She talked in this sensible way for six days, but when the following Thursday came, and the mermaid did not show herself, Sleepy Tony lost his wits, and behaved as if he was half-mad. He knew no peace, and at last one Thursday he refused to have any one with him. He ordered the waiting-maids to bring him his food and drink, and then to leave him directly, so that he remained alone like a spectre.
This great alteration in his conduct astonished everybody, and when the mermaid heard of the matter, she almost wept her eyes out of her head, though she only gave way to her grief when no one was present. Sleepy Tony hoped that when he was alone he might have a better opportunity of inspecting the secret fasting chamber, and perhaps he might find some crack through which he could spy upon what was going on. The more he tormented himself, the more depressed became the mermaid, and although she still maintained a cheerful countenance, her friendliness no longer came from the heart as before.
Some weeks passed by, and matters remained at a standstill, neither worse nor better, when one Thursday Sleepy Tony found a small space near the window where the curtains had slightly shifted, so that he could look into the chamber. The secret chamber had no floor, but looked like a great square tank, filled with water many feet deep. Herein swam his much-loved mermaid. From her head to her middle she was a beautiful woman, but from the navel downwards she was wholly a fish, covered with scales and provided with fins. Sometimes she threshed the water with her broad fish's tail and it dashed high up.
The spy shrunk back confounded and made his way home very sorrowfully. What would he not have given to have blotted the sight from his memory! He thought of one thing and another, but could not decide on what to do.
In the evening the cock crowed three times as usual, but the mermaid did not come back to him. He lay awake all night, but the fair one never came. She did not return till morning, when she was clad in black mourning garments and her face was covered with a thin silk handkerchief. Then she said, weeping, "O thou unhappy one! to have brought our happy life to an end by thy folly! Thou seest me to-day for the last time, and must return to thy former condition, and this thou hast brought upon thyself. Farewell, for the last time."
There was a sudden crash and a tremendous noise, as if the floor was giving way beneath his feet, and Sleepy Tony was hurled down stunned, and could not perceive what was happening to himself or about him.
No one knows how long afterwards it may have been when he recovered from his swoon, and found himself on the sea-shore close to the rock on which the fair mermaid had sat when she entered into the bond of friendship with him. Instead of the magnificent robes which he had worn every day in the dwelling of the mermaid, he found himself dressed in his old clothes, which were now much older and more ragged than he could possibly have supposed. Our friend's happy days were over, and no remorse, however bitter, could bring them back.
He walked on till he reached the first houses of his village. They were standing in the same places, but yet looked different. But what appeared to him much more wonderful when he looked round, was that the people were all strangers, and he did not meet a single face which he knew.
The people all looked strangely at him, too, as though he was a monster. Sleepy Tony went on to the farm of his parents, but here too he encountered only strangers, who knew him not, and whom he did not know. He asked in amazement for his father and brothers, but no one could tell him anything about them. At length an infirm old man came up, leaning on a stick, and said, "Peasant, the farmer whom you ask after has been sleeping in the ground for more than thirty years, and his sons must be dead too. How comes it, my good old man, that you ask after people who have been so long forgotten?" The words "old man" took Sleepy Tony so much aback that he was unable to ask another question. He felt his limbs trembling, turned his back on the strange people, and went out at the gate. The expression "old man" left him no peace; it fell upon him with a crushing weight, and his feet refused him their office.
He hurried to the nearest spring and gazed in the water. The pale sunken cheeks, the hollow eyes, the long grey beard and grey hair, confirmed what he had heard. This worn-out, withered form no longer bore the slightest resemblance to the youth whom the mermaid had chosen as her consort. Now he fully realised his misery for the first time, and knew that the few years that he appeared to have been absent had comprised the greater part of his life, for he had entered the mermaid's house as a vigorous youth, and had returned as a spectre-like old man. There he had felt nothing of the course of time or of the wasting of his body, and he could not comprehend how the burden of old age had fallen upon him so suddenly, like the passing of a bird's wing. What could he do now, when he was a grey stranger among strangers?
He wandered about on the beach for a few days, from one farm to another, and good people gave him a piece of bread out of charity. He chanced to meet with a friendly young fellow, to whom he related all the adventures of his life, but the same night he disappeared. A few days afterwards the waves cast up his body on the shore. It is not known whether he threw himself into the sea, or was drowned by accident.
After this the behaviour of the mermaid towards mankind entirely changed. She sometimes appears to children only, most often in another form, but she does not permit grown-up people to approach her, but shuns them like fire.
* * * * *
Other stories relative to the Water-Mother, mermaids, and other beings of the water will be found in a later section.
[Footnote 29: Schiefner considers the name of this story (Naeki Neitsi) to indicate a Swedish origin; but this seems to be very doubtful evidence, and the incidental allusion to the Swedes in the course of the narrative seems opposed to such an idea.]
[Footnote 30: George.]
[Footnote 31: Compare the story of the "Twelve Daughters."]
HOW THE SEA BECAME SALT.
This is an interesting variant of a story known from Iceland to Finland.
There were two brothers, one rich and one poor. One Christmas the rich brother gave the other a ham, on condition that he should go to Porgu. On his way, he met an old man who told him that ham was a rarity there, but he must not sell it for money, but only for what was behind the door, which proved to be a wishing-mill. The rich brother bought it for a high price, and set it to grind herrings and milk-soup; but he was soon forced to give his brother another great sum to induce him to take it back, and to save him and his wife, and indeed the whole village, from being overwhelmed by the torrents of herrings and soup. Afterwards it was sold to a sea-captain, who set it to grind salt, and it ground on till the ship sank, and it now lies at the bottom of the sea, grinding salt for ever.
The next story, which belongs to the same class as Grimm's "Devil with the Three Golden Hairs," introduces us to the personified Frost, who is here a much less malevolent being than in the Kalevala, Runo xxx. It also combines two familiar classes of tales: those in which a man receives gifts which are stolen from him, and which he afterwards recovers by means of another, often a magic cudgel; and those in which a man visiting the house of a giant or devil in his absence is concealed by the old mother in order to listen to the secrets revealed by her son when he comes home.
[Footnote 32: It will be remembered that the Sampo, the magic mill in the Kalevala, ground salt as well as corn and money, and was ultimately broken to pieces and sunk in the sea. The Grotta-Soengr in the Edda of Saemund is better known; and many other variants might be cited. The story in the text much resembles that of "Silly Nicholas," which I remember reading in one of Chambers's publications many years ago.]
THE TWO BROTHERS AND THE FROST.
Once upon a time there were two brothers, one of whom was rich and the other poor. The rich brother had much cornland and many cattle, but the poor one had only a little corner of a field, in which he sowed rye. Then came the Frost and destroyed even this poor crop. Nothing was left to the poor brother, so he set out in search of the Frost. When he had gone some distance, he arrived at a small house and went in. He found an old woman sitting there, who asked what he wanted. The man answered, "I had tilled a small field, and the Frost came and took away even the little that I had. So I set out in search of him, to ask why he has done me this mischief." The old woman answered, "The Frosts are my sons, and they destroy everything; but just now they are not at home. If they came home and found you here, they would destroy you likewise. Get up on the stove, and wait there." The man crept up, and just then the Frost came in. "Son," said the old woman, "why did you spoil the field of a poor man who was sufficiently pinched without this?" "Oh," said the Frost, "I was only trying whether my cold would bite." Then said the poor man on the stove, "Only give me so much back that I can just scrape through, or I must soon die of hunger, for I have nothing to break and bite." The Frost said, "We will give him enough to last him all his life." Then he gave him a knapsack, saying, "When you are hungry, you have only to say, 'Open, sack,' and you will have food and drink in abundance. But when you have had enough, say, 'Sack, shut,' and all will immediately return into the knapsack, and it will shut of itself."
The man thanked him heartily for his gift, and went his way. When he had gone some distance, he said, "Open, sack," and immediately the knapsack opened of itself, and supplied him with food in plenty. When he had had enough, he said, "Sack, shut," and the food sprang into the knapsack, which closed of itself. When he got home, he continued to use it as the Frost directed.
When he and his wife had lived comfortably thus for some time, the rich brother began to covet the knapsack, and wanted to buy it. He gave his poor brother a hundred oxen and cows, and as many horses and sheep. Thus the poor brother became rich, but he was not much better off, for he had to feed the animals. They all gathered round him, and he was now as poor as before. He did not know what to do, except to go back to the Frost and ask for a new sack. The Frost said, "Why were you so thoughtless as to give away such a knapsack? You are now just as poor as before." But at length he gave him a new knapsack, much handsomer than the first. The poor brother thanked him heartily, and went away joyful, for he thought he had got a knapsack like the first.
