Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Lemminkainen's Restoration

LEMMINKAINEN'S mother began to grow uneasy at his long absence, and to fear that some trouble had befallen him. At last one day, as his wife, the fair Kyllikki, was in her room, she noticed that drops of blood had begun to flow from the bristles of Lemminkainen's hair-brush. Then she began to weep and mourn, and ran and told his mother, who came and saw the blood oozing from the brush, and cried out:

               'Woe is me, for my son, my hero, is in some terrible distress; some awful misfortune has happened to him.' Saying this she hurried off, and went straight to Louhi's house. There she asked what had become of her son, but Louhi only replied that she did not know, that he had driven off long ago in a sledge she had given him, and perhaps the wolves or bears had eaten him.

               'Thou art only telling falsehoods,' replied Lemminkainen's mother, 'for no bears or wolves can devour him; he would put them to sleep with his magic singing. Now, tell me truly, O Louhi, whither thou hast sent my son, or I will destroy all thy storehouses and even thy magic Sampo.'

               And then Louhi said that she had given him a copper boat, and he had floated off on the river; perhaps he had perished in the rapids below. But Lemminkainen's mother answered: 'Thou art still speaking falsely. Tell me the truth this time, or I will send plague and death upon thee.'

               Then Louhi answered the third time: 'I will tell thee the truth. I sent him to fetch me the Hisi-reindeer, and then after the fire-breathing horse, and last of all, after the swan that swims the death-stream, Tuoni, that he might gain the hand of my fairest daughter. He may have perished there, for he has not come back since to ask for my daughter's hand.'

               No sooner had Louhi said this than the anxious mother hurried off to hunt for her son. Over hills and valleys, through marsh and forest, and over the wide waters she went, but looked for him in vain. Then she asked the Trees if they had seen him but they answered: 'We have more than enough to think of with our own griefs. We are cut down with cruel axes and burned to death, and no one pities us.'

               So she wandered on and on, and finally she asked the Paths if they had seen her son pass by. But the Paths replied: 'Our own lives are too wretched to think of other people's sorrows. We are trodden under foot by beasts and men, and the heavy carts cut us in pieces.'

               Next she asked the Moon, but the Moon replied: 'I have trouble enough of my own. I have to wander all alone in both summer and winter nights, and have no rest.'

               Next she questioned the Sun, and he was kinder than the rest, and told her how her son had died in the gloomy river Tuoni.

               Then she hastened to Ilmarinen, the wondrous smith, and bade him make a huge rake for her out of copper, with teeth a hundred fathoms long and the handle five hundred fathoms. Ilmarinen quickly forged a magic rake, and she hurried off with it to the gloomy river Tuoni, praying as she went: 'O Sun, whom Ukko hath created, shine for me now with magic power into the kingdom of death, into dark Manala, and lull all the evil spirits there to sleep.'

               The Sun came and sat upon a birch-tree near the river of Tuoni, and shone upon the Deathland, Tuonela, until all the spirits fell asleep. Then he rose, and hovering over them, warmed them into a yet deeper slumber, and then hurried back to his place in the sky.

               Meanwhile Lemminkainen's mother had raked a long time in the coal-black river, but could find nothing. Then she waded in deeper and deeper, until she could reach into the deepest caverns with her rake. First, she found his jacket, and then the rest of his clothing; and finally, the third time she swept her rake along, it brought up Lemminkainen's body, but the hands and arms and head were still missing. Still she went on with her search, and at length all the pieces were gathered together.

               When she had laid them beside each other, in their proper positions, she began to pray to the goddess of the veins, Suonetar, and the maiden of the ether, to come and join the different parts together, and to sew up the wounds and make him whole. And then she prayed to the mighty Ukko to help them, and to heal every part that was wounded or bruised, to touch them with his magic touch, and restore Lemminkainen to life.

               And Ukko did so, and Lemminkainen lived once more, but he was still blind and deaf and dumb. But his mother considered deeply how she might restore these senses to him, and at length she called the little bee to her, and bade it go out and collect honey from the healing plants in the meadows. So the bee flew away and returned very soon laden with honey from all the healing plants, and she anointed her son with this, but it only gave him his sight, and still left him deaf and dumb.

