Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Brewing of Beer, The

GREAT preparations were now made in Louhi's home for her daughter's wedding with Ilmarinen. In distant Karjala, a part of Kalevala, was a great ox, the largest in the world. It took a weasel seven days to travel round his neck and shoulders; the swallow had to fly a whole day without resting, to get from one horn-tip to the other; the squirrel travelled thirty days, starting from the tail, before he reached the shoulders. This great ox was led by a thousand heroes to Pohjola, to Louhi's house, but when he had come thither, no one could be found to kill him.

               Then there came an aged hero from Karjala, and went up to the ox to kill him with his war-club. But the ox turned and gave him one fierce glance, and the old warrior dropped his club and ran away and hid in the forest. Then they sent forth far and near to find some one to kill the ox, but no one came. At last there arose from the sea a tiny dwarf, who, when he stepped on land, grew suddenly into a giant, with hands of iron, a copper-coloured face, a hat of flint upon his head, and sandstone shoes upon his feet. As soon as this sea-spirit saw the ox, he rushed at it and killed it with one blow of his golden sword. Thus was the meat provided for the feast.

               The banquet-hall was so large that when a dog barked at one door no one could hear him at the opposite side, and when a cock crowed on the roof no one on the ground could hear him. Louhi went in thither, to see that all was being put in readiness, but while she was there she said aloud as if to herself: 'Whence will I get the liquor for my guests, for I know nothing of the secret of beer-brewing?'

               An old man was sitting beside the fire, and he answered her: 'Beer comes from barley, hops, and water. The seed of the hops were scattered loosely over the earth, and from them arose the graceful hop-vine, climbing over everything. The barley was planted in the land of Kalevala, and it grew and flourished there.

               'Then the hops, clinging to the trees, began to hum, and the barley and the water in the wells to sing, saying: "Let us join our forces together, that we may live united, for that is far better than to be separated as we now are." So the ancient maiden Osmotar took six golden grains of barley, seven hops, and seven cups of water, and set them in a caldron on the fire. There she let them steep and boil during the warm summer days, and at length poured off the liquor into tubs made of birch-wood. Now she pondered long how she should make the liquor ferment and cause it to foam and sparkle.

               'Then Osmotar called one of the Kalevala maidens and bade her step into the birchen tub. The maiden did so, and on looking around she saw a splinter of wood lying on the bottom. She picked it up, thinking it was worthless, but nevertheless she took it to Osmotar. Osmotar rubbed her hands upon her knees and turned the bit of wood into a white squirrel. As soon as she had made the squirrel, she sent it off to Tapio's kingdom, to the great forest, and commanded it to bring her cones from the magic fir-trees and young shoots from the magic pines. And the squirrel hurried off and travelled through the forest until it came to Tapio's home. There it found three magic pine-trees growing, and three fir-trees beside them, and having taken the young shoots and the cones and stowed them in its pouch, it came back again to Osmotar. But when she put the cones and pine-shoots into the beer, it still refused to ferment.

               'So Osmotar made the Kalevala maiden get into the birchen tub once more, and this time the maiden found a chip upon the bottom. When she took it to Osmotar, the latter rubbed her hands upon her knees again, and turned the chip into a magic golden-breasted marten. Then she sent the marten off to the dens of the mountain bears, to gather the foam from their angry lips as they fought with one another. The marten flew away, and soon returned with the foam that it had gathered from the mouths of the raging bears. But when Osmotar added it to the liquor there was no effect, and the beer remained as still as ever.

               'For a third time, then, the maid of Kalevala stepped into the tub, and this time found a pod on the bottom. Osmotar took the pod and rubbed it between her hands and knees, and there flew out of it a honeybee. She sent the bee off to the Islands of the Sea, telling it to go to a meadow there, where a maiden lay asleep, and growing by the maiden's side there were honey-grasses and fragrant flowers. From these the bee was to collect the honey and bring it back. The bee flew off straight over the ocean, and on the evening of the third day reached the Isles of the Sea, where it found the maiden fast asleep amongst the flowers, clad in a silver robe, with a girdle of copper. By her grew the loveliest and sweetest of flowers and grasses, and the bee loaded itself down with their honey and returned to Osmotar with it. This time, when the honey was placed in the beer it began to ferment and rise and bubble and foam until it filled all the tubs and ran over on the sands.

               'When the beer was ready, all the heroes of Kalevala came to drink it, and Lemminkainen drank so much that he became intoxicated. But Osmotar, now that she had made the beer, did not know how to keep it, for it was still running out of the tubs and over everything. While she was sitting and grieving over this, the robin sang to her from an aspen, and told her to put it into strong oaken barrels bound with copper hoops, and thus the last difficulty was overcome.

               'Thus was beer first brewed from hops and barley,' continued the old man, 'and the beer of Kalevala is famed to strengthen the feeble, to cheer the sad, to make the old young, and the timid brave. It makes the heart joyful and puts wise sayings on the tongue, but the fool it makes still more foolish.'

               Thus the old man ended his account of the origin of beer, and Louhi, who had listened to him carefully, took all the tubs she had and put hops and barley in them, and water on top, and then lit huge fires to heat stones, that she might drop them in the mixture and make it boil. She made such a great quantity of beer that the springs were emptied and the forests grew small, and such a vast column of smoke went up as filled half of Pohjola and was seen even in distant Karjala and Lemminkainen's home. And all the people there thought it arose from some mighty battle between great heroes. But Lemminkainen pondered over it, and at last he found out that it was the fires for Louhi's beer-making for the wedding feast, and he grew bitterly angry, for Louhi had refused him her daughter's hand, and now had given her to Ilmarinen.

               But now the beer was ready and was stored away in casks hooped with copper, and thousands of delicate dishes were made ready for the feast. But when all was nearly ready the beer began to grow impatient in its casks, and cried out for the guests to come that songs might be sung in its honour. So Louhi sent first for a pike and a salmon to sing its praises, but they could not do it. Next she sent for a boy, but the boy was too ignorant to sing the praises of the beer, and all this time the beer was calling out more and more loudly from its prison. Then Louhi determined to invite the guests at once, lest the beer should break forth from the casks.

               So she called one of her servants and said to her: 'Go, my trusted servant, and call together all the Pohjola people to the banquet. Go out into the highways too, and bring in all the poor and blind and cripples, the old and the young, that they may be merry at my daughter's wedding. And ask all the people of Karjala and the ancient Wainamoinen, but be sure thou dost not invite wild Lemminkainen.' At this the servant asked why she was not to ask Lemminkainen, and Louhi answered: 'Lemminkainen must not come, for he loves war and strife, and would bring disturbance and sorrow to our feast, and scoff at our maidens.'

               And the servant, having learned from Louhi how she should recognise Lemminkainen, set off and invited rich and poor, old and young, the deaf, the blind, and the cripples in all Pohjola and Karjala, but did not ask Lemminkainen.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Brewing of Beer, The
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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