Sampo - James Baldwin

The Tempest

With painful labor, Ilmarinen climbed from branch to branch. He looked upward and saw the moon with silver face smiling from the topmost boughs. He saw the seven stars of the Bear glittering like gold amid the leaves and blossoms. They seemed almost within his grasp. They beckoned to him, called to him; and he, with right good-will, climbed up, up, towards the moonlight and the starlight.

"Foolish fellow!" he heard a voice whispering. "Foolish fellow! foolish fellow! foolish fellow!"

"Who is it that calls me names—me the prince of all smiths?" he said in anger.

"It is I," came the answer. "I am the tree which you are climbing—foolish fellow, foolish fellow! The moon which you are after is only a shadow, foolish fellow. The stars are false as jack-o'-lanterns, foolish fellow. Even I, the tree, am a delusion. Save yourself while you may, foolish fellow, foolish fellow!"

The Smith heard, but he heeded not. The moon was just a little above him; the stars were right at his fingers' ends; in another moment he would grasp them all. On the ground far below him, the Minstrel was working his spells of magic, Ilmarinen saw him dancing, heard him singing, but understood him not.

"Come storm wind, come whirlwind,

Come swiftly, I say now;

Pick up the wise blacksmith

And bear him away, now.

"Seize on him, and into

Your flying boat lay him;

Then far to the Frozen North,

Gently convey him.

"Blow storm wind, blow whirlwind,

Let nothing delay you.

Blow swiftly, blow fiercely,

Blow, blow, I pray you!"

Suddenly there was a roaring in the air and in the tree tops, and the sky grew dark and very dark. Then a mighty tempest came hurtling over the land. In a moment the tree of magic melted into nothingness, and the fairy moon and the dancing stars vanished in the murk and gloom. The winds lifted the venturesome Smith in their arms; they laid him softly in their swiftly sailing cloud boat; they hurried him over forests and marsh lands, over mountains and sea, and at the hour of midnight dropped him gently on the frozen shores of Pohyola.

Wise old Louhi, gray and grim and toothless, was standing in her doorway. She heard the roar of the tempest and the shrieks of the night wind. She saw the inky clouds swiftly sailing from the South Land and the gray wolves of the air racing madly over the sea. Then in the misty darkness she heard footsteps; but the watch dogs lay sleeping in the sledgeway, their ears were closed, they did not bark. She listened, and presently a voice—a strange and manly voice—was heard above the storm wind's roar; but still the watch dogs slept and gave no alarm.

The Mistress, grim and fearless, spoke up bravely in the darkness, heeding not the dreadful turmoil. "Who goes there?" she cried. "Who is it that comes on the storm wind's back, and yet so quietly that he does not rouse nor waken my watch dogs?"

Then the voice answered from out the turmoil and the gloom, and a young man tall and handsome stepped into view. "I am a wayfarer and a stranger," he said, "and I am not here through my own choice. Nevertheless, I beg that I may find in this place some shelter till this fearful storm has passed."

"You have no need to ask shelter of me," answered the woman; "for when did the Mistress of Pohyola turn a stranger from her door? When did she refuse to give a wayfarer the warmest place by her fireside?"

Forthwith she led him into her long, low hall; she gave him a seat by the pleasant fire. She brought food in plenty and set it before him. She did everything that would take away his weariness, everything that would add to his comfort.

At length, when he had warmed and rested himself and had satisfied his hunger, she ventured to ask him a question. "Have you ever in all your travels met a minstrel, old and steady, whom men call Wainamoinen?"

"Oh, yes, surely," answered the Smith. "He is an ancient friend of mine, dear as a brother, precious as a father. He has just returned home from a long visit to this North Country. He tells wonderful stories of the good people of Pohyola—pleasant tales of a pleasant land."

"How glad I am," said the Wise Woman. "Now tell me if in all your travels you have ever met a certain smith, young and wondrously skilful, whom men call Ilmarinen."

The stranger leaped to his feet and answered, "Surely, surely, I have often met that famous workman. Indeed I myself am he; I am Ilmarinen, the Prince of Smiths, the maker of beautiful things, the skilfulest of men."

"Then welcome, welcome!" cried Louhi, grim and gray; and she grasped the stranger's hand. "We have been waiting for you a long time. We expect you to forge the Sampo for us. I know you will do so, for Wainamoinen the Minstrel promised me."

"The Sampo! the Sampo! What is the Sampo?" stammered Ilmarinen. "The Minstrel spoke of skilful smithing, but he mentioned not the Sampo. Never have I heard that name, although I have travelled wide."

"Oh, you shall hear enough about it, and you will forge it for us, I know," said the Mistress, grim but joyful. And then she turned and left him—left him standing by the hearth-side and gazing sadly, thoughtfully, into the flames.

"Now I understand it all," he softly muttered to himself. "Wainamoinen has betrayed me. He has sent me to this dreary Frozen Land to do a task too great for his skill, too wonderful for his magic. He is old, he is cunning, he has outwitted me; shall I do the thing which he sent me to perform?"

Meanwhile the gray Mistress of the Frozen Land hurried from the long hall. She paused not till she reached her daughter's chamber. Briskly she went in, and softly she closed the door behind her.

"My child, my beautiful child," she cried, "he has come at last. He is young and tall and handsome. He will forge the Sampo for us; he will put the wonderful mill together; henceforth we shall want for nothing."

"Yes, mother," said the Maid of Beauty.

"Dress yourself, now, fair daughter. Put on your finest raiment and deck your hair with jewels. Don't forget the golden chain that goes around your neck; nor the belt with copper buckle; nor your earrings; nor the silken ribbons for your hair; nor the jewelled band that goes upon your forehead. And oh, my dear child, do look pleasant, pretty, comely, and let your face be bright and cheerful."

"Yes, mother," said the dutiful daughter.