When he felt hungry, he said as before, "Open, sack." Immediately the knapsack opened, and two fellows sprang out with thick cudgels in their hands, who beat him as if it was a fine art. The man was so overwhelmed that he could hardly utter the words, "Sack, shut!" Then the two retired and the knapsack shut. The man thought to himself, "Have patience! I'll exchange this with my brother." When he got home, his brother noticed what a fine knapsack he had, and wanted to exchange. The other had no objection, and the exchange was soon effected. Then the rich brother invited all his relatives and the distinguished people of the neighbourhood, for he thought to use the knapsack first to provide a grand feast.
As soon as all these people were assembled, the host cried out, "Open, sack!" Then the knapsack indeed opened, but the men with the cudgels leaped out among the people, and belaboured them so lustily that they all fled in different directions, and some barely escaped with their lives. They all caught it hot, both the host and his guests. When at length the host cried out in his distress, "Sack, shut!" the men sprang back, and the sack closed. But now the bolder guests themselves gave the host a good beating before they left. After this, things went as badly with the rich brother as with the poor one before. He kept the handsome knapsack, but the men with the cudgels were in it, and if he only thought of opening it, they laid them on his back. But the poor brother had enough for himself and his wife from the first knapsack as long as he lived.
* * * * *
Versions of this story are current throughout Europe; but in general, the magical properties (of which there are usually two or three) are stolen or exchanged by a designing innkeeper, or other person, without the knowledge of the owner.
* * * * *
The next story, that of the Devil being pounded in a sack, is current in various forms throughout Northern Europe.
THE SOLDIER AND THE DEVIL.
The Devil encountered a soldier outside the town, and said to him, "Good friend, please help me to get through the town. I can't go alone, though I should be very glad to do so, for the two-eyed dogs would surround me in every street. They attack me as soon as I enter the town."
"I'd be glad to help you," said the soldier, "but one can't do any business without money."
"What do you want then?" said the Devil.
"Not a great deal," returned the soldier, "for you've plenty of money. If you'll fill my gauntlet, I shall be quite satisfied."
"I've as much as that in my pocket," said the Devil, and filled the glove to the brim.
The soldier reflected, and said, "I really don't know where to put you. Stop! just creep into my knapsack; you'll be safer there than anywhere."
"That'll do! But your knapsack has three straps. Don't buckle the third, or it might be bad for me."
"All right! Squeeze in."
So the Devil crept into the knapsack.
But the soldier was one of those people who don't keep their word as they ought. As soon as the devil was in the knapsack, he buckled all three straps tight, saying, "A soldier mustn't go through the town with loose straps. Do you think that the corporal would excuse me on your account if he saw me so untidy?"
But the soldier had a friend on the other side of the town who was a smith. He marched straight off to him with the Devil in his knapsack, and said, "Old friend, please beat my knapsack soft on your anvil. The corporal always scolds me because he says that my knapsack is as hard and angular as a dry bast shoe."
"Pitch it on the anvil," said the smith.
And he hammered away at the knapsack till the wool flew from the hide.
"Won't that do?" asked he after a while.
"No," said the soldier, "harder still."
And again the blows hailed on the knapsack.
"That's enough," said the soldier at last. "I'll come to you again, if it's necessary."
Then he took the knapsack on his shoulder, and went back to the town, where he pitched the Devil out of the knapsack in the middle of the street.
The Devil was crushed as flat as a mushroom. He could hardly stand on his legs. It had never gone so ill with him before; but the soldier had money enough and to spare, and there was some left over for his heirs.
When he died and arrived in the other world, he went to hell and knocked at the door.
The Devil peeped through the door to see who it was, and yelled out, "No, no, you scamp, you're not wanted here; you may go wherever you like, but you won't get in here."
So the soldier went to the Old God, and told him how it had fared with him. He replied, "Stay here now; there's plenty of room for soldiers."
Since that time the Devil has admitted no more soldiers into hell.
[Footnote 33: Odd stories are told in many countries about the relations between various animals and the Devil. In Esthonia the wolf and the dog are peculiarly hostile to the Devil. In the East it is the ass, concerning which Lane quotes the following amusing explanation in a note to the story of the "Peacock and Peahen," &c. (Thousand and One Nights, notes to Chap. ix. of Lane's translation):—"The last animal that entered with Noah into the ark was the ass, and Iblees (whom God curse!) clung to his tail. The ass had just entered the ark, and began to be agitated, and could not enter further into the ark, whereupon Noah said to him, 'Enter, woe to thee!' But the ass was still agitated, and was unable to advance. So Noah said, 'Enter, though the Devil be with thee!' And the ass entered, and Iblees (whom God curse!) entered with him. And Noah said, 'O enemy of God, who introduced thee into the ark?' He answered, 'Thou; thou saidst unto the ass, "Enter, though the Devil be with thee."' So it is said that this is the reason why the ass when he seeth the Devil brayeth."]
[Footnote 34: Jannsen remarks that the third strap would form a cross, and that the three straps might be an allusion to the Trinity.]
STORIES OF THE GODS, AND SPIRITS OF THE ELEMENTS
Vanemuine appears in the Kalevala, under his Finnish name of Vaeinaemoeinen, as a culture-hero, though in the first recension of the poem, as well as in most of the creation-myths of the Finns, the creation is ascribed to him, and not to his mother, Ilmatar. He is, however, always a great musician, and in Esthonian tales usually appears rather in the character of a god than of a patriarch.
We read much of Vaeinaemoeinen's playing and singing in the Kalevala, especially in Runo 46, where he charms all nature by his playing and singing, like Orpheus. In Runo 50 he is described as leaving Finland on account of his authority departing at the coming of Christ; though it is said by an old writer that the favourite deities of the Finns in his time were Vaeinaemoeinen and the Virgin Mary.
THE SONG-GOD'S DEPARTURE.
All living beings gathered round Vanemuine on the Hill of Taara, and each received his language, according to what he could comprehend and retain of the song of the god. The sacred stream Ema had chosen for her language the rustling of his garments, but the trees of the forest chose the rushing of his robes as he descended to the earth. Therefore do we feel the presence of Vanemuine most nearly in the woods and on the banks of the murmuring brooks, and then are we filled with the spirit of his lays. The loudest tones are heard in the wind. Some creatures preferred the deep tones of the god's harp, and others the melody of the strings. The singing birds, especially the nightingale and the lark, deemed the holy songs and melodies of the god to be the most beautiful. But it fared very badly with the fishes. They stretched their heads out of the water to the eyes, but kept their ears under. So they saw well how Vanemuine moved his lips, and they imitated him, but they remained dumb. Only man could learn all notes and understand everything; therefore his song moves the soul most deeply, and lifts it towards the throne of God. Vanemuine sang of the grandeur of heaven and the beauty of earth, of the banks of the Ema and her beauty, and of the joy and sorrow of the children of men. And his song was so moving that he himself began to weep bitterly, and the tears sank through his sixfold robe and his sevenfold vest. Then he rose again on the wings of the wind, and went to the abode of God to sing and play.
Long did his divine song linger in the mouths of the sons and daughters of Esthonia. When they wandered in the leafy shades of the holy forest, they comprehended the gentle rustling of the trees, and the rippling of the brooks filled them with joyous thoughts. The song of the nightingale melted their hearts, and the whistling of the larks lifted their minds to the abodes of God. Then it seemed to them as if Vanemuine himself wandered through the creation with his harp. And thus he did; and when the bards of the whole country assembled together to sing, Vanemuine was always among them, though they did not know him, and he ever kindled afresh in their bosoms the true fire of song.
It came to pass, at one of these festivals, that a strange old maid took her place among the singers. Her face was full of wrinkles, her chin trembled, and one foot was supported by crutches. The old woman began her song in a grating voice. She sang of her beautiful youth, the happy days in the house of her parents, and the pitiful ways of the present, when all joy had vanished. Then she sang of her lovers, who came in hosts to woo her, and how she had repulsed them all. She concluded her song with the words—
"Sulev's son came here from Southland, Further Kalev's son had wandered; Sulev's son would fain have kissed me, Kalev's son my hand had taken; But I smote the son of Sulev, And in scorn the son of Kalev, I the fairest of the maidens."
Scarcely had the old woman finished her song, when there arose a loud shout of laughter among the people, which sounded far over the plain and was echoed back from the forest. The people sang the old woman's last words in derision, and their laughter was unceasing till the eldest of the company stopped it with stern interference. All was still around. Then an old man on a decorated seat began a magnificent song, which filled all around with holy joy. But suddenly they heard a voice behind him, which took up the witch's song afresh. Laughter again arose among the ranks of people. Again the elder sternly commanded silence, and those who were gathered round the old man and had heard his song likewise commanded silence. Then the people were quiet once more.
