Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Ilmarinen Forges the Sampo

NO SOONER was Wainamoinen cured of his wound than he put his sledge in order and drove off at lightning speed towards Kalevala. For three days he journeyed over hills and valleys, over marshes and meadows, and on the evening of the third day he reached the land of Kalevala once again.

               There, on the border line he halted, and began a magic song. And as he sang a fir-tree began to grow from the earth, and kept on growing until its top had grown up above the clouds and reached to the stars. When the tree had finished growing, Wainamoinen sang another magic song, so that the moon was caught fast in the tree's branches and obliged to shine there until Wainamoinen should reverse his spell. And then by another spell he made the stars of the Great Bear fast in the tree-top, and then jumped into his sledge and drove on again to his home, with his cap set awry on his head, mourning because he had promised to send Ilmarinen back to the Northland, to forge the magic Sampo as his ransom.

               As he drove on he came to Ilmarinen's smithy, and he stopped and went in to him. Ilmarinen welcomed him and asked where he had been so long, and what had happened to him.

               Then Wainamoinen told him of his journey to the Northland, and all the dangers he had gone through, and he added: 'In a village there I saw a maiden, who is the fairest in all the Northland. All there sing her praises, for her forehead shines like the rainbow and her face is fair as the golden moonlight. She is more beautiful than the sun and all the stars together, but she will not marry any suitor. But do thou go, dear Ilmarinen, and see her wondrous beauty; forge the magic Sampo for her mother and then thou shalt win this lovely maiden to be thy wife.'

               But Ilmarinen replied: 'O cunning Wainamoinen, I know that thou hast promised me as a ransom for thyself. But I will never go to that gloomy country, nor do I care for thy beautiful maiden; I will not go for all the maids in Pohjola.'

               Wainamoinen answered: 'But I can tell thee of still greater wonders, for I have seen a giant fir-tree growing on the border of our own country; its top is higher than the clouds, and in its branches shine the moon and the Great Bear.'

               'I will not believe thy wonderful story,' replied Ilmarinen, 'until I see the tree with my own eyes and the moon and stars shining in it.'

               'Come with me,' said Wainamoinen, 'and I will show thee that I speak the truth.' So off they set to see the wondrous tree. When they had come to it Wainamoinen asked Ilmarinen to climb the tree and to bring down the moon and stars, and he at once began to climb up towards them.

               But, while he was climbing, the fir-tree spoke to him, saying: 'Foolish hero, why hast thou so little knowledge as to try to steal the moon from my branches?' No sooner had the tree said these words to Ilmarinen, than Wainamoinen sang a magic spell, calling up a great storm-wind, and saying to it: 'O storm-wind, take Ilmarinen and carry him in thy airy vessel to the dark and dismal Northland.'

               And the storm-wind came and heaped up the clouds so that they formed a boat, and seizing Ilmarinen from the tree it placed him in the clouds and rushed off to the north, carrying clouds and all with it. On and on he sailed, rising higher than the moon, tossed about by the wind, until at last he came to the Northland and the storm-wind set him down in Louhi's courtyard.

               Old toothless Louhi saw him as he alighted, and asked him: 'Who art thou that comest through the air, riding on the storm-wind? Hast thou ever met the great smith Ilmarinen, for I have long been waiting for him to come and forge the magic Sampo for me.'

               'I do indeed know him well,' he replied, 'for I myself am Ilmarinen.'

               At these words Louhi hurried into the house and told her youngest daughter to dress herself in all her most splendid clothes and ornaments, for Ilmarinen was come to make the Sampo for them. So the maiden chose her loveliest silken dresses, and placed a circlet of copper round her brow, a golden girdle round her waist, and pearls about her neck, and in her hair she twisted threads of gold and silver. When she was dressed she looked, with her rosy red cheeks and bright sparkling eyes, more lovely than any other maiden in all the Northland, and then she hurried to the hall to meet Ilmarinen.

               Louhi went to Ilmarinen and led him into the house, where there was a feast spread ready for him. She gave him the best seat at the table, and the choicest viands to eat, and gave him everything he wished for. Then she asked him if he would forge the Sampo for her, and promised him, if he would, her fairest daughter as his wife.

