Sampo - James Baldwin

The Friendly Rivals

Northward, northward, along the low-lying seashore, Ilmarinen pursued his course, never pausing, never faltering. All night long he travelled in the moonlight and the starlight. All day, from dawn till evening twilight, his brave gray racer flew over the half-frozen earth; and the cuckoos chattered on the dashboard, and the bluebirds sang their sweetest songs. For two short nights and one long day the journey was continued with never slackening speed. Then, as the sun was rising on the second morning, the hero looked out toward the gray sea, and what did he behold?

Quite close to shore, so close that Ilmarinen might have thrown a stone upon its deck, a little ship was becalmed in the smooth waters. Its prow was like gold, its deck was plated with silver, and its sails were of rainbow colors. The Smith drew hard upon the reins; his racer ceased speeding, and the sledge runners grated on the beach. A pause was made in the journey.

"Hail, ho!" shouted Ilmarinen.

The captain of the fairy vessel looked up. His eyes were full of wonder and his face grew sour with vexation.

"Hail, ho!" he answered; but there was no heartiness in his tones, the words labored in his mouth before they could escape from his lips, they fell coldly, like ice on a stormy shore.

"Whither are you sailing, brave Minstrel?" asked the Smith kindly, but with a sense of victory.

The Minstrel was overcome with surprise. The winds would not serve him, the waves would not waft him away from the shore. He felt that he was at the mercy of his pursuer. All his magic would not avail him. So he dissembled his feelings and with his tongue made glad answer while his heart was burning with disappointment.

"O my dearest friend and brother, how happy I am to see you! I have long been thinking of you, wishing for you; and fain would I have you as my companion to sail with me up and down this pleasant coast. Leave now your sledge and your travel-worn steed and come hither and sit by me on the deck of this fairy little vessel. The voyage back to Wainola will be as pleasant as a summer holiday."

"Never will I sail in your enchanted vessel," answered the Smith half angrily, and he rose in his sledge and shook the furry robes from his shoulders.

"Ah, Ilmarinen, prince of wizards," said the Minstrel, still flattering, still dissembling, "how like a prince you appear! Whither are you journeying so gayly, so fleetly, so like a bridegroom going to his wedding?"

"You know where I am going," said Ilmarinen. "All your cunning is in vain, friend Wainamoinen. All your magic shall come to naught, for you shall never steal the Maid of Beauty from her home land, never put her in your magic vessel, never carry her over the treacherous sea."

The Minstrel saw now that he was beaten; he felt that all his secret plans had been discovered, and so he concealed his bitter feelings while he acknowledged defeat. "Wisest of smiths," he said, "we are friends and brothers, and therefore we must not fall out and quarrel. Let us still be lovers as of old. I assure you, I swear to you, I will do nothing to offend you. Ride on and woo the Maid of Beauty, and I will return alone to our dear home in the Land of Heroes."

The heart of the Smith was touched by the generosity of his friend. He felt that he must not be less generous, and in an instant all his anger vanished.

"O brother, tried and true!" he answered, "I know the thoughts of your heart, I know your great ambition. Let us agree each to woo this maiden honorably as a man and a hero would woo her. Let her freely choose one of us, or let her a second time refuse us both. Do you agree to this, my elder brother?"

"Truly, I do," said the Minstrel heartily. "I promise—yes, I swear to you that I will do naught that is dishonorable or unfair. If the maiden shall prefer you, I will not be envious; for your good luck will be my good fortune, and my success will be your triumph."

"I thank you, Wainamoinen!" shouted the Smith, waving his hand.

"I thank you, Ilmarinen!" returned the Minstrel, bowing to his friend.

Then with speed each resumed his journey, one travelling by sea, the other by land. Swiftly the gray racer flew along the shore; fleetly the boat of magic skimmed over the wrinkled waters. The hills and forests rang with the clattering hoofs of Ilmarinen's wizard steed. The white waves danced and trembled in the wake of Wainamoinen's gold-beaked vessel. The cuckoos twittered, the bluebirds sang merrily, and the birchwood runners of the enchanted sledge whizzed over the sand and then glided through the new-fallen snow. The South Wind breathed on the sails of blue and red, and the West Wind whispered joy in the nostrils of the fleeting gray racer.

"Good luck to my steed, good luck to my sledge, good luck to me!" shouted the hero Smith. "O Jumala, kind protector, helper, guide! Be my safeguard in this journey, lead me rightly on my way!"

And the Minstrel, standing at the prow of his fairy vessel, shouted words of magic to the winds and waves, while he too prayed for guidance and help. "O Jumala, just and true, think not hard of me if I have gone astray! Pardon me if I have been false to my friend. Give me fair winds and a gentle sea, and guide me safely to my journey's end. Good luck to me, good luck to my boat, good luck to everybody!"

Thus the two heroes journeyed onward, the one by land, the other by sea.