The old man on the throne of song now raised his voice, and the people listened to him with delight. It was a genuine song, for it met with a response in all hearts, and moved their nobler being to heavenly thoughts. But again a loud voice rose in the throng, which took up the ugly chant of the old woman, and again loud laughter echoed through the assembly. Then the old man on the throne grew angry, gazed wrathfully down on the foolish throng, and immediately vanished from their eyes. Only a mighty rushing and clanging was heard, so that all trembled, and their blood froze in their veins. Who was the hoary singer? Was it not Vanemuine himself? Where had he vanished to? They talked and asked each other. But the singer remained invisible, and no one saw him again.
This was Vanemuine's last farewell to the Esthonian people. Only a few minstrels now enjoy the happiness of listening to his singing and playing in the far distance, and such minstrels only are able to move their brothers with the divine voice of song.
* * * * *
In the Kalevala, Vaeinaemoeinen has neither wife nor child, but the Esthonians ascribe to him a foster-daughter, of whom the following story is related.
Once upon a time the God of Song wandered musing by the banks of Lake Endla, and his harp clanged in unison with the thoughts which moved his heart. There he saw a little child lying near him in the grass, which stretched out its hands to him. He looked round everywhere for the child's mother, but she was nowhere to be seen. So he lifted up the beautiful little girl, and went to Taara, and begged him to give him the child as his own. Ukko consented, and as he gazed graciously at his daughter, her eyes shone like stars, and her hair glittered like bright gold.
Under the divine protection the child grew up from the tender infant to the maiden Jutta. The God of Song taught her the sweet art of speech, and Ilmarine wrought the girl a veil, wondrously woven of silver threads. He who gazed through her veil saw everything of which the maiden spoke as if it were passing before his eyes. She is said to have dwelt by the Lake of Endla, where she was often seen, planning the flights of the birds of passage, and showing them the way; and also when she wandered by the shores of the lake, and wept for the death of Endla, her beloved. But she took the wonderful veil, and gazed upon the happy past, and then was she happy, for she thought she possessed what her eyes saw. She has also lent her veil to mortal men, and then it is that the songs and legends of the past become living to us.
* * * * *
We will now proceed to stories relative to the nature-spirits, commencing with those of the water, who are both numerous and powerful among the Finns and Esthonians. Other stories concerning them will be found in different parts of the book.
[Footnote 35: This story is also related, more briefly, by Blumberg, who states that Lake Endla lies in an impassable swamp in the district of Vaimastfer, and is visible from the hill near Kardis. The fish and birds are under the protection of Jutta, and there is no place in the country where birds congregate to such an extent, and birds of passage remain so long. Jutta is perhaps the same as Lindu (vol. ii. p. 147). Near Heidelberg is a spring called the "Wolfsbrunnen," where a beautiful enchantress named Jutta, the priestess of Hertha, is said to have had an assignation with her lover; but he found she had been killed by a wolf, the messenger of the offended goddess. Whether there is any connection between the German and Esthonian Jutta I do not know.]
[Footnote 36: Or Endel, the son of Ilmarine. Blumberg writes "Wanemuinen" and "Ilmarinen" in his account of the legend, which nearly approach the Finnish forms of the names.]
THE TWELVE DAUGHTERS.
Once upon a time there lived a poor labourer who had twelve daughters, among whom were two pairs of twins. They were all charming girls, healthy, ruddy, and well made. The parents were very poor, and the neighbours could not understand how they managed to feed and clothe so many children. Every day the children were washed and their hair combed, and they always wore clean clothes, like Saxon children. Some thought that the labourer had a treasure-bringer, who brought him whatever he wanted; others said that he was a sorcerer, and others thought he was a wizard who knew how to discover hidden treasures in the whirlwind. But the real explanation was very different. The labourer's wife had a secret benefactress who fed and washed and combed the children.
When the mother was a girl, she lived in service at a farmhouse, where she dreamed for three nights running that a noble lady came towards her, and desired her to go to the village spring on St. John's Eve. Perhaps she would have forgotten all about the dream; but on St. John's Eve she heard a small voice like the buzzing of a gnat always singing in her ear, "Go to the spring, go to the spring, whence trickle the watery streams of your good fortune!" Although she could not listen to this secret summons without a shudder, yet she fortified her heart at length, and leaving the other maidens, who were amusing themselves with the swing and round the fire, she went to the spring. The nearer she came, the more her heart failed her, and she would have turned back if the gnat-like voice had allowed her any rest; but it drove her unwillingly onwards. When she reached the spot, she saw a lady in white robes sitting on a stone by the spring. When the lady perceived the girl's alarm, she advanced a few steps to meet her, and offered her her hand, saying, "Fear nothing, dear child; I will do you no harm. Give good heed to what I tell you, and remember it. In the autumn you will be sought in marriage. Your bridegroom will be as poor as yourself; but do not concern yourself about this, and accept his offered brandy. As you are both good people, I will bring you happiness, and help you to get on; but do not neglect thrift and labour, without which no happiness is lasting. Take this bag, and put it in your pocket; there is nothing in it but a few milk-can pebbles. When you have given birth to your first child, throw a pebble into the well, and I will come to see you. When the child is baptized, I will be the sponsor. Let no one know of our nocturnal meeting. For the present I say farewell." At these words the wonderful stranger vanished from the girl's eyes as suddenly as if she had sunk into the ground. Very likely the girl might have thought that this adventure was a dream too, if the bag in her hand had not testified to its reality: it contained twelve stones.
The prediction was fulfilled, and the girl was married in the autumn to a poor labourer. Next year the young wife gave birth to her first child, and remembering what had happened to her on St. John's Eve, she rose secretly from her bed, and threw a pebble into the well. It splashed into the water, and immediately the friendly white-robed lady stood before her, and said, "I thank you for not forgetting me. Take the child to be baptized on Sunday fortnight, and I will come to church too, and stand sponsor."
When the child was brought into church on the appointed day, an unknown lady entered, who took it on her lap and had it baptized. When this was done, she tied a silver rouble in the child's swaddling clothes, and gave it back to the mother. The same thing happened at the birth of each successive child, until there were twelve. On the birth of the last child, the lady said to the mother, "Henceforward you will see me no more, though I shall invisibly watch over you and your children daily. The water of the well will benefit the children more than the best food. When the time comes for your daughters to marry, you must give each the rouble which I brought as their godmother's gift. Until then, do not let them dress finely, but let them wear clean dresses and clean linen both on week-days and Sundays."
The children grew and throve so well that it was a delight to see them. There was plenty of bread in the house, though sometimes little else, but both parents and children seemed to be chiefly strengthened by the water of the well. In due time the eldest daughter was married to the son of a prosperous innkeeper. Although she brought him nothing beyond her most needful clothing, yet a bridal chest was made, and her clothes and her godmother's rouble put into it. But when the men lifted the chest into the cart, they found it so heavy that they thought it must be full of stones, for the poor labourer could not have given his daughter anything of value. But great was the young bride's amazement when she opened the chest in her husband's house and found it filled with pieces of linen, and at the bottom a leathern purse containing a hundred silver roubles. The same thing happened after every fresh marriage, and the daughters were soon all betrothed when it became known that each received such a bridal portion.
One of the sons-in-law was a very avaricious man, and was not satisfied with his wife's bridal portion. He thought that the parents themselves must be possessed of great riches, if they could bestow so much on each daughter. So he went one day to his father-in-law, and began to pester him about his supposed treasure. The labourer told him the exact truth. "I have nothing but my body and soul, and could not give my daughters anything but the chests. I have nothing to do with what each found in her chest. It is the gift of the godmother, who gave each of the children a rouble at her christening, and this has multiplied itself in the chests." The avaricious son-in-law would not believe him, and threatened to denounce the old man as a wizard and wind-sorcerer, who had amassed a large treasure in this manner. But as the labourer had a clear conscience, he did not fear his son-in-law's threats. The latter, however, actually made his complaint to the authorities, and the court sent for the other sons-in-law of the labourer, and inquired whether each of their brides had received the same portion. The men declared that each had received a chest of linen and a hundred silver roubles. This caused great surprise, for the whole neighbourhood knew that the labourer was a poor man, and had no other treasure but his twelve pretty daughters. The people knew that the daughters had always worn clean white linen from their earliest years, but nobody had seen them wear any other ornaments, neither brooches nor coloured neckerchiefs. The judge now determined to investigate this wonderful affair more closely, and to find out whether the old man was really a sorcerer.