               Again the mother sent off the bee, telling it to go across the seven oceans, and to alight on an enchanted isle in the eighth. There it would find magic honey to bring back. The bee did as it was told and found the magic honey-balm in tiny earthen vessels, and flew back with seven vessels in its arms and seven on each shoulder, all filled with the magic honey-balm. Lemminkainen's mother anointed him with this, and he could hear, but still remained speechless.

               Then the mother bade the bee fly up to the seventh heaven and to bring down from thence the honey of Ukko's wisdom, which was so abundant there. When the bee declared that it could not fly so high, she told it the way and sent it off. So the bee flew up and up, and at the end of the first day it rested on the moon. At the end of the second day it reached the shoulders of the Great Bear, and on the third day it flew over the Great Bear's head and reached the seventh heaven of Ukko. There it found three golden kettles, and in the first was a balm that gave ease to the heart, and the balm in the second gave happiness, but the balm of the third kettle gave life. So the bee took some of the life-giving balm and hastened back to earth.

               Then Lemminkainen's mother anointed him with this magic balm, speaking a magic spell as she rubbed him with it, and immediately he awoke, and his first words were: 'Truly I have been sleeping long, but yet my sleep was a sweet one, for I knew neither joy nor sorrow.'

               When his mother asked how he had gone thither and who it was that had harmed him, he told her all--how Louhi had sent him for the swan, and how old Nasshut, the blind Northland shepherd, had sent the serpent against him and killed him, for he did not know the charm to cure the sting of serpents. Then his mother upbraided him for his ignorance, and told him how the serpent was born from the marrow of the duck and the brain of swallows, mixed with Suojatar's saliva, and she told him too what the spell was to use against them. Thus his mother brought him back to life and health, and he was wiser and handsomer than ever, but still he was downhearted.

               His mother asked him the reason of this, and he replied that he was still thinking of Louhi's daughter and longing for her as his bride, but that first he must shoot the wild swan. But his mother answered: 'Do not think of the wild swan, nor yet of Louhi's daughters. Return with me to Kalevala to thy home, and thank and praise thy Maker, Ukko, that he hath saved thee, for I alone could never have saved thee from dismal Manala.'

               So Lemminkainen hastened home with his mother,--back again to his pleasant home in Kalevala.

               Every one expressed satisfaction that Lemminkainen had been restored to life--'for, you see,' said Mimi, 'though he was really a bad man, he did so many wonderful things that you just can't help wishing for him not to be killed.'

               But now it had grown quite late, nearly nine o'clock, and so they all ate their supper and then Erik and Father Mikko sat smoking and talking while Mother Stina and the little ones went into the other room to bed,--for Erik had actually two rooms in his house,--and it isn't every Finnish country cabin that has that, you know. They talked of their country, for that was the dearest subject to both of them,--they were intelligent men for their class,--and when Father Mikko told how the Russian Tsar was taking their liberties away from them, and was beginning to break all his oaths and promises and would no doubt end up by making them as badly off as the people on the south side of the Finnish Gulf--when Father Mikko related all this, Erik's eyes flashed and he longed to be able to draw the sword to defend his beloved country's liberty.

               But at last they had gone over all these things and were sleepy themselves, so they made up their beds on some sheep-skin rugs on the floor, and soon fell into a sound sleep.

               The next day it was still storming, and so Father Mikko gave up all idea of leaving that day. About three o'clock in the afternoon--it was dark as night then--they had all finished dinner and settled down around the fire as on the day before, and Father Mikko was easily persuaded to go on with his stories.

               Erik was at work on a pair of snow-shoes, just like those that Lemminkainen wore in the story of the hunt after the Hisi-deer. They were nearly finished--about six feet long and five inches wide in the broadest part, with a place in the middle to fasten them on to the feet, and the front ends were turned up. All that now remained to be done was to polish them off, and Erik worked at this while Father Mikko told his stories. The children had enough to do to watch 'Pappa' Mikko's face and listen to the wonderful tales, and Mother Stina was busy with some sewing--she couldn't spin because the noise of the wheel would have drowned Father Mikko's voice.

               'Now that we have brought Lemminkainen back from the Death-river,' the old man said, 'we will see what Wainamoinen was doing all this while.' So he began as follows:

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Lemminkainen's Restoration
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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