Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Ilmarinen's Wooing

JUST as Wainamoinen had received his answer, Ilmarinen came hurrying into the house and into the guest-room. There servants brought him honey-drink in silver pitchers, but he said: 'I will never taste the drink of Northland till I see the Rainbow-maiden. With her I will gladly drink, for I have come hither to seek her hand.' Then Louhi said to him: 'The maiden is not ready to receive thee, and thou may not woo her before thou hast ploughed the field of hissing serpents. Once the evil spirit Lempo ploughed it, but it has never been done since.'

               Ilmarinen wandered off sadly, but while he was pondering over what he should do, he saw the lovely maid herself. He went up to her and said: 'Long ago I forged the Sampo for thee, and then thou promised to become my wife. But now thy mother demands that I first plough the field of serpents before I win thee.' But the maiden comforted him, and told him how to plough the field with a plough of gold and silver and copper.

               So Ilmarinen went off and built a smithy, and placed in the furnace gold and silver and copper and iron. And from these he forged a plough, with ploughshare of gold and beam of silver and copper handles; and for himself he made boots and gloves and armour of iron; and as he worked he sang magic spells to give his work power to overcome the serpents. Then he harnessed to the plough the fire-breathing Hisi-horse, and went into the field. There were serpents of every sort, creeping and crawling over one another, and hissing horribly, but Ilmarinen cast a spell over them, and ploughed the field, so that all the snakes were buried in the furrows. And then he went to Louhi, and claimed her daughter's hand.

               But Louhi refused to let him have her daughter until he should catch the great bear of Manala, and bring him to her. So he went off to the maid again, and told her what old Louhi had demanded of him. The lovely maiden instructed him how to prepare a muzzle for the bear, forging it of steel on a rock beneath the water, at a spot where three currents met together, and the straps were to be of steel and copper mixed. And Ilmarinen made a muzzle as she had directed, and set off for Manala, the dismal Deathland. As he went he prayed to the goddess of the mists to send a fog where the great bear of Manala was, so that he might not see Ilmarinen as he approached. And the goddess sent the fog, and Ilmarinen was able to creep up to the bear and throw the magic muzzle over his head, and then to lead him to Louhi without any trouble.

               When he had brought the bear to her, he asked her again for her lovely daughter's hand. But Louhi said to him: 'Thou must perform one more task still, and then, when that is done, thou shalt have my dear daughter. Catch for me the monster-pike that lives in the river of Tuoni, but thou may not use hook, nor line, nor nets, nor boat. Hundreds have been sent to catch it, but all have died in Tuoni's dark waters.'

               And now Ilmarinen was deeply discouraged, and went off to tell the maiden of this third task, which he thought it was impossible to do. But she told him to forge an eagle in his magic furnace, and that the eagle would catch the monster-pike for him. So Ilmarinen went to work and forged an eagle in his smithy: talons of iron, beak of steel and copper. And when the eagle was entirely made from iron and copper, he mounted on its back and bade it fly away to the river of Tuoni, there to catch the monster-pike. When they had reached the bank, Ilmarinen dismounted and began to search for the pike, while the eagle hovered over the water. While Ilmarinen was searching, a huge monster rose from the depths and tried to seize him, but the eagle swooped down, and with one bite of his mighty beak, wrenched off the monster's head. Still Ilmarinen continued his search, until at last the monster-pike itself rose up to seize him. But as it came to the surface, the giant-eagle swooped down upon it, and buried its talons in the pike's flesh. Then the fish, maddened with the pain, rushed down to the deepest caverns, dragging the eagle with it until the bird had to loose its hold and soar aloft again. A second time the eagle swooped down and struck deep into the pike's shoulders; but the pike dived to the bottom again and escaped. At last the eagle made a third descent, and this time grasped the pike firmly with his beak of steel, and planted his talons firmly on the rocks, and this time he succeeded in dragging the pike from out the river.

               Then the eagle flew off with the pike to the top of a tall pine-tree, and there ate the body of his victim, leaving the head for Ilmarinen. But the eagle himself soared up into the air, up beyond the clouds, and at length disappeared behind the sun.

               Ilmarinen returned to Louhi with the pike's head and again claimed her daughter in marriage. Louhi answered him: 'Thou hast performed this last task but badly, since thou only brought me the worthless head. But still, since thou hast completed the other tasks also, I will give thee my fair daughter. Thou hast won the Maid of Beauty, to be the help and joy of all thy future life.'

               But while Ilmarinen was rejoicing in his good fortune, the aged Wainamoinen wandered sorrowfully homewards, bewailing his sad lot, thus to be compelled to live without a wife to cheer his home. 'Woe is me,' he sang, 'that I did not woo and marry in my youth, for the old men cannot hope to conquer the young ones when they go a-wooing.'

               When this story was ended, Father Mikko stopped a while to rest, and the others discussed the stories that he had just told. All were pleased that the Rainbow-maiden had chosen Ilmarinen instead of the aged Wainamoinen, and little Antero asked 'Pappa' Mikko what they had had to eat at the wedding--he was rather more deeply interested in things to eat than anything else--so Father Mikko continued, after he had rested a while.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Ilmarinen's Wooing
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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