One day the judge left the town, attended by his police. They wished to surround the labourer's house with guards, so that no one could get out and carry away the treasure. The avaricious son-in-law accompanied them as guide. When they reached the wood in which the labourer's house stood, guards were posted on all sides, with strict orders not to allow any one to pass till the matter had been fully investigated. The rest left their horses behind, and followed the footpath to the cottage. The son-in-law warned them to advance slowly and silently, for fear the sorcerer might see them coming and escape on the wings of the wind. They had already nearly reached the cottage, when they were suddenly dazzled by the wonderful splendour which shone through the trees. As they advanced, a large and splendid palace became visible. It was entirely built of glass, and illuminated by hundreds of tapers, although the sun shone, and the day was perfectly light. Two sentries stood at the door, wholly cased in brazen armour, and holding long drawn swords in their hands. The officials did not know what to make of it, and everything looked more like a dream than reality. Then the door opened, and a young man gaily attired in silken garments, came forth and said, "Our queen has commanded that the chief-justice shall appear before her." Although the judge felt some alarm, he decided to follow the young man into the house.
Who can describe the splendour which he beheld! In a magnificent hall as large as a church sat a lady enthroned, robed in silk, satin, and gold. Some feet lower sat twelve beautiful princesses on smaller golden seats. They were dressed as magnificently as the queen, except that they wore no golden crowns. On both sides stood numerous attendants, all in bright silken attire and with golden necklaces. When the chief judge came forward bowing, the queen demanded, "Why have you come out to-day with a host of police, as if you were about to arrest criminals?" The judge was about to answer, but terror stopped his utterance and he could not speak a word. "I know the base lying charges," continued the queen, "for nothing is concealed from my eyes. Let the false accuser enter, but chain him hand and foot, and I will pronounce just sentence. Let the other judges and attendants enter too, that the matter may be done publicly, and that they may bear witness that no one suffers injustice here." One of the servants hastened out to fulfil the order, and after some time the accuser was led in, chained hand and foot, and guarded by six soldiers in armour. The remaining judges and attendants followed. Then the queen addressed the assembly.
"Before I pronounce the well-deserved sentence on the offender, I must briefly explain the real state of the case. I am the most powerful Lady of the Waters, and all the springs of water which rise from the earth are subject to my authority. The eldest son of the King of the Winds was my lover, but as his father would not allow him to take a wife, we were obliged to keep our marriage secret as long as his father lived. As I could not venture to bring up my children at home, I exchanged them with the children of the labourer's wife, as often as she was confined. The labourer's children were reared as foster-children by my aunt, and whenever one of the labourer's daughters was about to marry, another change was effected.
"Each time, on the night before the wedding, I had my daughter carried away, and that of the labourer substituted. The old King of the Winds had been lying ill for a long time, and knew nothing of our proceedings. On the christening-day I gave each child a silver rouble to form the marriage portion in her bridal chest. All the sons-in-law were satisfied with their young wives and with what they brought them, except this avaricious scoundrel whom you see before you in chains, who dared to bring false accusations against his father-in-law, in hopes of enriching himself thereby. The old King of the Winds died a fortnight ago, and my consort succeeded to the throne. It is no longer necessary for us to conceal our marriage and our children. Here sit my twelve daughters, and their foster-parents, the labourer and his wife, shall dwell with me as my pensioners till their death. But you, worthless scamp, whom I have put in chains, shall also receive your just reward. You shall sit chained in a mountain of gold, so that your greedy eyes shall ever behold the gold without your being able to touch a particle. For seven hundred years you shall endure this torment before death shall have power to bring you rest. This is my decree."
When the queen had finished speaking, a noise was heard like a violent clap of thunder; the earth quaked, and the magistrates and their servants fell down stunned. When they recovered their senses, they found themselves in the wood to which their guide had led them, but on the spot where the palace of glass had stood in all its splendour, clear cold water now gushed forth from a small spring. Nothing more was ever heard of the labourer, his wife, or his avaricious son-in-law. The widow of the latter married another husband in the autumn, and lived happily with him for the rest of her life.
[Footnote 37: Compare the story of the "Treasure-Bringer," in a later section of the volume.]
[Footnote 38: Brandy is offered by a lover in Esthonia, and accepted by the girl if she favours him.]
[Footnote 39: Small stones are used for cleaning milk-cans.]
[Footnote 40: Jannsen remarks that her authority seems to have been limited to these, and also that she cannot have been the supreme Water-Goddess, whose husband is Ahti, the God of the Sea.]
[Footnote 41: These long-lived, but mortal Elemental Powers seem to correspond to some classes of the Arabian Jinn, as for instance, the Diving Jinn in such tales as "Jullanar of the Sea" (Thousand and One Nights). They may also be compared with the Elemental Spirits of the Rosicrucians, who are long-lived, but likewise mortal.]
THE FOUR GIFTS OF THE WATER-SPRITE.
Four boys were playing one Sunday on the banks of Lake Peipus, when the water-spirit appeared to them in the form of an old man with long grey hair and beard, and gave each of them a present—a boat, a hammer, a ploughshare, and a little book. As they grew up, one became a smith, another a fisherman, another a farmer, and the last a great king, who conquered the Danes and Swedes.
* * * * *
After this story, of which we have only given a brief abstract, we place another, descriptive of the dwellings of the lake-spirits.
Many years ago a man was driving over a lake with his little son before the ice was properly formed. It broke, and they all sank in the water, when an old man with silver-grey hair came up, and upbraided them for breaking through the winter roof of his palace. He told the man that he must stay with him, but he would give him a grey horse and a sledge with golden runners, that he might drive about under the ice in autumn, and make a noise to warn others that it was unsafe until Father Taara had strengthened it sufficiently. But he would help the boy and the horse above the ice, for they were not to blame. When the water-god had brought them from under the ice, he told the boy to go home, and not to mourn for his father, who would be very happy under the water, and to be careful not to drop anything out of the sledge. On reaching home, he found two lumps of ice in the sledge, and threw them out, but when they struck against a stone and did not break, he discovered that they were lumps of pure silver. He had now plenty to live upon comfortably; but every autumn when the lake was covered with young ice, he went to it, hoping to see or hear something of his father. The ice often cracked and heaved just before his footsteps, as if his father was trying to speak to him, but there was no other sign.
Many years passed by, and the son grew old and grey. One day he went to the lake as usual, and sat down sorrowfully on a stone, just where the river falls into it, and great tears rolled down his cheeks. Suddenly he saw, on raising his eyes, a great door of silver with golden lattice-work close to the mouth of the river. He rose up and went to it, and he had scarcely touched it when it sprang open. He hesitated a moment and then entered, and found himself in a gloomy gallery of bronze. He went some distance, and presently reached a second door like the former, but much higher. Before it stood a dwarf with a broad stone hat on his head and bronze armour. He wore a copper girdle round his waist, and held in his hand a copper halbert about six feet long. "I suppose you have come to see your father?" he said in a friendly manner. "Yes, indeed, my good man," answered the other. "Can you not help me to see him or meet him? I am already an old man myself, and my life grows ever more lonely." "I must not make any promises," said the dwarf, "and it is about time for your father to fulfil his office. Hark, he is just driving off in his golden sledge with the grey horse, to warn mortals against treading incautiously on our delicate silver roof. But as you have once before been our guest, and have ventured to come again, I will show you the house and grounds of the water-world. None of our people are at home to-day, neither the gentry nor the household, so that we can go through the rooms without interference." As he spoke he touched the door, and the old man and his guide entered a vast and splendid palace of crystal. There they saw a great crowd of men, women, and children walking about, or sitting talking, or amusing themselves; but none of them noticed or addressed the newcomers. Presently the dwarf led the old man farther into the hall. All the fittings were of bright gold and silver, and the floor was of copper, and the farther they advanced the brighter everything shone, without any apparent end. At last the old man asked to turn back, and the dwarf said, "It is well that you mentioned it, for a little farther on the gold shines so brilliantly that the eyes of mortal men cannot endure it. And there dwells our good and mighty king, with his noble consort, surrounded by the bold heroes and lovely dames of our realm." "You told me the gentry and dependants were not at home," said the old man, "but who were all the people who were talking and laughing near the door, and the children who were playing with all manner of costly toys of gold and silver? Don't they belong to your people?" "Half-way indeed, but not quite," said the dwarf. "They are, if I may be permitted to tell you, people from your world, who all sank into our kingdom, sooner or later. But they live a very pleasant life here, and have no wish to return to your world, even if they were permitted. For whoever comes to our kingdom must stay with us." "Must I stay here too?" asked the old man startled, not knowing what preparations he had to make for the life below. "Do you find our home so bad?" asked the dwarf. "But fear nothing, and don't alarm yourself. This day you can go or stay, as you please. I led you in freely, and will lead you out freely. But this is the first time that a mortal man has been permitted to leave our abode." Then the old man asked, "Shall I never see my father again?" and tears stood in his eyes once more. The dwarf answered, "You would not see him again till after three weeks, when the ice has become strong and firm. Your father will then have finished his work for the year, and can pass his time pleasantly with us till another year has passed, and he must again perform his office for a month." "Must he then do this work for ever, and remember his misfortune every year?" asked the old man sadly. The dwarf answered, "He must perform this duty till another mortal accidentally damages our roof and sinks down himself. Then is the first man released from his journeying under the young ice, and the other must henceforth take the work upon himself."
