After a rest, Joseff said: "Paulus, look at me." Straightening his skees and armed with his staff he leaned his body forward, and down he went, faster than boys coasting down a very steep hill at home. It was fine, and I wished I could learn quickly and go down hill as fast as he did.
When he had ascended the hill again, Joseff said to me: "Now, Paulus, get ready." He saw that my skees were in position, and saying, "Bend your body far forward as you go down," he shouted "Go!" At this word I bent my body forward as he had told me, and down I went; but I got scared, as I was going very fast, and forgot to follow his advice; straightened myself and bent backward, and before I knew it my skees slipped from my feet. I was unskeed just like a man who is unhorsed, and was seated on the snow looking at my skees, which were going forward down the steep hill and only stopped at its base, to the great amusement of Joseff, who evidently expected something of the kind. "The tendency of a beginner," he explained, "is to bend backward, thinking that by doing so he will be able not to go so fast; this invariably brings about the same result, and he falls."
After a good laugh from both of us, Joseff said: "Paulus, try again; but this time I will teach you to go down hill in another way." He gave me his big stick, and said, "Ride this, and rest upon it as heavily as you can, so that a great part of your weight shall be on the end that sinks into the snow, and before you start let the stick be in the snow about three inches deep. Thus you will be prevented from going down too fast. Don't forget to start with your skees running straight along side of each other." I went down riding the stick, and reached the bottom of the hill in safety. I felt very proud of my success, but thought that if I could ever do this like Joseff how happy I should be.
Then Joseff gave me another warning. "Paulus," said he, "people must look out carefully not to run into boulders as they go down hill, and a hill full of boulders only those who can guide their skees well can venture to go down. Avoid such hills when you are further north, for otherwise you might even be killed."
Shortly after our return to the farm the wind began again to rise, and another terrific windstorm blew over the land. The hillocks of snow were swept from where they stood and new hillocks were made in other places. When I went out the wind almost took me off my feet.
I found that my friends in Haparanda were right. The Lapp costume is well adapted for cold weather. Nothing is warmer than reindeer skin, and it is convenient either when the wearer is driving in his Lapp sleigh, walking or travelling on skees, or when breasting violent windstorms.
I finally bade good-bye to Joseff, and thanked him for having taught me to go on skees. And I continued my journey northward, with a guide to show me the way.
A PRIMITIVE STEAM BATH HOUSE.—HOW THE BATH WAS PREPARED.—WHAT ARE THE TWIGS FOR?—I ASCERTAIN.—ROLLING IN THE SNOW.—FINE EFFECT OF THE BATH.
A few miles further on I came to a little hamlet composed of a few farms. The inhabitants were all Finlanders. Travelling was so bad, on account of the big drifts of snow, that I decided to stay a few days in the place. The following day was Saturday and the afternoon was the beginning of Sunday, and the boys and the young men of the place said to me: "Paulus, to-day is bathing day. Every Saturday we have a bath."
"All right, boys," I replied, "I will have a bath with you." Of course they did not mean a water bath, but a steam bath.
Pointing to a little log building, they said, "Paulus, this is the bath house. Come, and we will show you how we work out a steam bath in our country. You see the bath house stands away from other buildings, to prevent the fire from spreading in case it should start anywhere."
So I went with them to the bath house and got in. It was dark, and no light or air could come in except through the door. The room was about fifteen to eighteen feet long and about ten or twelve feet wide. In the centre there was an oven-like structure, made of boulders piled upon each other without any cement whatever. Along the walls were three rows of seats, made simply from the branches of trees and rising one above the other, just like seats at a circus, the first one being near the ground. The people had brought wood beforehand. This they put into the oven and set fire to it. They said to me, "We are going to keep the fire burning all the time, to heat the stones, and when they are burning hot this afternoon we will stop the fire, the place will be cleaned, and then we will take our bath."
We were soon obliged to go out, on account of the smoke. And the fire was kept up all day, boys coming now and then with more firewood to add to it.
Late in the afternoon I went with two women who cleaned the place thoroughly and took away the ashes, and a big vessel put next the oven was filled with water. Slender boughs of birch trees were brought in, and I wondered why. I found out later! Finally word was sent round that everything was ready.
