Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Aino's Fate

THE next morning the lovely Aino went early to the forest to gather birch shoots and tassels. After she had finished gathering them she hastened off towards home, but as she was going along the path near the border of the woods she met Wainamoinen, who began thus:

               'Aino, fairest maid of the north, do not wear thy gold and pearls for others, but only for me; wear for me alone thy golden tresses.'

               'Not for thee,' Aino replied, 'nor for others either, will I wear my jewels. I need them no longer; I would rather wear the plainest clothing and live upon a crust of bread, if only I might live for ever with my mother.'

               And as she said this she tore off her jewels and the ribbons from her hair, and threw them from her into the bushes, and then she hurried home, weeping. At the door of the dairy sat her mother, skimming milk. When she saw Aino weeping she asked her what it was that troubled her. Aino, in reply, told her all that had happened in the forest, and how she had thrown away from her all her ornaments.

               Her mother, to comfort her, told her to go to a hill-top near by and open the storehouse there, and there in the largest room, in the largest box in that room, she would find six golden girdles and seven rainbow-tinted dresses, made by the daughters of the Moon and of the Sun. 'When I was young,' her mother said, 'I was out upon the hills one day seeking berries. And by chance I overheard the daughters of the Sun and Moon as they were weaving and spinning upon the borders of the clouds above the fir-forest. I went nearer to them, and crept up on a hill within speaking distance of them. Then I began to beseech them, saying: "Give some of your silver, lovely daughters of the Moon, to a poor but worthy maid; and I beg you, daughters of the Sun, give me some of your gold." And then the Moon's daughters gave me silver from their treasure, and the Sun's daughters gave me gold that I might adorn my hair and forehead. I hastened joyfully home with my treasures to my mother's house, and for three days I wore them. Then I took them off and laid them in boxes, and I have never seen them since. But now, my daughter, go and adorn thyself with gold and silk ribbons; put a necklace of pearls around thy neck, and a golden cross upon thy bosom; dress thyself in pure white linen; put on the richest frock that is there and tie it with a belt of gold; put silk stockings on thy feet and the finest of shoes. Then come back to us that we may admire thee, for thou wilt be more beautiful than the sunlight, more lovely than the moonbeams.'

               But Aino would not be consoled, and kept on weeping. 'How happy I was in my childhood,' she sang, 'when I used to roam the fields and gather flowers, but now my heart is full of grief and all my life is filled with darkness. It would have been better for me if I had died a child;--then my mother would have wept a little, and my father and sisters and brothers mourned a little while, and then all their sorrow would have been ended.'

               Aino wept for three days more, and then her mother once more asked her why she wept so, and Aino replied: 'I weep, O mother, because thou hast promised me to the aged Wainamoinen, to be his comforter and caretaker in his old age. Far better if thou hadst sent me to the bottom of the sea, to live with the fishes and to become a mermaid and ride on the waves. This had been far better than to be an old man's slave and darling.'

               When she had said this she left her mother and hastened to the storehouse on the hill. There she opened the largest box and took off six lids, and at the bottom found six golden belts and seven silk dresses. She chose the best of all the treasures there and adorned herself like a queen, with rings and jewels and gold ornaments of every sort.

               When she was fully arrayed she left the storehouse and wandered over fields and meadows and on through the dim and gloomy fir-forest, singing as she went: 'Woe is me, poor broken-hearted Aino! My grief is so heavy that I can no longer live. I must leave this earth and go to Manala, the country of departed spirits. Father, mother, brothers, sisters, weep for me no longer, for I am going to live beneath the sea, in the lovely grottos, on a couch of sea-moss.'

               For three long weary days Aino wandered, and as the cold night came on she at last reached the seashore. There she sank down, weary, on a rock, and sat there alone in the black night, listening to the solemn music of the wind and the waves, as they sang her funeral melody. When at last the day dawned Aino beheld three water-maidens sitting on a rock by the sea. She hastened to them, weeping, and then began to take off all her ornaments and lay them carefully away. When at length she had laid all her gold and silver decorations on the ground, she took the ribbons from her hair and hung them in a tree, and then laid her silken dress over one of the branches and plunged into the sea. At a distance she saw a lovely rock of all the colours of the rainbow, shining in the golden sunlight. She swam up and climbed upon it to rest. But suddenly the rock began to sway, and with a loud crash it fell to the bottom of the sea, carrying with it the unhappy Aino. And as she sank down she sang a last sad farewell to all her dear ones at home--a song that was so sweet and mournful that the wild beasts heard it, and were so touched by it that they resolved to send a messenger to tell her parents what had happened.

               So the animals held a council, and first the bear was proposed as messenger, but they were afraid he would eat the cattle. Next came the wolf, but they feared that he might eat the sheep. Then the fox was proposed, but then he might eat the chickens. So at length the hare was chosen to bear the sad tidings, and he promised to perform his office faithfully.

               He ran like the wind, and soon reached Aino's home. There he found no one in the house, but on going to the door of the bath-cabin he found some servants there making birch brooms. They had no sooner caught sight of him than they threatened to roast him and eat him, but he replied: 'Do not think I have come hither to let you roast me. For I come with sad tidings to tell you of the flight of Aino and how she died. The rainbow-coloured stone sank with her to the bottom of the sea, and she perished, singing like a lovely song-bird. There she sleeps in the caverns at the bottom of the sea, and on the shore she has left her silken dress and all her gold and jewels.'

               When these tidings came to her mother the bitter tears poured from her eyes, and she sang, 'O all other mothers, listen: never try to force your daughters from the house they long to stay in, unto husbands whom they love not. Thus I drove away my daughter, Aino, fairest in the Northland.'

               Singing thus she sat and wept, and the tears trickled down until they reached her shoes, and began to flow out over the ground. Here they formed three little streams, which flowed on and grew larger and larger until they became roaring torrents, and in each torrent was a great waterfall. And in the midst of the waterfalls rose three huge rocky pillars, and on the rocks were three green hills, and on each of the hills was a birch-tree, and on each tree sat a cuckoo. And all three sang together. And the first one sang 'Love! O Love!' for three whole moons, mourning for the dead maiden. And the second sang 'Suitor! Suitor!' wailing six long moons for the unhappy suitor. And the third sang sadly 'Consolation! Consolation!' never ending all his life long for the comfort of the broken-hearted mother.

               Mother Stina looked at little Mimi very solemnly when this story was ended, as if she wondered whether she herself would ever need to take to heart the warning of Aino's mother. But no one said anything, and Father Mikko continued on with the next story.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Aino's Fate
Tale Author/Editor: Eivind, R.
Book Title: Finnish Legends for English Children
Book Author/Editor: Eivind, R.
Publisher: T. Fisher Unwin
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1893
Country of Origin: Finland
Classification: unclassified

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