As they were thus conversing, the old man and his guide reached the gate. Then they looked in each other's faces, and the dwarf gave the old man two rods of copper with a friendly smile, and said, "If you ever come to this gate, and don't find me on guard, but some one whom you don't know, strike these rods together, and I will do what you wish, as far as I can." Then he led his guest through the lofty gate, and accompanied him through the bronze passage to the outer gate, and opened it. Then the old man found himself standing again on the banks of the lake near the mouth of the river, as if he had fallen from the clouds. The door had vanished, but the rods in his hand showed him that what he had seen was a reality. He put them in his pocket, and wandered home sunk in deep thought, and dazed like a drunken man. But here he found no rest or pleasure in anything. He went to the mouth of the river on the lake daily for three weeks, and sat on the rock as if in a dream; and at last he disappeared, and never came home again.
* * * * *
Kreutzwald relates that every autumn a little grey man, who lives in the Uelemiste jaerv, rises from it to see if the new buildings are sufficiently decorated. When he has finished his inspection, he returns to the lake; but if he was so dissatisfied as to turn his head in the opposite direction, evil would come on Tallin (Revel), for the low-lying country would be inundated, and the town would be destroyed.
* * * * *
The following tales relate to beings inhabiting the sea.
[Footnote 42: These beings who dwell beneath the sea or lakes are often called "underground people" in Esthonian and Lappish stories.]
THE FAITHLESS FISHERMAN.
A fisherman was sleeping on the sand, by the Baltic, when a stranger roused him, telling him that the sea was full of fish. They fished together all day, when the boat was filled, and the stranger sent the fisherman to sell the fish, insisting that he should bring him half the profits, and give the other half to his own wife. Next day they would go fishing again. This went on day after day, and the stranger regularly received half the proceeds of the work, giving back a trifle to the fisherman in return for the use of the boat and tackle. When everything was arranged, he used to disappear behind a large stone.
Thus the fisherman became rich. He built himself a cottage, and bought a new boat, and sometimes he indulged in a glass to quench his thirst.
One day it occurred to him to give his partner less than his due; but next day the results of their fishing were much smaller, and the stranger looked at him sorrowfully. In the evening the fisherman went to sell the fish, but gave his partner still less than the day before. Next day, when they cast the nets, they did not take a single fish, and the stranger said, "You have cheated me two days running, and now you must die." He then threw the fisherman overboard, and two days afterwards his body was found on the beach and buried. As his wife stood weeping by his grave, a tall, strong man approached, who told her to dry her tears; for if he had not drowned her husband, he would have died on the gallows. He then gave her a bag of money, telling her that her husband had gained it honestly, and that he was the water-sprite. Then he disappeared, leaving the money, and the widow went home and lived happily with her children.
* * * * *
Another curious story relative to water-sprites is that of the mermaid and the lord of Pahlen (Kreutzwald). The latter found the maiden sitting on a stone by the sea-shore, and lamenting because her father, the king of the sea, compelled her to raise storms, in which many people perished, in order to please the Mother of the Winds. The nobleman freed her from her trouble by breaking the ring with which she raised the storms with his teeth, and she rewarded him with two large barrels of gold.
* * * * *
The following short stories relate to different classes of spirits of the air.
THE SPIRITS OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS.
A certain nobleman was in the habit of driving away from his mansion every Thursday during hard winters, and not returning till towards morning. But he had strictly forbidden all his people to accompany him, or to receive him on his return. He himself harnessed the horse to the sledge, and unharnessed him when he returned. But no one was permitted to see the horse and carriage, and he threatened every one with death who should venture into his secret stable in the evening. During the day he carried the stable key in his bosom, and at night he hid it under his pillow.
But the nobleman's coachman heeded not the strict prohibition of his master, for he was much too anxious to know where his master went every Thursday, and what the horse and carriage were like. So he contrived one Thursday to get into the stable, and he hid himself in a dark corner near the door.
He had not long to wait before his master came and opened the door. All at once it became as light as if many candles had been kindled in the great stable. The coachman crouched together in his corner like a hedgehog, for if his master had seen him, he would certainly have suffered the threatened punishment.
Then the master pushed the sledge forward, and it shone like a red-hot anvil.
But while the master went to fetch the horse, the coachman crept under the sledge.
The nobleman harnessed the horse, and threw cloths over the horse and the sledge, that the people about the yard should not see the wonderful radiance.
Then the coachman crept quietly from under the sledge, and hid himself behind on the runners, where by good luck his master did not notice him.
When all was ready, the nobleman sprang into the sledge, and they went off so rapidly that the runners of the sledge resounded, always due north. After some hours, the coachman saw that the cloths were gone from the horse and sledge, which shone again like fire.
Now, too, he perceived that ladies and gentlemen were driving up from all directions with similar sledges and horses. That was a rush and rattle! The drivers rushed past each other as though it was for a very heavy wager, or as if they were on their wedding journey. At last the coachman perceived that their course lay above the clouds, which stretched below them like smooth lakes.
After a time, the racers fell more and more behind, and the coachman's master said to his nearest companion, "Brother, the other spirits of the Northern Lights are departing. Let us go too!"
Then the master and coachman drove fast home. Next day people said they had never seen the Northern Lights so bright as the night before.
The coachman held his tongue, and trusted no one with the story of his nocturnal journey. But when he was old and grey he told the story to his grandson, and so it became known to the people. And it was said that such spirits still exist, and that when the Northern Lights flame in the heavens in winter they hold a wedding in the sky.
[Footnote 43: In Canto xvi. of the Kalevipoeg, the spirits of the Northern Lights are described as carrying on mimic combats in the air.]
THE SPIRIT OF THE WHIRLWIND.
Two men were walking together when they saw a haystack carried away by the wind. The elder man said it was the Spirit of the Whirlwind; but the other would not believe him till they saw a cloud of dust, when they turned their backs to it, and the young man repeated a spell after the old one. When they turned round, they saw an old grey man with a long white beard, a broad flapping coat, and streaming hair, devastating the woods. He took no notice of them, but the elder one cautioned the other not to forget to repeat the spell whenever he saw him. However, he forgot it, and the whirlwind in a fury carried him many miles from home, and ever afterwards persecuted him till he went to his friend and learned the spell again. Next time he saw the whirlwind he was fishing; and on his repeating the spell, the spirit passed him angrily, and a great wave surged up from the river, and wetted the man to the skin. But after that the spirit never reappeared to him, and left him in peace.
THE WILL O' THE WISPS.
A farmer was driving home one winter evening from Fellin across the Parika heath, when he suddenly saw a little blue flame on one side, and his horse stopped short and would not move. It was as if he had been stopped by a ditch. He dismounted, and found not a ditch, but an open pit; and he could not drive round it, because there was deep water on all sides. Presently he saw a light flare up like a torch, and then another, till many of them were flitting about everywhere. In consternation, the farmer cried out, "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what's going on here tonight?" The horse sprang forward, as if somebody had stuck a pin into him, and the farmer had only just time to tumble on the sledge, when they went off at full gallop; and the farmer could say that the name of God had occurred to him just at the right time.
One evening a little boy was sleeping restlessly in a village on the island of Dagoe. His father saw a small hole which had been bored in the wall, and thinking that the draught disturbed the child, he stopped it up. He then saw a beautiful little girl playing with the boy, and preventing him from sleeping quietly. As she could not get away again, she remained in the house; and when the children grew up, they married, and had two children. One Sunday they went to church, and the wife laughed; but when her husband asked why, she replied that she would tell him if he told her how she came into his house. Thinking no harm, he promised to tell her, as he had heard the story from his father. Then she told him that she saw a great horse-skin spread on the wall of the church, on which the devil wrote the names of all the people who slept or talked in church instead of attending to the word of God. When it was full, he tried to stretch it with his teeth, but in doing so, he knocked his head against the wall and made a wry face, and she laughed. When they got home, he took the wooden plug from the hole, and showed it to his wife, but she instantly disappeared through it and never returned. The man wept himself blind, but the children grew up and prospered all their lives. People said their mother visited them secretly and brought treasures to the house.