Then my new friends said to me, "Paulus, you will undress in your room and come to the bath room with nothing on, for there is no place there to dress or to hang your clothes. We all go there naked."
"But," said I, "it is 30 degrees below zero."
"That is nothing," they answered, laughing. "The bath house is close by—just a stone's throw from your place, and you will find it warm enough there," upon which they left me to get ready themselves.
When I was undressed I looked through the windows and saw men and boys without clothes on running towards the bath house, which they entered quickly and shut the door.
It did not take me much time to reach the bath house. I ran double quick to it. Oh! wasn't it cold on the way! But as soon as I was in I could feel the great heat from the oven. It was so warm, and felt so good after coming from the icy air.
Then water was taken from the large vessel and thrown over the stones with a big dipper. Steam rose at once; then more water was thrown, until the place was full of steam. I could not stand it. It was too hot for me. "Don't stand up, Paulus," they said; "sit on the lower seat." Even that was too high for me. I sat on the floor until I got accustomed to breathing the hot air. The perspiration was fairly running down my body. More water was poured and more steam was raised.
Then one of the fellows said, "Paulus, let me give you a switching with the birch twigs. It is fine; it brings the blood into circulation." One of the boys began to switch my back, and soon I cried, "Enough, enough, enough!" Soon all were switching one another, and the one who had switched me said, "Paulus, give me a good switching—harder than the one I gave you." I thought mine had been strong enough; my back must have been as red as a boiled lobster. I followed his injunctions until he said it was enough.
Then more steam was raised after a while, and after this was done all shouted, "Let us have another switching before we go." At last I went out with a few of the men, when, lo! they rolled over two or three times in the snow, calling out to me to do likewise; that it felt so good. I did what they bade me to do. How nice it was! It was a delightful sensation. Then we got up and ran as fast as we could for our houses.
As we ran, they called to me, "Paulus, do not dress at once, and not before you have stopped perspiring." So I walked up and down in my room for more than an hour before I dressed. After this I felt like a new man.
The Finlanders do not dress like the Laplanders when they are at home; it is only when they travel that they wear the kapta or pesh. The men wear long overcoats, lined with woolly sheepskin. The women's dress is composed of a body of black cloth, with skirt of thick homespun wool. Their long and heavy jackets are also lined with sheepskin inside, and they wear hoods.
HOW THE LAPPS AND FINNS TRAVEL.—STRANGE-LOOKING SLEIGHS.—DIFFERENT VARIETIES.—LASSOING REINDEER.—DESCRIPTION OF THE REINDEER.
After leaving this hamlet where I had such an odd bath, I came to a farm where I saw sleighs the like of which I had never seen before. To many of these were harnessed reindeer with superb horns, while others were without animals.
These sleighs looked exactly like little tiny boats, just big enough to carry one person and a very small amount of luggage, but not big enough for trunks. They were all made of narrow fir-tree planks, strongly ribbed inside just like boats, about seven feet long and two and one-half feet in width at the end, which was the broadest part. The forward part of some was decked. They all had a strong leather ring to which the traces were fastened. They had holes pierced in their sides for strings to pass through from one side to the other to keep everything fast. They had keels like sailing boats; these were very strong and about four inches wide, and varied some in thickness or height; many of the keels were much worn from constant use.
As I was looking at these sleighs, strange-looking people of very small stature came out of the farmhouses. These were Lapps, and they were dressed as I was. We saluted each other and began to speak together in Swedish, and they wondered where I came from.
One of them said to me, "You are looking at our sleighs as if you had never seen such ones before."
"You are right," I replied, "I have never seen such sleighs before, and if these had been on the shores of a river or lake, I should have taken them to be boats."
Then the Lapp explained: "The higher the keel is the quicker the sleigh can go and the faster we can travel. The keel acts like a runner, and when the snow is well packed and crisp, the sides of the sleigh hardly touch it; but this makes it the more difficult for a beginner to remain inside, for the sleigh rocks to and fro."
Then pointing to a sleigh, he said, "This kind is called 'Kerres.' They are used to carry merchandise or people." Then pointing to another, "This kind is called a 'Lakkek.'" These were somewhat larger than the other, and had decks like a vessel, with a sort of hatchway. These were used as trunks; two had their decks covered with sealskin to make them more surely water-tight.
