Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Lemminkainen and Kyllikki

LONG, long ago a son was born to Lempo, and he was named Lemminkainen, but some call him Ahti. He grew up amongst the islands and fed upon the salmon until he became a mighty man, handsome to look at and skilled in magic. But he was not as good as he was handsome--he had a wicked heart, and was more famous for his dancing than for great deeds.

               Now at the time my story begins, there lived in the Northland a beautiful maiden named Kyllikki. She was so lovely that the Sun had begged her to marry his son and come and live with them. But she refused, and when the Moon came and besought her to marry her son, and the Evening Star sought her for his son, she refused them both. And after that came suitors from all the countries round about, but the lovely Kyllikki would not marry one of them.

               When Lemminkainen heard of this, he resolved that he would win her himself. But his aged mother tried to dissuade him, telling him that the maiden was of a higher family than his own, that all the Northland women would laugh at him, and then if he should try to punish them for their laughter, that the warriors of the Northland would fall on him and kill him. But all this did not make him change his mind, and he started off for the distant Northland.

               When he came near to Kyllikki's home, all the women and maidens that saw him began to laugh at him because he looked so poor, and yet dared to try to win the fair Kyllikki's hand. When he heard them laughing, it made him so angry that he drove on without paying any attention to how he was driving, and when he came to the courtyard his sledge hit against the gate-post and broke to pieces, and threw him out into the snow.

               He rose up angrier than ever, but all those around only laughed the harder at him, and made all manner of fun of him. Then they offered him a place as a shepherd on the mountains. So Ahti became a shepherd, and spent all the days on the hills, but in the evenings he went to their dances, and when he had shown them what a skilful dancer he was, he soon became a great favourite with all the women, and they began to praise him instead of laughing at him.

               But fair Kyllikki alone would have nothing to do with him--would not even look at him in spite of all his endeavours to win her. At last she was tired out with his attentions, and told him that he had better return home, for she did not like him, and that so long as he stayed there she would not even look at him.

               Still he did not go away, but waited until a chance came to carry out his new plan. About a month after this, all the maidens were met together for a dance in a glen among the hills, and among them was Kyllikki. Suddenly Lemminkainen came galloping up in his sledge and seized the fair Kyllikki as she was dancing with the rest, placed her in his sledge, and drove off like the whirlwind, and as he flew by the frightened maidens he cried out to them: 'Never tell that I have taken Kyllikki, or I will cast a magic spell over your lovers, so that they will all leave you and go off to the wars and will never come back to dance and make merry with you.'

               But Kyllikki wept and begged Lemminkainen to give her back her freedom, saying, 'Oh, give me back my freedom, cruel Lemminkainen; let me return on foot to my grieving father and mother. If thou wilt not let me go, O Ahti, I will curse thee and will call upon my seven valiant brothers to pursue and kill thee. Once I was happy among my people, but now all my joy has gone since thou hast come to torment me, O cruel-hearted Ahti!'

               But all her words could not move Lemminkainen to release her. Then he said to her: 'Dearest maiden, fair Kyllikki, cease thy weeping and be joyful; I will never harm thee nor deceive thee. Why shouldst thou be sorrowful, for I have a lovely home and friends and riches, and thou shalt never need to labour. Do not despise me because my family is not mighty, for I have a good spear and a sharp sword, and with these I will gain greatness and power for thy sake.'

               Then Kyllikki asked him: 'O Ahti, son of Lempo, wilt thou then be to me a faithful husband; wilt thou swear to me never to go to battle nor to strife of any sort?'

               'I will swear upon my honour,' Lemminkainen replied, 'that I will never go to battle, if thou wilt promise in return never to go to dance in the village, however much thou mayst long for it.'

               So the two swore before the great Ukko, Lemminkainen promising never to go to battle, and Kyllikki that she would never go to the village dances. And then Lemminkainen rejoicing cracked his whip, and they galloped on like the wind over hills and valleys towards the plains of Kalevala.

               As they came near to Lemminkainen's home, Kyllikki saw that it looked dreary and poor, and began to weep again, but Lemminkainen comforted her, telling her that now he would build a splendid mansion for her, and so she grew cheerful once more.

               They drove up to his mother's cottage, and as they entered his mother asked him how he had fared. Ahti answered: 'I have well repaid the scorn of the Northland maidens, for I have brought the fairest of them with me in my sledge. I brought her well wrapt in bear-skins hither, to be my loving bride for ever. Beloved mother, make ready for us the best room and prepare a rich feast, that my bride may be content.'

               His mother answered: 'Praised be gracious Ukko, that hath given me a daughter. Praise Ukko, my son, that thou hast won this lovely maiden, the pride of the Northland, who is purer than the snow, more graceful than the swan, and more beautiful than the stars. Let us make our dwelling larger, and decorate the walls most beautifully in honour of thy lovely bride, the fairest maid of all creation.'

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Lemminkainen and Kyllikki
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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