               Ilmarinen was charmed with her daughter's beauty, and he promised to do what she asked. But when he went to look for a place to work in, he could find no place, and not even so much as a pair of bellows to blow his fire with. Still he was not discouraged, but for three days he wandered about, looking for a place to build a workshop. On the evening of the third day he saw a huge rock that was suited for his purpose, and there he began to build. The first day he built the chimney and started a fire; the second day he made his bellows and put them in place; the third day he finished his furnace, and had all ready to begin his work.

               Then Ilmarinen made a magic mixture of certain metals and put them in the bottom of the furnace. And he hired some of Louhi's men to work the bellows and keep putting fuel on the fire. Three long summer days the workmen blew the bellows, until at length the base rock began to blossom in flames from the magic heat.

               On the evening of the first day Ilmarinen bent over the furnace and took out a magic bow. It gleamed like the moon, had a shaft of copper and tips of silver, and was the most wonderful bow that had ever been made. But it would not rest satisfied unless it killed a warrior every day, and two on feast-days. So Ilmarinen broke it into pieces and threw them back into the furnace, and tried again to forge the Sampo.

               On the evening of the second day he looked into the furnace and drew forth a magic vessel. It was all purple, save the ribs that were of gold and the vase of copper, and it was the most beautiful vessel that ever had been made. But wherever it went it always led men into quarrels and fights, so Ilmarinen broke it into pieces and threw it back into the furnace.

               On the evening of the third day he took out of the furnace a magic heifer, with horns of gold and the most beautifully-shaped head. But she was ill-tempered and would not stay at home, but rushed through the forest and swamps and wasted all her milk on the ground. So Ilmarinen cut the magic heifer in pieces and threw them back into the furnace.

               And on the fourth evening he took out a wonderful plough, the ploughshare of gold and the handles of silver and the beam of copper. But it ploughed up fields of barley and the richest meadows, so Ilmarinen threw it back into the furnace.

               Then he drove away all his workmen, and by his magic called up the storm-winds to blow his bellows. They came from the North and South and East and West, and they blew one day and then another and then a third, until the fire leapt out through the windows, the sparks flew from the door, and the smoke rose up and mingled with the clouds. And on the third evening Ilmarinen looked into the furnace and beheld the magic Sampo growing there. Quickly he took it out and placed it on his anvil, and taking a huge hammer the wonderful smith forged the luck-bringing Sampo. From one side it grinds out flour, and from the other salt, and from the third it coins out money. And the lid is all the colours of the rainbow, and as it rocks back and forth it grinds one measure for the day, and one for the market and one for the storehouse.

               Then old Louhi joyfully took the luck-bringing Sampo and hid it in the hills of Lapland. She bound it with nine great locks, and by her witchcraft made three roots grow all around it, two deep beneath the mountains and one beneath the seashore.

               And when he had finished the Sampo, Ilmarinen came to the lovely daughter of Louhi and asked her if she were ready now to be his wife. But she replied: 'If I should go with thee, and leave the Northland, all the birds would cease to sing. No, never while I live will I give up my maiden freedom, lest all the birds should leave the forest and the mermaids leave the waters.'

               So Ilmarinen had made the Sampo all in vain, and he was now far from home and had no way of returning. But Louhi came to him and asked him why he was grieving, and when she learned his trouble, and that he now wished to return to his own home, she provided him with a boat of copper. And when he had set sail she sent the north wind to carry him on his way, and on the evening of the third day he reached his home.

               There Wainamoinen met him and asked if he had forged the magic Sampo. 'Yes,' replied Ilmarinen, 'I have forged the Sampo, with its lid of many colours. Louhi has the wondrous Sampo, but I have lost the beauteous maiden.'

               'Ah!' said little Mimi, 'old Louhi's daughter was just as mean as could be, and of course she didn't keep her promise, because Lapps never can be good people.'

               'Don't be too hard on the poor Lapps, my dear,' said Father Mikko, 'for you see this happened a great many hundreds of years ago, and the whole world has grown better since then. But now we will leave Ilmarinen and Wainamoinen for a while, and I will tell you about the reckless Lemminkainen and his adventures.'

               So the old man began as follows:

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Ilmarinen Forges the Sampo
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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