"In these," said the Lapp, "we carry our woollen clothing, our fine handkerchiefs, our jewelry, our silver spoons, our prayer-book and psalm-book—everything that is precious. In them we also carry our provisions, our coffee, our sugar, salt, and everything that has to be protected against snow or dampness."
Another kind was called "Akja," especially built for fast travelling, and had keels about two and a half to three inches thick. The forward part of these was over-decked to about a third of the length, and covered with sealskin. The decked part was a sort of box or trunk to keep provisions or other things necessary for a journey which required to be protected. The backs of most of these were leather-cushioned.
After I had looked carefully at all the sleighs, I went to the farmhouse with the Lapps and was welcomed by the Finlander who owned the place. His name was Jon. We were soon friends.
The people asked me whither I was bound, and I told them that I was going as far north as the Arctic Ocean, as far as Nordkyn. Then they said to me, "You cannot go further without learning how to drive reindeer, for you must give up horses. The snow is too deep and we do not use dogs in our country. We will teach you how to drive reindeer and use our sleighs; then, when you know, some of us will take you where you want to go, either north, east, or west."
I bought a very pretty sleigh with the forward part decked over, where some of my things could be stored. The back was cushioned and covered with sealskin made fast with broad rounded-top copper nails. This was a really "swell" sleigh.
The next day Jon said to me, "Let us go together where my herd of reindeer is, and lasso those I want to use, for I am going to teach you myself how to drive," adding: "I own over one thousand reindeer."
He called two other Lapps, and we put on our skees and started, and soon after we were out of sight of the house. After an hour's travel we reached the reindeer. I noticed that the snow was not very deep.
"In this herd I have over sixty reindeer that have been broken to harness," said Jon.
"How can you find them out of such a great number?" I asked. "To me so many of them look alike, in fact they would all look alike if it were not that with some the horns are not as big as those of the others."
"I know them all," he replied. "I could even tell the ones that are missing."
Then I remembered that I had heard that a shepherd knew every sheep of his flock.
"Stay where you are," said Jon. "Many of the reindeer are shy, and do not come to us when we are trying to lasso them."
Jon and the other two Lapps let their skees slip off their feet, so that they could have a stronger footing, looked round so as to recognize the deer they wanted, and then with their lassos in their hands, ready to be flung, walked very carefully towards two reindeer somewhat apart from the others. When they were near enough, some ten or fifteen yards from them, which is about the distance one can lasso with a chance of success, they stopped and threw their lassos over the horns of the animals. One made no effort to escape, for he had been used to this for more than five years; but the other cut up any amount of pranks, though in his efforts to get away the rope got tighter and tighter at the base of his horns.
The man had to use all his strength before the animal was subdued. Once or twice he was pulled by the reindeer and almost fell. In his efforts to get away the reindeer entangled his legs in the lasso and fell powerless. In the mean time Jon had come gently towards his reindeer and knotted the cord of the lasso round his muzzle.
"We always do this," said he to me, "as a measure of precaution. When thus corded the reindeer move with far more difficulty if they wish to run away."
The other reindeer, which fought so desperately for freedom, had only been used twice during the winter and was not accustomed to being lassoed.
These two animals were tied to trees, and then Jon and the Lapps went to capture two others. Jon missed the second reindeer, a splendid bull, on the first throw, the lasso falling on his back; but the next throw caught him. At the same time the other man had succeeded in lassoing the fourth one.
Then Jon, pointing to the second reindeer he had lassoed, said: "Paulus, I wanted this one especially for you. He is thirteen years old. He is one of my favorites and has been often under harness. He does not go quite as fast as he did formerly, but he is just the reindeer for you, for he is more easily managed than any others I own."
I looked at the reindeer. I noticed that the animal had much stouter legs than the common deer, or even than the elk, and the hoofs were particularly large. They are smaller than our own big elks, and looked very much like our caribou. The hair of the majority of the reindeer was gray, very coarse and thick, and almost white under the belly. Some of the animals in the herd were white.
Then we went homeward. Two or three times one of the reindeer made a light show of resistance and had to be pulled for a minute or so, and the wilder one was even less easy to manage; he struggled hard several times, and twice the Lapp who held him was almost thrown down.