* * * * *
The next story introduces us to the Gnomes, who appear to come more frequently into contact with human beings than any of the other nature-spirits, perhaps because their nature may be more akin to that of man. They are seen with more or less similar characteristics in all the mining countries of Northern Europe, whether Celtic, as Ireland and the Isle of Man; Teutonic, as England, Germany, and Scandinavia; or Finnish-Ugrian. They were well known to the old Norsemen as the Dvergar.
[Footnote 44: Latham (Nationalities of Europe, i. p. 34) relates a very similar Lithuanian story of a Lauma or Nightmare.]
Once upon a time a man lost his way on a stormy night between Christmas and New Year. He wore out his strength plunging through the deep snowdrifts, until, by good luck, he found some protection from the wind under a thick juniper bush. Here he resolved to pass the night, hoping to find his way easier by the clear light of the morning. He rolled himself together like a hedgehog in his warm fur-cloak and fell asleep. I don't know how long he lay there before he was roused by somebody shaking him, and a stranger's voice said in his ear, "Get up, farmer, or the snow will bury you, and you will never get out again." The sleeper pushed his head out of his fur, and opened his sleepy eyes wide. He saw a tall thin man before him, who carried a young fir-tree, twice as high as himself, as his staff.
"Come with me," said the man; "we have made a fire under the trees, where you can rest better than in this open field." The traveller could not refuse such a friendly invitation, so he got up directly, and walked on quickly with the stranger. The snowstorm raged so furiously that they could not see a step before them, but when the stranger lifted his fir staff and cried with a loud voice, "Ho there, mother of the snowstorm, make way!" a broad pathway appeared before them, on which no snowflakes fell. A dreadful snowstorm raged on either side of the wanderers and behind them, but it did not touch them. It appeared as if an invisible wall held back the storm on either hand. The men soon reached the wood, and they had already seen the light of the fire from afar off. "What is your name?" asked the man with the fir staff, and the peasant answered, "Hans, the son of tall Hans."
Three men sat at the fire, clothed in white linen garments, as if it had been midsummer. For thirty paces or more around them, everything looked like summer; the moss was dry, the herbage was green, and the grass swarmed with ants and small beetles; but afar off Hans heard the blasts of wind and the raging of the storm. Still stranger seemed the burning fire, which spread a bright light around, but threw up no smoke. "What think you, tall Hans' son? isn't this a better resting-place for the night than under the juniper bush in the open field?" Hans assented, and thanked the stranger for bringing him there. Then he took off his fur-cloak, rolled it up as a pillow for his head, and lay down in the glow of the fire. The man with the fir staff took his flask from under a bush and offered Hans a drink, which tasted most excellent, and warmed his heart. He then lay down too, and began conversing with his companions in a foreign language, of which Hans could not understand a word; and Hans presently fell asleep.
When he awoke, he found himself lying in a strange place, where was neither wood nor fire. He rubbed his eyes, and tried to recollect what had happened to him the night before, and thought he must have been dreaming, but he could not understand how he came to be lying in quite a strange place. A great noise resounded from a distance, and he felt the ground under his feet tremble. Hans listened for some time to find out where the noise came from, and then determined to follow it, hoping to find some people. Presently he reached the entrance to a cavern, from which the noise proceeded, and where a fire was shining. When he entered, he found a huge smithy filled with bellows and anvils, and seven workmen stood round each anvil. But stranger smiths were not to be found in the world. They were not higher than the knee of an ordinary man, and their heads were larger than their own bodies, and they wielded hammers more than twice as large as themselves. But they smote on the anvil so lustily with these huge iron hammers that the strongest man could not have struck harder. The little smiths were clad in leathern aprons which reached from the neck to the feet; but at the back their bodies were as naked as God had made them. In the background a high bench stood against the wall, on which sat Hans' friend with the fir staff, and looked sharply after the work of the little journeymen. A large can stood at his feet, from which the workmen took a drink now and then. The master of the smithy was no longer dressed in white, as on the previous day, but wore a black sooty coat, and round his waist a leathern belt with a great buckle. Now and then he made a sign to the workmen with his fir staff, for the noise was so great that no human voice could have been heard. Hans was uncertain whether any one had noticed him, for both master and men continued their work without paying any attention to the stranger. After some hours, the little smiths were allowed to rest; the bellows were stopped, and the heavy hammers thrown on the ground. When the workmen had left, the master rose from the bench, and called to Hans to approach.
Oh, what riches and treasure Hans beheld there! All sorts of gold and silver lay about everywhere, and glittered and gleamed before his eyes. Hans amused himself by counting the bars of gold in a single heap, and had just counted up to five hundred and seventy, when the master turned round and said, smiling, "You'd better leave off, for it will take up too much time. You would do better to take some bars from the heap, for I will give you them as a remembrance."
Of course Hans needed no second invitation. He grasped one of the bars of gold with both hands, but could not even move it, much less lift it from its place. The master laughed, and said, "Poor delicate flea! you cannot carry off even the least of my treasures, so you must feast your eyes on them instead." He then led Hans into another room, and through a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth of these treasure-caverns, till they reached the seventh, which was as big as a large church, and, like the others, was crammed with heaps of gold and silver from floor to ceiling. Hans marvelled at these immeasurable riches, which could easily have bought up all the kingdoms in the world, but which were now lying useless underground. So he asked the master, "Why do you store up these vast treasures here, where no human being can derive any benefit from the gold and silver? If these treasures came into the hands of men, they would all be rich, and nobody would have to work or suffer distress."
"It is for this very reason," answered the master, "that I cannot hand over these treasures to mankind. The whole world would perish from sloth, if no one needed longer to work for his daily bread. Man is created to sustain himself by toil and thrift."
But Hans did not like this view of the matter, and disputed energetically with the master. At last he asked him to explain how it was that all this gold and silver was the property of one man and was left to rust, and why the master of the treasure incessantly laboured to increase it when he had already such an amazing superfluity of riches. The master answered, "I am not a man, although I have the form and appearance of one. I belong to a nobler race, which was formed by the decree of the Creator to rule the world. By his decree, I must work constantly with my little companions to prepare gold and silver under the earth, and every year a small portion is assigned to the use of men, but not more than just sufficient for their necessities. No one is allowed to receive the gift without trouble. So we are obliged to pound up the gold first, and mix the grains with earth, clay, and sand, and they are afterwards found by chance in this mass, and must be diligently sought for. But, my friend, we must break off our conversation, for it is almost noon. If you would like to look at my treasures longer, stay here, and rejoice your heart with the glitter of gold till I come to call you to dinner." Thereupon he left Hans alone.
Hans wandered about again from one treasure-chamber to another, and now and then he attempted to lift one of the smaller pieces of gold, but found it quite impossible. In former times, he had often heard clever people say how heavy gold was, but he would never believe it. Now, however, he learned it from his own experience. After a time the master returned, but he was so much altered that Hans did not recognise him at first sight. He wore red flame-coloured silken robes, richly decorated with golden lace and golden fringes. He wore a broad gold belt round his waist, and a gold crown adorned his head, sparkling with jewels like stars on a clear winter's night. Instead of the fir staff, he now held a small gold sceptre in his hand, which branched in such a way that it looked like a shoot of the great fir staff.
After the royal master of the treasure had locked the doors of the treasure-chambers and put the key in his pocket, he took Hans by the hand and led him from the smithy to another room where dinner was set out. The seats and tables were of silver, and in the midst of the room stood a beautiful dinner-table, with a silver chair on each side. All the utensils, such as cups, dishes, plates, jugs, and mugs, were of gold. When the master and his guest had seated themselves at the table, twelve dishes were presented in succession. The waiters were just like the little men in the smithy, only that they were not naked, but wore clean white clothes. Their quickness and dexterity was very remarkable, for although they did not appear to be provided with wings, they moved about as lightly as birds. They were not tall enough to reach the table, and were obliged to skip up to it like fleas. Meantime they held the great dishes and tureens in their hands, and were so skilful that they did not spill a drop of the contents. During dinner the little waiters poured mead and delicate wines into the mugs, and handed them to the company. The master carried on a friendly conversation, and explained many mysteries to Hans. Thus, when they came to talk over his nocturnal meeting with Hans, he said, "Between Christmas and New Year I am accustomed to amuse myself by wandering about the world, to watch the doings of men, and to make myself acquainted with some of them. I cannot say anything very remarkable about those whom I have seen and talked to. Most men live only to injure and plague each other. Everybody complains more or less of others. Nobody regards his own faults and failings, but lays the blame on others for what he has done himself."
