Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Wainamoinen's Unlucky Journey

WAINAMOINEN made ready for a journey to the Northland, to the land of cold winters and of little sunshine, where he was to seek a wife. He saddled his swift steed, and mounting, started towards the north. On and on he went upon his magic steed, galloping over the plains of Kalevala. And when he came to the shores of the wide sea, he did not halt, but galloped on over the water without even so much as wetting a hoof of his magic courser.

               But wicked Youkahainen hated Wainamoinen for what he had done when he defeated him in magic, and so he made ready a bow of steel. He painted it with many bright colours and trimmed it with gold and silver and copper. Then he chose the strongest sinews from the stag, and at length the great bow was ready. On the back was painted a courser, at each end a colt, near the bend a sleeping maiden, near the notch a running hare. And after that he cut some arrows out of oak, put tips of sharpened copper on them, and five feathers on the end. Then he hardened the arrows and steeped them in the blood of snakes and the poison of the adder to give them magic power.

               When all was ready Youkahainen went out to wait for his enemy. For many days and nights he watched in vain, but still he did not weary, and at last one day at dawn he saw what seemed to be a black cloud on the waters. But by his magic art he knew that it was Wainamoinen on his magic steed. Then he went after his bow, but his mother stopped him and asked him whom he meant to shoot with his bow and poisoned arrows. Youkahainen replied: 'I have made this mighty bow and these poisoned arrows for the old magician Wainamoinen, that I may destroy my rival.'

               His mother reproved him, saying, 'If thou slayest Wainamoinen all our joy will vanish, all the singing and music will die with him. It is better that we have his magic music in this world than to have it all go to the underground world Manala, where the spirits of the dead dwell.'

               Youkahainen hesitated for a moment, but then envy and hatred filled his heart, and he replied: 'Even though all joy and pleasure vanish from the world, yet will I shoot this rival singer, let the end be what it will.'

               With these words he hastened out and took his stand in a thicket near the shore. He chose the three strongest arrows from his quiver, and selecting the best among these three, he laid it against the string and aimed at Wainamoinen's heart. And as he still waited for him to come nearer, he sang this incantation: 'Be elastic, bow-string mine, swiftly fly, O oaken arrow, swift as light, O poisoned arrow, to the heart of Wainamoinen. If my hand too low shall aim thee, may the gods direct thee higher. If mine eye too high shall aim thee, may the gods direct thee lower.'

               Then he let the arrow fly, but it flew over Wainamoinen's head and pierced and scattered the clouds above. Again he shot a second, but it flew too low and penetrated to the depths of the sea. Then he aimed the third, and it flew from his bow swift as lightning. Straight forward it flew, and struck the magic steed full in the shoulder so that Wainamoinen was plunged headlong into the waves. And then arose a mighty storm-wind, and the old magician was carried far out into the wide open sea.

               But Youkahainen believed that he had killed his rival, and so went home, rejoicing and singing as he went. And his mother asked him, 'Hast thou slain great Wainamoinen?' and he replied, 'I have slain old Wainamoinen. Into the salt sea he plunged headlong, and the old magician is now at the bottom of the deep.'

               But his mother replied: 'Woe to earth for what thou hast done. Joy and singing are gone for ever, for thou hast slain the great wise singer, thou hast slain the joy of Kalevala.'

               All his listeners seemed very much dissatisfied at the turn the story had taken, so Father Mikko hastened to assure them that Wainamoinen was not really dead, and then he began the next story.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Wainamoinen's Unlucky Journey
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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