Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Lemminkainen's Death

FOR a long time Lemminkainen sat considering whether he should give up the chase and return to Kalevala, or still keep on after the Hisi-reindeer. At length he regained hope and courage, and having sung an incantation that made his snow-shoes and arrows and staff whole again, he started off once more.

               This time he turned his steps to the home of Tapio, the god of the forest, and as he went he began to sing wondrous songs to Tapio and his wife Mielikki, begging them to help him, and promising them great stores of gold and silver if they would do so.

               At last he arrived at Tapio's palace, which had window-frames of gold, and the palace itself was of ivory. And within it Mielikki and her daughters were dressed in golden garments, and wore gold and gems in their hair, and pearls round their necks. And they all promised to help Lemminkainen, and went off to drive the reindeer up to the palace so that he might catch it. Nor had he long to wait before whole troops of reindeer came flocking into the palace courtyard, and Lemminkainen saw among them the Hisi-deer, and caught it.

eath                Then Lemminkainen sang a song of triumph, and having paid to Tapio's wife, Mielikki, the gold and silver he had promised, he hastened off with the reindeer to Louhi's home. But when he gave the Hisi-deer to her, she said: 'I will give thee my fairest daughter if thou wilt catch and bridle for me the fiery Hisi-horse, that breathes smoke and fire from his mouth and nostrils.'

               So Lemminkainen went off, taking with him a golden bridle to put on the horse. For three days he wandered without catching sight of the Hisi-horse, but on the third day he climbed to the top of a very high mountain, and from thence he spied the steed on the plain amongst the fir-trees, breathing smoke and flames from his mouth and nostrils and eyes.

               When Lemminkainen saw him he prayed to great Ukko to send a shower of icy hail upon the fiery Hisi-steed, and presently a great shower of hail rained down, and every hailstone was larger than a man's head. After the hail was over, Lemminkainen came up to the fiery horse and coaxed him to let the golden bridle be slipped over his head. Then off they went like the wind, the horse obeying Lemminkainen perfectly, and in a very short time they arrived at Louhi's house. When he had given the Hisi-horse to Louhi, Lemminkainen asked again for the hand of her fairest daughter. But Louhi told him she would not give him her daughter until he had killed the swan that swam on Tuoni's river, which flows between the land of the living and the dead.

               Then Lemminkainen started off fearlessly to seek the graceful swan of Tuoni, and journeyed on and on until at length he came to the coal-black river. There the old shepherd of Pohjola, Nasshut, was waiting for him, and, though blind, he heard Lemminkainen's footsteps, and sent a serpent from the death-river to meet him. The serpent stung Lemminkainen just over the heart, so that he fell down dead almost instantly, only having time to call upon his ancient mother to help him.

               And Nasshut cast his body into the dismal river Tuoni, where it was washed down through the rapids to the Deathland, Tuonela. There the son of the ruler of the Deathland took the body, and cutting it into five portions, cast them back into the stream, saying: 'Swim there now, O Lemminkainen! float for ever in this river, so that thou mayst hunt the wild swan at thy leisure.'

               And thus the handsome Lemminkainen died, and was cast into the river of Tuoni, that flows along the Deathland.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Lemminkainen's Death
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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