Hans tried his best to dispute the truth of these words, but his friendly host made the waiters fill his glass so heedfully that his tongue became too heavy at last to utter another word, and he was equally unable to understand what his host said. Presently he fell asleep in his chair, and knew nothing more of what happened.
While he slept, he had wonderfully vivid dreams, in which the gold bars constantly floated before him. As he felt much stronger in his dreams, he took a few gold bars on his back, and easily carried them away. But at last his strength failed under the heavy burden, and he was obliged to sit down and take breath. Then he heard loud voices, which he took to be the singing of the little smiths, and the bright fire from their forges shone in his eyes. When he looked up, blinking, he saw the green wood around him. He was lying on the flowery herbage, and it was not the forge fires, but the sun-rays which shone cheerfully on his face. He shook off his drowsiness, but it was some time before he could fully recall what had happened to him.
At last, when he had fully recovered his recollection, everything seemed so strange and wonderful to him that he could not reconcile it with the ordinary course of events. Hans reflected how he had wandered from the path during a stormy winter night between Christmas and New Year, and what had happened to him afterwards came back to his recollection. He had slept by a fire with a stranger, and next day the stranger, who carried a fir staff, had received him as his guest. He had dined with him and had drunk a good deal; in short, he had spent a few days in jollity and carousal. But now it was the height of summer all around him; there must be magic in it all. When he stood up, he found that he was close by the ashes of an extinguished fire, which shone wonderfully in the sun. But when he examined the place more carefully, he saw that the supposed heap of ashes was fine silver dust, and the remaining sticks were bright gold. Oh, what luck! where could he find a bag in which to carry the treasure home? Necessity is the mother of invention. Hans pulled off his winter fur coat, swept the silver ashes together, so that not a particle was left, put the gold faggots and silver ashes into the fur, and tied it together with his belt like a bag, so that nothing could fall out. Although it was not a large bundle, he found it awfully heavy, so that he had to drag it manfully before he could find a suitable place to hide his treasure.
Thus Hans became suddenly enriched by an unexpected stroke of good fortune, and might have bought himself an estate. But after taking counsel with himself, he decided that it was better for him to leave his old dwelling-place, and to look for a fresh one at some distance, where the people did not know him. There he bought himself a nice piece of land, and he had still a good stock of money left over. Then he took to himself a wife, and lived happily like a rich man to the end of his days. Before his death he told his children his secret, and how he had visited the master of the underground treasures, who had made him rich. The story was spread about by his children and grandchildren.
* * * * *
Leaving the gnomes, we will now proceed to the wood-spirits, who may properly be classed among the nature-spirits, though they are not exactly spirits of the elements.
[Footnote 45: Jannsen regards this master-smith as Ilmarine.]
THE COMPASSIONATE WOODCUTTER.
This is a story of a man who went into the forest to fell wood, but each tree begged for mercy in a human voice, and he desisted. Afterwards an old man emerged from the thicket. He had a long grey beard, a shirt of birch-bark, and a coat of pine-bark, and he thanked the woodcutter for sparing his children, and gave him a golden rod, which would fulfil all wishes that were not so extravagant as to be impossible.
If he wanted a building erected, he was to bend the rod down three times towards an ant-hill, but not to strike it, for fear of hurting the ants. If he wanted food, he must ask the kettle to prepare what he wanted; and if he wanted honey, he must show the rod to the bees, who would bring him more than he needed, and the trees should yield sap, milk, and salve. If he needed fabrics, the loom would prepare all he needed. Then the old man declared himself to be the wood-god and disappeared.
But the man found a quarrelsome wife at home, who abused him for bringing no wood, and wished that all the birch twigs in the forest would turn to rods for the lazy hide. "Let it be so," said the man to the rod, and his wife got a sound birching.
Then he ordered the ants to build him a new storehouse in the enclosure, and next morning it was finished. He now lived a happy life, and left the rod to his children; but in the third generation it fell to a foolish man, who began to demand all sorts of absurd and impossible things. At length he ordered the rod to fetch the sun and stars from heaven to warm his back. But although the sun did not move, God sent down such hot rays from it, that the offender and all his house and goods were burned up, so that no trace of them was left. What became of the rod is unknown, but it is thought that the trees in the wood were so terrified by the fire that they have never spoken a word since.
* * * * *
There is a short Christian variant of this story (Jannsen: Veckenstedt), in which the woodcutter meets not Tapio, but Jesus, who deprives the trees of speech. But a gentle sighing and rustling of leaves is still to be heard in the woods when the trees whisper together. When the first fir-tree was felled, she shed bitter tears, which hardened into resin. But her children, the fir cones, vowed to avenge her wrongs on men, so they transformed themselves into bugs, which crept into men's houses, and still plague and torment them.
* * * * *
Our next story is a very odd one about a hat.
THE GOOD DEED REWARDED.
Once upon a time a young countryman was busy raking up his hay in the meadow, when a threatening thundercloud which arose on the horizon caused him to hasten with his work. He was lucky enough to complete it before the rain began, and he then turned his steps homewards. On his way he perceived a stranger asleep under a tree. "He'll get his hide pretty well soaked if I leave him asleep here," thought the countryman, so he went to the stranger, and shook him till he roused him from a sound sleep. The stranger stood up, and turned pale when he saw the advancing thundercloud. He felt in his pocket, intending to give something to the man who had roused him, but unfortunately he found it empty. So he said hurriedly, "For the present I must remain your debtor, but a day will come when I shall be able to show you my gratitude for your kindness. Do not forget what I tell you. You will become a soldier. After you have been parted from your friends for years, a day will come when you will be seized with home-sickness in a foreign country. When you look up, you will see a crooked birch-tree a few steps before you. Go to this tree, knock on the trunk three times, and say, 'Is the Humpback at home?' Then the rest will follow." As soon as he had finished speaking, the stranger hurried away and disappeared in an instant. The countryman went home too, and soon forgot his meeting with the sleeper on the road.
Some time afterwards the first part of the prophecy was fulfilled, for the countryman became a soldier, without his remembering anything of his adventure in the wood. He had already worn the uniform of a cavalry regiment for four years, when he was stationed with his regiment in North Finland. It fell to the turn of our friend to bring home the horses on a Whitsunday, while his jolly comrades off duty went singing to enjoy themselves at the inns. Suddenly the solitary groom was seized with such a fit of home-sickness as he had never known before. Tears filled his eyes, and charming pictures of home floated before his vision. Now, too, he remembered his sleeping friend in the wood, and his speech. Everything came before him as plainly and distinctly as if it had happened only yesterday. He looked up, and saw before him, oddly enough, an old crooked birch-tree. More in jest than expecting any result, he went up to the tree, and did what he had been instructed. But the question, "Is the Humpback at home?" had scarcely passed his lips, when the stranger stood before him, and said, "My friend, it is good that you have come, for I was afraid that you had quite forgotten me. Isn't it true that you would be glad to be at home?" The cavalry soldier sobbed out, "Yes." Then the Humpback called into the tree, "Boys, which of you can run fastest?" A voice answered from the birch, "Father, I can run as fast as a grouse can fly."—"Very well, I want a quicker messenger to-day." A second voice answered, "I can run like the wind."—"I want a quicker messenger still," replied the father. Then a third voice answered, "I can run as fast as the thoughts of men."—"You are just to my mind. I want you now. Fill a four-hundredweight sack with money, and carry it home with my friend and benefactor." Then he seized hold of the soldier's hat and cried out, "Let the hat become a man, and let the man and the sack go home!" The soldier felt his hat fly off his head. He turned round to look for it, and found himself in his own father's room, dressed like a countryman as before, and the great sack of money by his side.
At first he thought it was a dream, till he found that his good luck was real. As nobody made any inquiries after the deserter, he began to think at last that his lost hat had remained behind to do soldier's service in his stead. He related the wonderful story to his children before his death, and as the money had brought him happiness and prosperity, he could not suppose that it had been the gift of an evil spirit.
[Footnote 46: The hat reminds us of the doll in the story of the Tontla Wood. In the original the stranger is simply called "Koewer." Jannsen interprets the name to mean "Koewer-silm" (Crooked-eye), and thinks the stranger might have been Tapio himself. But it appears to me from the whole context that he was simply the indwelling spirit of one particular crooked birch-tree, whom we find at the beginning of the story wandering at a distance from home.]
Jannsen gives the following account of heath-spirits, &c. Abstracts of stories not included under other headings we have appended to his general observations.
