Finnish Legends for English Children | Annotated Tale

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Mariatta and Wainamoinen's Departure

THERE lived a fair and lovely maiden in Kalevala, called Mariatta. She was the loveliest and purest of virgins, and tended her parents' flocks upon the mountain sides. Here one day, as she was watching the sheep, she heard a voice calling to her, and on looking round she found that it was a bright red berry calling to her, and asking her to pluck it. Mariatta did not know that this was a magic berry, so she picked it and put it to her lips to eat it. But the berry rolled from her lips down into her bosom, and said to her: 'Thou shalt have a son, and he shall become a mighty man and drive forth the old magician Wainamoinen.'

               Then Mariatta took the flocks home and was so silent and still that her parents noticed it and asked her what was the matter. So she told them what had happened, but they grew angry and would not keep her in their house, for they did not believe the story about the berry.

               Poor Mariatta was now obliged to wander about without a shelter from the cold winds. At length she sent a servant, who had remained faithful to her and had accompanied her, to a village of Pohjola to ask for shelter from an old man named Ruotus. The maid, Piltti, went to Ruotus and told him of Mariatta's hard lot, but Ruotus and his wife would not have her in their house, but only grudgingly consented to let her go to a stable in the forest, where the Fire-horse of Hisi was kept.

               So Mariatta was obliged to go to the stable in the dense forest far off from every human being, and there she begged the Hisi-horse to keep her warm by his fiery breath. The Hisi-horse was kinder to her than men had been, for he let her lie down comfortably in his manger, and kept her warm with his fiery breath. There the babe was born, and his mother grew happy once more, in spite of her sorrowful circumstances. But one night, while she slept, the babe disappeared, and the poor mother was overwhelmed with grief.

               Then she wandered forth and looked everywhere for him, but in vain. So she asked the North-star if he had seen her son. But the North-star answered: 'I would not tell thee even if I knew. For it is thy son who hath made me and set me here in the bitter cold.' And next Mariatta asked the Moon, and received the same answer as the North-star had given. Then she went to the Sun and asked him. And the Sun said: 'I know very well where thy son is hidden, for he made me and put me here to shine with my silver light. He lies sleeping yonder in the Swampland.' So Mariatta hastened to the spot that the Sun had pointed out and there found her babe sleeping peacefully in the water among the rushes.

               Then she returned with the babe to her father's house, and this time he received her and allowed her to live there in peace. And the child grew in beauty and wisdom, and his mother called him Flower, but others called him Son-of-Sorrow. Then his mother called in an old man, Wirokannas, to baptize the child, but Wirokannas said: 'First must some one see if the child shall become an honest man, or a wicked wizard, for if he be not honest I will not baptize him.'

               So Wainamoinen was called to examine the child--it was only two weeks old then--and see if it would grow up a noble man or not. Wainamoinen came and saw the child, and then said: 'Since this child is only a poor outcast, born in a manger, and having no father save a berry, let him be cast out on to the hillsides or into the marshes to perish.'

               But all at once the babe himself began to speak, saying: 'O aged Wainamoinen, foolish hero, thou hast given a false decision. Thou thyself hast done great wrongs, yet hast not been punished. Thou gavest thine own brother Ilmarinen to ransom thy poor life. Thou persecuted the lovely Aino so that she perished in the deep sea, yet thou wert not killed for all this.'

               Then Wirokannas saw that this was truly a magic babe, and he baptized him to become a mighty hero, and a ruler and king over Kalevala.

               Years passed by after this, and Wainamoinen felt his power gradually leaving him and going over to Mariatta's child. So the ancient hero, with a sad heart, sang his last magic spell in Kalevala, and made a magic boat of copper to sail away in. Then he cast loose from the shore and sailed off towards the west, singing as he went: 'Fare ye well, my people. Many suns shall rise and set on Kalevala until the people shall at length regret my absence and shall call upon me to come back with my magic songs and wisdom. Fare ye well.'

               Thus Wainamoinen, in his magic boat of copper, left Kalevala. On he sailed to the land of the setting sun, and at length he reached the haven and anchored his boat, never again to return to Kalevala. But the wondrous kantele and all his songs and wisdom remain among us to this day.

               'And now,' said Father Mikko, 'I have told you my last story--old Wainamoinen has left Kalevala and the rule of the Christ-child has begun. Under it our land has advanced and grown comfortable and happy--let us only pray that we may never be less so.'

               They were all silent for some time, and then all of them thanked Father Mikko heartily for the pleasure that he had given them. Soon after this they had supper and went to bed, and the next morning Father Mikko drove off in his sledge, the moonlight covering all the country with a flood of silver, and soon he had disappeared into the dark and silent fir-forest; but not before he had promised them all that he would stop there again next year if possible.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Mariatta and Wainamoinen's Departure
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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