Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Unwelcome Guest, THe

THUS Lemminkainen came unbidden to Louhi's abode, but he had arrived too late for the feast. He entered the house with such a mighty tread that the floors bent under him and the walls and ceilings creaked as he advanced. Louhi's husband was seated in the guest-room, and Lemminkainen said to him: 'The same greeting to thee that thou givest to me! Are there food and beer here for a stranger and barley for a hungry steed?'

               Louhi's husband answered: 'I have never yet refused a place in my stables for a stranger's horse, and if thou wilt act honestly there is a place for thee between the iron kettles.'

               Lemminkainen said: 'When my father Lempo comes to a house as a guest, he is well received and given the place of honour. Why should I, his son, be put between the pots and kettles to be covered with soot?' With these words he walked up to the table, and taking his seat he waited to be served.

               Then Louhi said to him: 'O Lemminkainen, thou wert not invited hither, and I feel that thou bringest sorrow with thee. All our dinner was eaten and our beer drunk yesterday, and we have nothing left for thee.'

               This made Lemminkainen very angry, and he replied: 'O toothless mistress of Pohjola, thou hast managed thy feast very badly, for thou hast had delicacies of every sort for the others, who gave but trifling presents, while for me, who have sent the most of all, thou hast nothing at all after my long journey.'

               Then Louhi called up one of her meanest servants and bade her serve the guest. And there came a little short woman, who made ready a soup out of fish-bones and fish-heads and crusts of bread and turnip-stalks, and brought him the worst of the servants' beer to quench his thirst with. Lemminkainen looked into the pitchers of beer, and saw snakes and worms and lizards floating about in them. This made him furiously angry, yet he resolved to drink the beer at any rate, and then to punish them for their evil treatment of him. So he drew a fish-hook out of his magic wallet, and with it he caught all the evil creatures in the beer and killed them with his sword, and drank the beer.

               When he had done this, he turned to the host and upbraided him for his bad treatment, and finally said that as the Pohjola folk could not treat guests decently, perhaps he could purchase good beer at least. At this Louhi's husband grew angry and conjured up a little lake in the floor at Lemminkainen's feet, and bade him quench his thirst at that. But Lemminkainen conjured up a bull with gold and silver horns, that drank up all the water. Then Louhi's husband conjured up a wolf to devour the bull, but Ahti called up a rabbit to draw off the wolf's attention. Next the host conjured up a dog to eat the rabbit, but Ahti drew away the dog by means of a squirrel that he called up by his magic. At that the host made a golden marten to catch the squirrel, and Lemminkainen a scarlet-coloured fox which ate the golden marten. Next the host conjured a hen to distract the scarlet fox, and Lemminkainen made a hawk to tear the hen to pieces.

               Then old Louhi's husband cried: 'We shall never be happy here until thou art driven out, O evil Ahti,' and with these words he drew his sword and challenged Lemminkainen to combat. So Ahti drew his sword also, and when the two were measured, they found that Ahti's was the shorter by half an inch.

               Then Lemminkainen said to his host: 'Although thou hast the longer sword, yet thou shalt begin the fight.'

               After this they placed themselves in position, and the host of Pohjola began. But so powerful was Lemminkainen's magic that he only hit the walls and floor and rafters, but could not touch Ahti himself. Then Lemminkainen said sneeringly: 'What harm have the walls and rafters done, that thou shouldst cut them to pieces. But come, let us go out into the courtyard, that the hall may not be covered with blood.'

               So they went out into the yard, and there they spread out an ox-hide, and took up their places on it to continue the fight. Lemminkainen again allowed the host to begin, and the latter struck three mighty blows, but still could not harm Ahti. Then the battle began in real earnest, and the sparks flew from their swords until it seemed as if there were a sheet of flame flowing from Lemminkainen's sword and down upon the head and shoulders of his opponent. And when he saw this, Lemminkainen said: 'O thou son of Pohjola, see how thy neck is shining like the ocean at dawn.'

               The other turned without thinking, to see what it was, and quick as lightning Lemminkainen whirled his sword round his head, and with one blow cut off the host's head as easily as one cuts the top from a turnip, and the head rolled along on the ground. In the yard were hundreds of sharp stakes, and on all but one there was a human head. So Lemminkainen quickly took the host's head and stuck it on the empty stake, and then went into the house and ordered Louhi to bring him water to wash his hands, as he had just slain her husband.

               But Louhi hastened out and called in hundreds of armed warriors to avenge her husband's death. And in a very short time Lemminkainen saw that he must either flee or else be killed if he remained.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Unwelcome Guest, 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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