In former days, when trees and bushes talked, animals and birds understood a wonderful language, and the Old Boy wandered about openly and unabashed, and wonderful things often happened on the heaths. He who wished to cross a heath must keep his eyes open day and night. In the daytime, indeed, no spectre dared to appear; but it often happened at night that people were teased and frightened on the heath. If any one was on the heath on a summer or autumn evening, he often heard a rustling and tapping in the bushes, and perhaps water suddenly spurted out under his feet. On winter evenings, or at midnight, he saw little flames dancing on the moor, and if he went towards them, they disappeared suddenly, and danced up again in the distance. But if a man was on the moor at night-time, he could not escape from it till cockcrow. If a man had to fetch anything from the heath during hay-harvest, he heard strange voices, or heard a bird singing with a human voice; and whoever drove across the moor in winter with a light sledge must have heard an invisible hand striking against the tree-trunks or the ice. Then you whip up your horse, and hasten across the moor, if you can.
Jannsen also relates a story of a herd-boy who was scolding at some girls who were gathering berries on the heath, and defying the devil; when he was suddenly seized by the feet and dragged down into the ground, crying for help.
THE WONDERFUL HAYCOCK.
One autumn evening a girl was going home across a frozen heath, but though she walked fast, she shivered. Presently she was pestered by a moving haycock without a band, which pressed upon her so closely that the hay pricked her face. This continued till midnight; but when a cock crew in the village, the haycock vanished, and the girl made her way home exhausted, and died within a week. Since then, the people say that cries for help have been heard from the heath by night. But they are very particular that every haycock shall be tied with a band. If thus secured, no evil spirit can interfere with it.
THE MAGIC EGG.
In former days, people used to find bits of leather, and fragments of old gloves, shoes, and hats on the moor; but if anybody took them home, some misfortune befell him. One day a man found what he thought was a duck's egg, and boiled and ate it; but the more he ate, the more there seemed to be, and he could not finish it. Next morning the portion left proved to be not an egg, but half his neighbour's cat.
Although Esthonia is not so distinctly a lake-country as Finland, which is often called "The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes," yet it is a low swampy country, with many small lakes besides the great Lake Peipus, on the south-east, and lake stories of various kinds are numerous in Esthonian tales.
Jannsen relates that Lake Korkuell or Oiso, in the district of Fellin in Livonia, stands on the site of a castle, the lord of which insisted on marrying his sister. He bribed a priest to perform the ceremony, but the castle sank into the ground with all present, and a lake arose in its stead.
We add a selection of Esthonian lake-stories.
[Footnote 47: Finland itself means Fenland, and is only a translation of the native name Suomi.]
In former ages, a great and famous king named Karkus ruled over Esthonia. In his days, fierce bears and bison lurked in the thick forests, and elk and wild horses careered swiftly through the bushes. No merchants had yet arrived in ships from foreign parts, nor invading hosts with sharp swords, to set up the cross of the Christian God, and the people still lived in perfect freedom.
The palace of King Karkus was built of costly sparkling stones, and shone far off in the sun like gold. The palace lay near the holy forest, where dwelt three good white gods and three black evil ones. There dwelt the king and his court. His enemies feared him greatly, but his people loved him as a father.
Although the king had gold and honour in abundance, yet one thing was wanting to complete his happiness, for his wife had brought him no child. He promised immense gifts to the white gods if they would only listen to his prayer and grant his wish. And behold, after seven years his prayer was answered, for the queen gave birth to twins. One was a boy, as bold and impetuous as his father, and one was a girl, with golden hair and eyes like blue harebells, which already smiled from the cradle on her mother. The king was full of joy, and made great offerings to the white gods, as he had vowed. But the black gods, who deemed themselves worthy of equal honour, were greatly offended at being despised by the king. So they went to the God of Death, and urged him to gaze on the king's son with his evil countenance and to destroy him.
Meantime the boy grew rapidly, and became the delight of his parents. But when he came to lisp the first word, he was struck by the evil glance of Death. From this hour he pined away, and at length died. But his sister, who was named Rannapuura, lived and flourished like a rose, as the only joy of her parents.
But the hatred of the evil powers was not appeased by the partial revenge which they had taken. So they contrived that when the king's daughter was seven years old, she fell into the power of the wicked witch Peipa. The witch carried Rannapuura away to her horrible abode, which was in a rock beneath a lofty mountain ridge in Ingermanland. Here the poor child was compelled to pass ten years of her life. But notwithstanding her hard servitude to the witch, she grew up to maidenhood, and no maiden in the whole world was so fair as she. As the dawn shines ruddy on the borders of the horizon at daybreak and promises fine weather, so shone her gentle face in quiet restfulness, and her eyes proclaimed the angel heart in her bosom.
The king knew where his daughter was imprisoned, for a good spirit had informed him, but, mighty as he was, he could accomplish nothing against the craft and malice of the witch. So he abandoned all hope of rescuing his daughter from this place of suffering. At length the white gods took pity on the king's daughter and her parents; for the king sought their aid continually, and made them rich offerings. But even the gods did not venture to contend openly with the mighty Peipa; so they sought to effect their purpose by stratagem. They secretly sent a dove to Rannapuura with a silver comb, a carder, a golden apple, and a snow-white linen robe, and sent her this message: "Take the gifts of the white gods, and flee from your prison as soon as you can. If Peipa pursues you, call on the white gods, and first cast the comb behind you; but if this is of no effect, drop the carder; but if this does not detain her, and she still follows on your heels, then throw the apple, and lastly the robe behind you. But be very careful not to make a mistake, and throw down the gifts in the right order."
Rannapuura promised the dove to obey her instructions exactly, thanked the white gods for their favours, and sent the dove home.
On the first Tuesday after the new moon, Peipa jumped upon an old broom at midnight, as the witches are accustomed to do, both here and in Ingermanland, every year, on the third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth new moon, and thus flew away from the house. The maiden stole softly from her room long before dawn, and took the four gifts of the gods with her on her way. She ran straight towards her father's castle, as swiftly as she could. At mid-day, when she had already gone a good part of the way, she chanced to look round, and saw to her horror that the witch Peipa was pursuing her. In her right hand she swung a formidable bar of iron, and she was mounted on a huge cock, who was close behind the princess. Then she cried aloud on the white gods, and cast the silver comb behind her. Instantly the comb became a rushing river, deep and broad and many miles long. Peipa gazed furiously after the fugitive, who was running swiftly on the opposite bank of the stream, and soon left her far behind. But after a time, the witch found a ford through the water, hurried across, and was soon close behind the maiden again. Now Rannapuura dropped the carder, and behold, a forest sprang up from it so thick and lofty that the witch and her hellish steed could not penetrate it, and she was forced to ride round it for a whole day.
The unfortunate princess had now been wandering for two nights and a day, without tasting a morsel of bread or daring to sleep an instant. Then her strength failed her, and on the second day the witch was again close on her heels, when she threw down the apple in her need; and this became a lofty mountain of granite. A narrow path, as if traced by a snake, wound up to the summit, and showed the witch her way. Before she could overcome this obstacle, another day had passed; but the princess had only gone a short distance farther, for sleep had closed her weary eyes, and when she awoke, and could see her father's castle in the distance at last, the witch was so close upon her that she never hoped to escape. In great terror she flung the linen robe on the ground behind her. It fell broadside, and soon rushed forth into a vast lake, whose foaming waves raged wildly round the witch. A howling storm flung water and spray into the witch's face; her wickedness could not save her, nor could her steed, the hellish cock, escape. He raised his neck above the water, thrust up his beak, and beat the water with his wings, but it was all to no purpose, and he was miserably drowned. Peipa called on all the spirits of hell to aid her, with curses, but none of them appeared, and she sank into the depths howling. There she lies to this day in pain and torment. The pikes and other horrible creatures of the depths gnaw upon her and torture her incessantly. She strikes about her with her hands and feet, and twists and stretches her limbs in her great distress. Thence comes it that the lake, which is named Peipus after her, always rises in billows and stormy waves.
Rannapuura reached her father's castle in safety, and soon became the bride of a prince. But the king's name is still perpetuated in that of the church at Karkus, and the estate of Rannapungern, which lies north of Peipus, on the boundary between Livonia and Esthonia, is named after Rannapuura. The river which rose from the silver comb is the river Pliha, with its shining waters. He who knows it now may understand its origin. It cannot run straight, but twists right and left like the teeth of a double comb, unites with the Narova, and falls with that river into the sea. The forest, too, remained until two hundred years ago, when the Swedes and Poles brought war into the land. The Poles concealed themselves in the forest, but the Swedes set fire to it and burned it down. The mountain formed by the apple of the princess is likewise standing, but its granite has become changed to sandstone.