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Louhi Steals the Sun, the Moon, and Fire

WHEN these two dangers were overcome, Wainamoinen played upon his kantele so sweetly that the Sun and Moon came down from their stations in the sky to listen to his music. But evil Louhi crept upon them unawares and made both Sun and Moon her captives, and carried them off to the dismal Northland, and there she hid them both in caverns in the mountains, that they might never again shine upon Kalevala. Next Louhi crept back to Kalevala and stole all the fire from the hearths, and left all their homes cold and cheerless. Then there was nothing but black night in the world, and great Ukko himself did not know what to do without the light of the Sun and Moon.

               Ukko wandered all over the clouds to find out what had become of the Sun and Moon, and at last he whirled his fire-sword round his head so that the lightning flashed over the whole sky. From this lightning he kindled a little fire, and putting it in a gold and silver cradle, he gave it to the Ether-maidens to rock and care for, until it grew into a second Sun. So the Fire-child was cared for tenderly, and he grew fast; but one day the maidens were not watching him closely, and he escaped from them, and bursting through the clouds with a noise like a thunder-clap, he shot across the heavens like a red fire-ball.

               Then Wainamoinen said to Ilmarinen: 'Come, let us see what this fire is that is fallen from the heavens.' And so they set out towards the spot where the ball of fire had seemed to fall. Soon they came to a wide river and set to work to make a magic boat to cross it, and in a very short time the boat was made, and they rowed over. On the other bank they were met by the oldest of the Ether-maidens, who asked them whither they were going.

               So they told her who they were, and that they had lost all fire and light in Kalevala, so that they were come to seek the fire that they had seen fall from the heavens. Then the Ether-maiden told them what had happened, saying: 'After the Fire-child had begun to grow, he escaped from us one day and bursting through the clouds he came down to Pohjola. There he killed youths and babes and old people, until he was driven away by a magic spell. He fled thence, burning fields and forests on his way, until at length he plunged into a great lake, and made the waters boil and rage. Then the fish held a council how to get rid of him, and it was decided that one of them must swallow him. First the salmon tried, but failed, and then the bold whiting made a dash and succeeded in swallowing the evil Fire-child. After this the waters of the lake grew quiet, and all went on as before.

               'But soon the whiting was seized with terrible pains and began to swim round in agony, begging for some one to kill him and put him out of his sufferings. For a long time he swam about unheeded, but at last a trout seized the whiting and swallowed him. For a while all was quiet again, but then the trout began to suffer in his turn. Still every fish was afraid to swallow him, until a pike darted up and ate up the trout. But then the pike was seized with the same pains, and he is now swimming about in great agony, but none will help him.'

               When the Ether-maiden had finished her account of what had happened, Wainamoinen and Ilmarinen wove a great net from seaweed, and hurrying to the lake they began to draw the net all through it in order to catch the Fire-fish. But the net was a poor one, and they failed to catch the pike that had swallowed the other fish and the Fire-child.

               Then the two magicians gave up their useless net, and, choosing an island near by, they resolved to plant flax that they might make a stronger and better net. They went to Tuoni's kingdom before they could find the proper seed, and found it there under the care of a tiny insect. When they had brought the seed from the Deathland, they planted it on the shore, in the ashes of a ship that had been burnt there, and in a single night the flax had grown up and ripened. Then they pulled it, and washed and dried and combed it, and took it to the Kalevala maidens to spin. Soon the spinning was done and the net was woven.

               So the two great heroes took the flaxen net and hastened back to the lake and began to drag for the Fire-fish. But they only caught common fish, and the pike remained hidden in the deep caverns. Then Wainamoinen made the net longer and wider and they tried again, but though they caught fish of every species, the Fire-fish was not amongst them. Wainamoinen then prayed to Ahto, god of the ocean, and his wife, Wellamo, that they would drive the Fire-fish into his nets. Scarcely had Wainamoinen finished speaking, when a little dwarf rose from the waters and offered to help them. They accepted the tiny man's aid, and while they drew their nets, the dwarf beat the waters with a magic pole and scared all the fish toward them. And as they drew, Wainamoinen sang a magic charm to bring the fish in still greater numbers.

               This time the net was full of pike, and they dragged it to the shore rejoicing, and among them they found the Fire-fish. So they threw the other fish back into the water, and Wainamoinen drew his knife and began to cut up the Fire-fish. Inside of the pike he found the trout, and inside of the trout the whiting, and on opening the whiting he came upon a ball of blue yarn. Wainamoinen quickly unwound the blue ball, and within that found a red ball, and when he had opened the red ball he came to the ball of fire in the middle.

               They pondered how they should get the fire to Kalevala, and at last Ilmarinen seized it in his hands to carry it off. But it singed Wainamoinen's beard and burned Ilmarinen's hands dreadfully, and then it jumped out of their reach and rolled off over field and forest, burning everything in its course. Wainamoinen hastened after it, and at length caught it hidden in a mass of punk-wood. Then he took it and put it, wood and all, in a copper box and hastened off home. Thus the fire returned to Kalevala.

               But Ilmarinen, suffering great agony from his burnt hands, hastened to the sea to lave them in the cool water. And he called up the ice and frost and snow to come and cool his parched hands, and, when all these proved insufficient, he called on great Ukko to send him some healing balm to take away the cruel torture. And Ukko granted his prayer and his hands were healed. Then Ilmarinen returned home and rejoiced to find that Wainamoinen had already brought the fire thither.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Louhi Steals the Sun, the Moon, and Fire
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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