Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Louhi Attempts Revenge

LOUHI grew more and more angry and envious when she heard how prosperous and happy all the folk of Kalevala were, since the fragments of the Sampo had floated to their shore. So she pondered long in her evil heart, how she might send them sorrow and misfortune. Now just at that time the old witch Lowjatar, Tuoni's daughter, came to Louhi and asked for shelter from the storms and cold, and Louhi took her in and treated her like an honoured guest. And while Lowjatar was there, nine children were born to her, all horrible diseases, and she named them Colic, Fever, Plague, Pleurisy, Ulcer, Consumption, Gout, Sterility, and Cancer. And then Louhi's evil heart rejoiced, and she took the nine diseases and sent them into Kalevala, there to harass and kill Wainamoinen's people.

               And when the diseases came, every one in Kalevala, both young and old, fell ill of all sorts of illnesses, and Wainamoinen at first did not know whence all this evil had come. But soon by his magic power he learned that it came from the children of Tuoni's daughter, Lowjatar, and then he set to work to drive them away. First he took all those that were ill to the bath-houses, and then he brought buckets of water and heated blocks of stone until he had filled the whole room with warm steam. Then he prayed to Ukko to drive away all these diseases from them, and to send these evil spirits to Tuoni's kingdom, where they belonged.

               After Wainamoinen had prayed thus to Ukko, he took a magic balsam and rubbed it over all those that were ill, and sang magic spells over them, and then prayed once more to Ukko for success, and at length he drove out the nine diseases and saved his people from dying.

               When the nine diseases had been driven out of Kalevala, the news of Wainamoinen's victory over them came at length to the old witch Louhi, and she grew angrier than ever that her revenge had failed. But she pondered over what means of revenge she should try next, and at length she hit upon another plan. She went out into the forest and cast a magic spell upon the hugest bear in all the Northland--the great Otso [1]--and he hastened from his Pohjola home and began to kill the flocks and herds in Kalevala.

               Then Wainamoinen hastened to Ilmarinen, and bade him make a triple-pointed spear with which to kill Otso. And when the spear was ready, Wainamoinen hastened off to the forest to find the bear, singing as he went, and calling upon the forest-god Tapio and his wife to grant him success in his hunt. He had not gone far before he heard his dog bark, and hurrying up to the spot he found Otso standing facing the dog and trying to snap him up, and before the bear perceived him, Wainamoinen was able to end Otso's life with a single thrust of his magic spear.

               When Otso was dead, Wainamoinen threw the body across his shoulder and hastened off home, singing songs of rejoicing as he went. And when he reached his house there was great rejoicing, and every one came out to welcome the dead bear, addressing it as if Otso were some honoured guest come to see them. First Wainamoinen sang a song of praise to the dead Otso, and bade his people welcome him with all due honour. And then the people answered with the most extravagant expressions of pleasure and welcome and admiration for Otso, and offered him all the best things in the house, and when all this ceremony was over they took off the fur and cut the body up ready for cooking, and prepared the steaks and joints to make a grand feast.

               At length the whole of the bear was cooked, and a great feast was spread in Wainamoinen's house on golden dishes, and with sparkling beer in copper beakers. And when all were seated at the table, Wainamoinen rose and sang the story of Otso's birth and life. And this is the story which he sang: 'Long ago a maiden walked in the ether on the edges of the clouds, and as she walked she threw down wool and hair upon the waters from two boxes that she carried. The wool and hair were floated in to the shore, and there Mielikki, wife of the forest-god, found them and joined the wool and hair together by magic spells. Then she laid the bundle in a birch-bark basket and bound it in the top of the lofty pine, and there the young bear was rocked into life.

               'Otso grew quickly and became graceful in his movements, although his feet were clumsy and his ankles crooked, his mouth large and forehead broad; but he still had no teeth or claws. Then Mielikki said: "I would give thee claws and teeth, Otso, but I fear that thou wilt use them to harm people with." But Otso fell on his knees and swore that he would never harm the good. So Mielikki took the hardest knots from all the trees to make him teeth and claws, but all of them were too weak. Then she went to a magic fir that grew in Tapio's kingdom, and which had silver branches and golden cones, and from these she made Otso's claws and teeth. Thus was Otso born and reared.'

               So they feasted and made merry, and when the feast was over they all tried to see which could pull out Otso's teeth and claws, in order to preserve them for their magic power. And of all the men there only the aged Wainamoinen could draw them out. When this was done, Wainamoinen called for his kantele and bade them light torches, as it was already dark. Then he sang sweet songs and played lovely music, so that the long evening passed away like magic, and he sang of the hunter's victory and prayed to Ukko always to give good fortune to the hunters of Kalevala.

               Thus were Louhi's two first attempts at revenge unsuccessful.



[1] Otso = bear.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Louhi Attempts Revenge
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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