|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 OLD MAN'S WOOING
RRAYED in becoming garments the
Maid of Beauty stood beside her mother.
Together they went out from their
weather-worn dwelling. They walked across
the courtyard to the dry ground beyond, and
to the heap of stones beside the seashore. The
young grass was upspringing beneath their feet.
The sunlight was beaming around them. The swallows
were flitting above them. The lonely
sea was before them, the lonelier meadows were behind.
The Mistress looked out over the water, and
then she bade her daughter look. Not far from
the land they saw the strange boat gliding. Its
gilded prow was gleaming in the sunlight; its
sails were flapping loosely on the slender mast;
and who was the sun-browned hero that stood
on the deck guiding the vessel with an oar of copper?
 "I do believe it is that old, old Minstrel from
the Land of Heroes," said the Mistress in tones
of surprise. "You surely remember him, my
daughter—how he came to us from the sea,
how he sat at our fireside, how he ate from our table!"
"Yes, mother, I remember," answered the
Maid of Beauty. "And he grew homesick, he
pined for his own fireside, he longed to return to
his kinsfolk and friends, and notwithstanding
our kindness he sang not one song during all
his stay with us."
"Just so," rejoined the aged one; "and you
surely remember the noble reindeer and the
swift sledge that I lent him, so that he might
return to his home land?"
"Certainly, mother, there are some things
that I can never forget."
"Well, my child," said the mother, "this is
surely the same great hero, the famous Wainamoinen,
the first of all minstrels. He is rich,
and no doubt his ship is filled with treasures.
If he has really come to woo you, treat him
kindly, listen to his words of honey, and answer
'Yes' to every question; for never will you have a
 "But, mother, I like him not," answered the
Maid of Beauty.
Then she turned away from the sea, weary of
looking at the approaching vessel. Her eyes
wandered to the bleak, brown meadows, and she
gazed wistfully towards the pathway which led
from the distant hills. There she beheld the
other visitor, speeding forward, drawing nearer,
and now in plain view from the spot where she
Young and proud and strong seemed this
landward comer. He was sitting in a sledge
of scarlet and driving a steed of rare swiftness.
Six cuckoos were sitting on the dashboard, all
loudly calling; and beside them were seven
bluebirds twittering blithely as birds are wont
to twitter in the joyous springtime.
"See, mother, here comes the other stranger!"
said the Maid of Beauty.
"Nay, nay, he is no stranger," answered
Dame Louhi, speaking hoarsely. "He is the
poor young Smith who forged the Sampo for
me, and his name is Ilmarinen. He brings no
gifts, he has no treasures, for his only wealth is
his little smithy. What business has he in Pohyola?"
 "Perhaps he comes to claim his wages that
are due him," modestly answered the dutiful
Then with haste the two returned into their
dwelling; they closed the door behind them;
the mother sat down in her seat beside the fire,
and the daughter resumed her weaving.
"My child," said the Mistress, "our visitors
are close at hand, they will soon be at our door.
When they come in and seat themselves beside
the hearth-stones, you must come forward and
greet them. Bring in one hand a bowl of honey,
and in the other a pitcher brimming full of reindeer's
milk. Give them to the one whom you
choose to follow. Give them to the rich and
mighty Minstrel. He will understand you and
will reward you with gold and jewels and fine
garments and other costly presents."
"But he is old and I like him not," answered
the daughter. "I care nothing for riches nor
for a man of too great wisdom. I will give the
milk and honey to the younger man, to Ilmarinen,
if in truth he has come to woo me. He
is poor, but he is handsome and strong. Once
before at your bidding I refused to go with him,
 "Foolish girl and disobedient!" cried the mother,
the red blood of anger rushing to her face.
"Why will you choose to go with that
penniless fellow—to bake his barley-cakes, to
wash his grimy clothes, to wipe the sweat from
his sooty face, to sweep his kitchen floor, to keep
his tumble-down hut in order?"
"It is my fancy," quietly answered the Maid of Beauty.
Meanwhile all of the people of Pohyola, men and
women, boys and girls, and even the barking
dogs, had run down to the waterside to watch
the coming of the little ship. Skilfully, with
his oar of copper, the Minstrel guided it straight
towards the place of landing. Gently, smoothly,
like a mother swan swimming among her cygnets
in some sheltered cove, the vessel glided into
the quiet inlet. The rope that dangled from the
prow was seized by helping hands on shore and
thrown over the mooring post. The ship trembled
as it was drawn in, it stopped, it rested in
deep water close by the shelving bank.
Without loss of time the Minstrel leaped ashore.
He made his way quickly to Dame Louhi's
well-remembered dwelling; he opened
the door and entered; he stood beneath the
 smoky rafters and received the greetings of the
grim and toothless Mistress.
"Welcome, welcome, O sweetest of singers!"
she cried. "Much have we missed you, long
have we waited for you. Now you shall sit
again at our fireside; you shall eat again at our
table; you shall rest and rejoice by the sunny
shores of Pohyola."
"I thank you for your welcome, wise queen
of the North," responded the Minstrel; "but I
cannot sit at your fireside, I cannot eat at your
table, I cannot rest by your shores until I tell
you the object of my visit, the reason for my
"Speak then, most honored friend, and I will
listen," said the cunning Mistress.
Wainamoinen bowed and smiled and thus
made known his errand: "It is for your
daughter, the Maid of Beauty, that I have
come. Three years ago I saw her sitting on a
rainbow and spinning threads of silver. I
asked her then to go with me to the Land of
Heroes, to be queen of my kitchen, to bake
my honey-cakes, to fill my cup with barley
water, to sing at my fireside. Now, I am here
to receive her answer."
 The Maid of Beauty rose from her weaving
and came towards the hearth. In one hand she
carried a bowl of honey and in the other a
yellow pitcher brimming full of reindeer's milk;
but she offered neither of these to the Minstrel.
She smiled and said, "Have you built the boat
that I required? Is it made from the splinters
of my spindle and the fragments of my shuttle?"
"I have built a boat, but not that one," answered
the Minstrel. "With the help of magic
I have constructed a vessel more wonderful than
your eyes ever saw—more beautiful than your
dreams ever pictured. It is strong to resist the
waves; it has two broad sails that it may fly
swiftly before the wind; its prow is of copper
overlaid with gold; its deck is floored with
silver; in its hold are treasures more precious
than I can tell. Will you not come and sit beside
me on the deck of this fairy vessel? Will
you not help me guide it over the trackless sea—guide
it safely to the haven of Wainola?"
"I care naught for old men," replied the
Maid of Beauty; "riches tempt me not; the
magic vessel may never reach its haven. But
wait a day, and——"
She looked up. Ilmarinen was at the door.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics