: "Come, girls, the cows
are in the paddock and it is milking time! Fetch the new pails and
fetch also my milking stool. Let us get at our task before the
The milkmaids came—three young serving-girls, rosy-faced,
red-lipped, and ruddy with health. Methinks I see them even now,
tripping lightly from the doorway, each with a
cedar-wood pail, and the foremost with a three-legged stool for the
Along the garden walk, between rows of blue and yellow flowers, they
pass joyously. In their blue gowns and white aprons, their long
braided hair falling far down their backs—how handsome they are!
The wife and helpmate goes before, queenly as when men called her
the Maid of Beauty. Anniki, the sister, comes after, thirsty and
impatient for the cup of fresh and frothing milk. They walk across
the farmyard; they open the great gate into the paddock; they enter
and look around them.
"Ha! how sleek the milkers are to-night!" says the wife and
helpmate. "Their hides shine as though they had been rubbed down
with lynx-skin brushes and smoothed with lamb's wool dipped in oil."
"And how full they are!" says Anniki, the sister. "They have eaten
so much they can hardly breathe. Surely the slave boy knows where to
find the best pastures for the herd."
"Yes, and see how large their udders are!" says one of the
milkmaids. "Methinks our pails are too small to contain such
quantities of milk. The whole milk-house will be flooded."
 "But look!" suddenly cries the second milkmaid. "What ails the
yearlings? They stare at us so and their eyes glow like balls of
"Oh, I am afraid! I am afraid!" whispers the third milkmaid,
shrinking back into the shadows.
The brave mistress laughs at her fears. "It is only the light of the
setting sun shining in their eyes," she says. "Surely no harm can
come from these gentle creatures."
But sister Anniki shivers with cold and draws nearer, her cheeks
pale and her limbs trembling.
"Bring hither my stool," says the wife and helpmate, "and give me
the new pail of polished cedar. Here is Brown Bossy, patiently
waiting to give a cup of milk to Anniki. I will milk her first, and
do each of you girls choose a cow. The yearlings will not disturb
She places her stool by the side of the great brown beast; she takes
the new milk-pail in her hands; she sits down; she bends forward to
begin the milking.
Suddenly a great shout, a whoop, a scream is heard far down the
road. It is not the shouting of a lone traveller; it is not the
whooping of a home-coming ploughboy; it is not the
scream-  ing of a
frightened woman. The milkmaids hear it and are overcome with
terror. Sister Anniki turns to flee through the open gateway.
But the wife and mistress stamps her foot with anger. "How silly!"
she cries. "It is only the cry of an owl or the call of a lone wolf
in the darkening woods. Get to your milking!"
Her own hand trembles as she reaches for the teat. Quickly the
dreadful sound is repeated, deafening the ears, freezing the blood
of both mistress and maidens. It is the savage whoop of the slave
Kullervo, bidding the beasts perform the dreadful business which he
alone has planned. Instantly the broad-horned, mild-eyed creature
which has played the part of Brown Bossy becomes a huge bear, grim
and terrible; instantly all the milkers are turned to growling
beasts; instantly the bright-eyed yearlings resume their proper
forms and become fierce wolves snapping and snarling and eager for
blood. Oh, the savage uproar! Oh, the terror, brief but
The milkmaids with their white aprons and braided hair vanish like
snow-flakes in a turbulent flood of waters. The wife and helpmate,
she who erstwhile was the Maid of Beauty, is
 swept away in the
storm, is swallowed up, and naught but a blood-stained lock of hair
remains to tell of her fate. And Anniki, maid of the morning, flees
shrieking through the gateway, is seized by cruel jaws, is
devoured—no magic skill of hers availing to avert her doom.
Ah, me! that it should be my task to tell of this strange tragedy so
brief but terrible! No minstrel's song can depict that scene so
fraught with woe, so horrible to contemplate.
The maddened, hungry wolves ran out of the paddock, out of the
farmyard; the hideous bears rushed after them. They ran hither and
thither devouring every living thing. Like a destroying flood they
invaded the farmhouse, breaking down the doors, overturning the
tables and benches, filling every room with their horrid presence.
In the kitchen they found the old cook, the wench who had caused
this unheard-of disaster. She was praying to Jumala, but Jumala did
not save her. In her own chamber Dame Lokka, the best loved of
matrons, fell before the pitiless tide. Not one of the household
escaped the jaws of the furious beasts. Women and men, children,
birds and fowls, dogs and horses, all perished. Even the gardens and
 the fields were overrun and trampled into worthlessness. The once
prosperous home of Ilmarinen became in a single night an uninhabited
Ah! if only the master, Ilmarinen, had been there! But what could
even he have done in that storm so fierce, so irresistible, so
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