HARNESSING REINDEER.—THE FIRST LESSONS IN DRIVING.—CONSTANTLY UPSET AT FIRST.—GOING DOWN HILL WITH REINDEER.—THROWN OUT AT THE BOTTOM.—QUEER NOISE MADE BY REINDEER HOOFS.
On our return we tied our reindeer securely and went to a small house where the harness was kept. There I saw along the walls many collars, leather straps, and traces, but no bits. I thought this was singular, and I wondered how the reindeer could be driven, but I said nothing. But when harnesses for the reindeer were brought out I found that harnessing a reindeer was very unlike harnessing a horse, and far more simple. A collar was put on, and at the lower part of the collar a strong plaited leather trace was fastened. This passed between the reindeer's legs and was made fast to the forward part of the sleigh. No bits are used. The rein (there was only one) was also of plaited leather and fastened at the base of the horns.
During this process the reindeer seemed very restless and several times were on the point of running away.
"The harnessing, as you see," said Jon to me, "though simple, has to be done with great care, for no matter how well trained a reindeer is, as soon as he is harnessed he wants to go; besides, he is easily scared when in harness." So while things were being made ready for the start the reindeer were tightly held.
"I will now show you how to take your place in the sleigh," said Jon. Then he sat upright at the bottom, with his legs stretched before him and his back resting against the end of the sleigh. Then he got out and said, "Now you get in." I found the position a very uncomfortable one; but this is the only way one can sit in these little sleighs. And it took me some time to get accustomed to it without getting tired, though afterwards I could sit for hours without getting out.
Jon handed me the rein and twisted it round my wrist, and said with a rather roguish smile: "Now, if you upset, the reindeer cannot run away without you! After a while he will stop when he knows you are tipped over. You will roll over several times in the snow before he stops."
"All right," I replied, "there is plenty of snow, no harm can come to me. My head is safe."
"Be careful, Paulus," he added; "see that your rein never touches the snow, for if it should get under the sleigh your arm might become entangled and your wrist or shoulder be dislocated. If you upset, let the rein go. If you want the reindeer to stop, throw the rein to the left. If you want him to go fast, keep it on the right. Keep your rein always loose, almost touching the snow. Have a sharp lookout about this.
"I myself will ride with my legs outside, my toes touching the snow to guide my sleigh; but you are a beginner, and you cannot do so. Never ride with your legs out, for it is dangerous for a man who is not accustomed to it to ride that way. Sometimes accidents happen even among the most expert, and some Lapps get seriously injured. Here is a stick to guide your sleigh, and to prevent your reindeer from going too fast push the stick deep into the snow. It will not be as good as feet, but it is much better than nothing.
"I will take the lead, you will follow, and two Lapps will come behind to watch over you. Do not mind if you upset often; do not be discouraged; a beginner has to upset many times before he knows how to drive a reindeer and keep in his sleigh."
In the mean time our reindeers had become very restive and they were held with difficulty. Suddenly Jon gave the order to start.
We started at a furious speed, and my sleigh rocked to and fro. It was awful. I swayed first one way, then another. I knew that I could not keep my equilibrium long without being thrown out, and I was right. Each reindeer wanted to go faster than the others; they kept on at a terrible gait. I was shot out of the sleigh, heels over head, and rolled over and over in the snow. Finally the animal stopped.
The Lapps behind me came to the rescue. After brushing the snow from my face I got in again, and my reindeer started off at a fearful speed, and in less than thirty seconds I was once more shot out of my sleigh. This time the rein slipped from my wrist, as I had not secured it well enough, and the animal sped away, leaving me on my back, blinded by the snow. The Lapps went on their skees after my reindeer, which in the mean time had stopped, and brought it back to me.
Then they said to me with a laugh: "Often reindeer start that way when they feel frisky. To-day is the right sort of weather for them. The mercury marks 40 degrees below zero. The starting is the most difficult part."
I thought so! I got into my sleigh, and the animal started at a furious speed, and once more I was shot out of the sleigh. I got up half stunned, covered with snow. Fortunately I had twisted the rein so well round my wrist this time that the reindeer could not run away without me, and he stopped after I had been dragged a few seconds.
I was not disheartened—so I kept on driving and being thrown out. It happened so often that I began to tire of counting the number of times I upset. It must have been nearly one hundred times that day. It had been a very hard day's work for me.
The second day I took more lessons, and began to learn how to balance myself. It is a knack, and I began to improve and had fewer upsettings. The third day I did better. I gradually learned pretty well how to balance myself on level ground, and did not upset any more.
After a few days I knew how to drive reindeer on level ground, and I could guide my sleigh with a stick as well as a sailor steers his boat with the rudder.
When I had reached this stage of expertness Jon said to me: "Paulus, now you can drive in a level country, but soon you will come where there are many steep hills, and mountains. So you must learn how to drive down steep hills. This is often very exciting. The weather is beautiful, and this afternoon I want you to take your first lesson going down hill. I have sent men for a fresh set of reindeer; they will soon be back."
In the course of the afternoon the reindeer came out harnessed, and as we were ready to start, "I will lead," said Jon, "you will follow, and another Lapp will come third. It is far more difficult to go down hill than to drive on a level surface. You must put your stick deep into the snow to slacken the speed and guide your sleigh. Don't be frightened at the speed, which is very great, and be careful not to be thrown out when you reach the bottom of the hill; this is the most difficult part of driving, for the reindeer turn sharply so as not to have the sleigh strike their legs." At this remark I thought of my going down hill on skees. That was hard enough, and I wondered what would happen to me with the sleigh.
The surface of the country was slightly undulating, and our reindeer followed each other in good order and at a short distance from one another.
Suddenly Jon slackened the pace of his reindeer so that I should overtake him. Then, when within hearing distance, he called out: "We will soon go down a steep hill," and he started again.
He had hardly said these words when he was out of sight. I reached the crest of the hill, then down went my reindeer at a terrible pace, railway speed in fact, and as the animal reached the bottom of the hill he made a sudden sharp curve. For a few seconds my body swayed from one side to the other, and before I knew it I was flung headlong out of the sleigh.
This took place in a great deal less time than I can tell it in. I had been thrown out with great force against the snow, face forward, and as the snow was granulated it hurt.
I had learned to be quick. I was in my sleigh in the twinkling of an eye and followed the track made by Jon, and we rode quietly on the plain. Soon Jon stopped and a moment after I joined him.
"Paulus," said he, when I had caught up with him, "we must try another descent." We ascended the bank in a zigzag way (I following his track) until we reached the summit. It was hard work. This hill was very long and steep. When ready Jon shouted: "Paulus, look out; we are going to have another descent." The pace of my reindeer was tremendous as he went down. The animal seemed to know that if he did not go fast enough the sleigh would strike against his legs as he descended the hill. Down we went; we simply seemed to fly, and as the reindeer got to the bottom he made the same sharp turn again, the sleigh whirled round with a great jerk, and I was thrown out head over heels as before.
During the descent, as my animal ran his hind feet threw particles of granulated snow in my face—they were like small stones striking it with great force. It hurt awfully. After this I was obliged to put on my mask for protection that day.
Ever since I had begun driving reindeer I had heard a noise, a sharp sound, as if sticks of wood were striking against each other, when the animals were trotting at full speed. It occurred to me to ask what was the cause of this curious noise. My Lapp replied, "Every time the hoof of the reindeer touches the snow it spreads wide apart, broadening in this way and keeping the animal from sinking too deep in the snow; and when the foot is lifted, the two sides of the hoof are brought together again, striking against each other and making the noise you hear."
I continued to improve every day in going down hill, and succeeded at last in keeping in by throwing my body in the opposite direction when the reindeer made his sharp turn. This difficulty conquered, I bade Jon a hearty good-bye, thanking him for his patience in teaching me, and continued my journey.
From Rukojarvi I had followed the highroad, passed the post stations of Korpilombolo with its church, Sattajarvi, and came to the hamlet of Pajala, in latitude 67 deg. 10'. The hamlet is situated near the junction of the Torne river with the Muonio, and had a church.
THE LAST DAYS OF THE SUN.—BEGINNING OF THE LONG NIGHT.—A MIGHTY WALL OF ICE.—THE LONG NIGHT'S WARNING VOICE.—THE AURORA BOREALIS AND ITS MAGNIFICENCE.
The day I left Pajala I saw the sun at noon; it was hardly above the horizon; it had barely risen and shown itself when it was sunset and it disappeared under the horizon.
Then came a long snowstorm, and for a wonder one without a gale. After the snowstorm the sky suddenly cleared, and at noon I saw the sun's lower rim touching the horizon. It was of a fiery red. Then after a while it disappeared.
The next day only the upper half of the sun was above the horizon at noon, and just as the rim was ready to sink I fancied I heard the sun say to me: "To-morrow you will not see me; then you will have entered 'The Land of the Long Night,' and when you go further and further north you will be in that land. Good-bye, good-bye."
Then I thought I heard the "Long Night" say to me: "For one night of six months I rule at the North Pole. Then I am most powerful. In the course of countless years I have frozen the sea and I have built a wall of ice so thick, and so broad, and so hard, that no vessel will ever be strong enough to break through, and no man will ever reach the pole. I guard the approach to the pole and watch carefully the wall of ice I have built around it. When the sun drives me away and rules in his turn one day of six months at the pole (for the whole year is equally divided between us), he tries with his steady heat to destroy the wall I have built. On my return I repair the damage the sun has done and make the wall as strong as it was before. I send terrific gales and mighty snowstorms over oceans and lands, and even far to the south of my dominion, for my power is so great that it is felt beyond my realm."
There was a pause; then I thought I heard the sardonic laugh of the "Long Night." I shuddered when I remembered the words the "Long Night" had just spoken, and the laugh had in it something sinister. I fancied I saw the dim figure of a woman with long flowing hair standing at the pole, looking towards me. She was the "Long Night." I remembered the names of the valiant and daring commanders who had led expeditions towards the North Pole, and had perished in their endeavors with the gallant men who had trusted and followed them.
Then I thought of the brave explorers who had followed in their wake with better fortune, for their lives had been spared, though they failed to reach the pole. The wall the "Long Night" had built could not be passed.
As these thoughts came over me, I exclaimed: "'Long Night,' great and terrible indeed has been the loss of life among those who have tried to reach the pole, but the ingenuity of man is great, and in spite of the ice barrier thou hast built around it we have not lost hope that man by some device of his own may yet be able to reach the pole."
After uttering these words I imagined I heard, again coming from the far north, another laugh of the "Long Night." It seemed like a laugh of defiance in response to what I had said.
Near me was a forest of tall fir trees; looking up I saw the great blue of heaven studded all over with brilliant stars shining down upon the snow-covered land where I was.
The next day the sun did not appear. I was now in "The Land of the Long Night." It was strange now to see stars all the time, and the moon in the place of the sun. The great pines and fir trees of the forest contrasted strongly with the snow of the land.
The sun had disappeared below the horizon, but in clear days its glow could be seen. I could not tell the hour of the day, for the stars set and rose in continuous succession in this kingdom of the "Long Night." I did not know when it was morning or when it was evening, but in fine weather the glow over the horizon told me when it was about noon. It was indeed a strange land; but the Lapps could tell from the stars whether it was night or day, for they were accustomed to gauge time by them according to their height above the horizon, just as we do at home with the sun. I had my watch, but could not look at it often, for it was under my garments.
For many days the land was illuminated for a while every night by the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. Sometimes the aurora seemed to imitate the waves of the sea and moved like big heavy swells, changing colors, bluish, white, violet, green, orange. These colors seemed to blend together. Then the heaving mass would become gradually intensely red. This red mass broke into fragments which scattered themselves all over the blue sky. It gave its reflection to the snow. It was the end of the aurora or electric storm. They were never twice alike; they varied in forms and colors. The auroras are like everything in creation: on our earth there not two men or women exactly alike, there are not two leaves alike, two blades of grass, two trees, two stones alike, neither two waves, for the sea is ever changing in its ripples.
THE SNOW GETTING DEEPER.—LAPP HOSPITALITY.—A LAPP REPAST.—COFFEE AND TOBACCO LAPP STAPLES.—BABIES IN STRANGE CRADLES.—HOW THE TENTS ARE MADE.—GOING TO SLEEP WITH THE MERCURY AT 39 deg. BELOW.
When I had left Pajala I travelled on the frozen Muonio, passed the stations of Kaunisvaara, Killangi, and Parkajoki, and came to Muonioniska. All the hamlets or farms had comfortable log buildings. Some of the dwelling-houses were quite large. Wood was not lacking and the houses were quite warm. Forests of the fir were abundant.
The sun was now hidden below the horizon. The snow was getting deeper every hour—and was about seven or eight feet deep on a level after being packed. I was coming to another great "Snow Land." From Muonioniska I travelled on between the Muonio and Ouanasjoki rivers. (Joki means river in Finnish.) I became acquainted with many nomadic Lapps who wandered with their reindeer over that great snow land—among them were two very pleasant men of the name of Pinta and Wasara, who agreed to travel with me for a while.
Wasara, the younger, was the son of a very rich Lapp who owned nearly ten thousand reindeer, and possessed besides a good bank account.
Pinta was poor, the possessor of only about one hundred reindeer, which pastured with those of his elder brother. Pinta was about thirty years old; Wasara about twenty-five. Both were men of splendid physique; broad shouldered with very muscular legs and arms, which were apparently as hard as wood. They had blue eyes and fair hair. One was four feet eight inches and a half in height, the other was four feet ten inches. They were very skilful on skees; in summer they could make tremendous leaps over rivers and ditches with the long poles they carried with them, and could drive the most intractable reindeer, which are even worse than our broncos.
While travelling, I drove next to the leader, for reindeer follow each other mechanically in the same furrow. The leader is the one that has the most work; but if he follows a furrow, his reindeer gives him little trouble.
Pinta generally took the lead, I came next, and Wasara third. Pinta and Wasara had their faithful dogs with them.
Travelling was fine; the snow was well packed, and so crisp that the sleighs glided over it lightly. Often we travelled at the rate of fifteen miles an hour, for our animals were strong and had not been used for several days.
How I shouted, for I had such an exuberance of spirits. I felt so strong and healthy. I wanted to go, to go onward, to go all the time. Sometimes I felt like running, like jumping. One could not help it, for it was the atmosphere that made one feel so. I could not get tired.
The fine weather, however, lasted but a few days. Then the sky became gray, there was not a star to be seen, the wind began to rise, and snow fell. We could see nothing. Wasara thought we were near the tent of his father, but we could not see any landmark to guide us.
The two dogs ran in every direction, to try to scent people. They seemed to know that we were looking after the tent of Wasara's father; but each time they would return looking in the face of their masters silently, as if to say "We find nothing."
We were somewhat afraid of wolves, but trusted in the dogs to warn us of their approach. We at last concluded to stop; we kept the reindeer harnessed and stood near them. We fixed our hoods carefully over our faces, put on our masks, and seated ourselves on the snow. Soon I heard heavy snoring—Pinta and Wasara were fast asleep, with their heads downward and arms crossed on their breasts. The Lapps sleep often in that way when travelling. But the weather cleared after three or four hours and we continued our journey. My two friends then knew where they were.
After an hour's drive we saw in the midst of the snow, near a large forest of fir trees, a tent. "Here is the tent of my father," said Wasara, pointing out the tent to me.
We hurried our reindeer, and as we approached the place more than a dozen Lapp dogs, wolf-like in appearance, announced our arrival by their fierce barking.
Wasara's father came outside of the tent, drove the dogs away, and told them to be quiet. He recognized his son and bade us come in.
"What a strange abode these nomadic Lapps have," I said to myself, as I looked around inside of the tent. According to Lapp etiquette the left side of the tent was given to us, soft reindeer skins being first laid on the top of branches of young birch trees that were spread on the floor of earth, the snow having been removed where they had pitched their tent.
The father took his snuffbox from a small bag and offered me a pinch of snuff. This ceremony meant that I was welcome, and I passed the snuffbox to his son who, in turn, offered a pinch of snuff to Pinta.
I looked with astonishment at the people that were in the tent, and everything that surrounded me. These Lapps had blue eyes; their faces, owing to exposure to the blustering winds, were very red, but the protected part of the skin was as white as that of the whitest people. There were a number of women and men, several young girls and two lads. I was told that there were two men with the reindeer.
The women were all busy; one was weaving shoe-bands of bright colors, red predominating; another was just finishing a "kapta," and a third one was putting a lining of red flannel over the seams upon a tiny pair of reindeer-skin shoes for a child; the girls were sewing some undergarments.
Wasara's father's first name was Pehr,—he was a fine-looking Lapp, about seventy years old. His father was living, and was about ninety years old. The outdoor life agrees with the Lapp. Give me the plateaus of the Arctic regions for health. There are plenty of mosquitoes in summer, but no malaria at any time. Nor is there any sore throat there. I do not remember, indeed, ever to have heard a person cough in that country.
The material of the tent was of very coarse woollen stuff, called "vadmal." The tent was about thirteen feet in diameter at the ground. Its frame was composed of poles fitting each other; the wood had become black from being smoked for years. These poles are so well knitted together that they can resist the terrific winds which blow over the land. A cross pole high up sustained an iron chain, at the end of which is a hook to hold the kettle and cooking pot. The coarse woollen stuff which covered the frame was composed of two pieces that were made fast by strings. The nature of the vadmal permits the wind to go gently through. The entrance is by a small sliding door made of the same material.
Inside, along the lower part of the tent, were boxes of different shapes and sizes, packages lying on the top of skins to prevent the wind from blowing in from the bottom; the outside was protected by snow.
As I glanced around I saw two queer-looking things, resembling in shape the sabots or wooden shoes of the peasantry of Europe, only very much larger, hanging near the sides. I looked in, and to my great astonishment saw a Lapp baby in each. They were Lapp cradles, called "katkem" or "komse." They were made of a single piece of wood and were about two and a half feet long by fifteen or eighteen inches wide. In one was such a sweet Lapp baby, a dear little girl, with her eyes wide open. As I looked at her she smiled. In the other was a big fat boy, fast asleep.
Two women went out and collected a lot of snow, which they put on to melt in a big iron pot hanging over the fire. This is the way the Lapps have to do to procure water. When the snow had melted she put the water in a coffee kettle that had a spout. One of the women ground coffee in a mill. Then the ground coffee was put into the kettle and left to boil for quite a while, the woman watching it, taking off the pot when it was about to boil over, and then putting it over the fire again. The third woman was attending to the cups and saucers. When the coffee was ready they put in a little bit of salt to give it flavor, then set the coffee kettle on the ground and put into it a small piece of dried fishskin to clarify it and precipitate the grounds at the bottom of the kettle.
When the coffee was ready to be poured, one of the women went out and came back with reindeer milk which had remained frozen for over three months. Then the coffee was served. The wife bit several pieces of rock candy from a big lump, to sweeten each cup of coffee, and after putting in frozen reindeer milk with a spoon, licked it with her tongue—"What is the use of being particular when one travels," I said to myself. If one were, he would starve. We had silver spoons, round in shape, with twisted handles. "These," said the father, "have been in the possession of our family for nearly two hundred years." I saw different initials and different dates from the year 1700 down.
After coffee men, women, and the young girls filled their pipes and had a good smoke. They were very much astonished when I told them I had never smoked in my life.
"There are two things we Lapps have always with us—coffee and tobacco. After a hard day's work or a long journey there is nothing so refreshing as coffee," said Pehr Wasara, smacking his lips at the very thought.
While we were chatting, Pehr was busy cutting reindeer meat and putting the pieces in a pot hanging over the fire which had been filled with snow that had melted. When he had finished, he said: "By and by you will have something to eat." I was prodigiously hungry; travelling over the snow in a temperature between 35 and 45 degrees below zero, as I had done for several days, gives one such a good appetite! While waiting for the meal to be ready, I went outside the tent with my host.
The sight outside was quite as strange as the inside of the tent. Numerous Lapp sleighs were scattered here and there, skees were lying on the ground in different directions. Quarters and other large pieces of reindeer meat, out of the reach of wolves, foxes, and dogs, were suspended to the branches of trees. On two racks about eight feet high above the ground were pieces of reindeer meat piled upon each other. Collars, traces, reins, everything for the harnessing of reindeer, were seen all round the tent; buckets full of frozen reindeer milk, filled late in the autumn, were on the ground. Hanging on trees were bladders filled with congealed milk or blood.
The sleighs were of different kinds; several were decked over and used as trunks. Others were empty. Four were filled with hoofs of the reindeer they had killed to subsist upon during the winter.
Skins of wolves, of white foxes, of reindeer, were stretched on frames, so that they could not shrink. Reindeer pack-saddles, empty pails, wooden vessels, lay here and there. Fur garments and underwear were hanging to the branches of trees. It was a strange sight indeed! But a sight I met thereafter at almost every camp.
When the meal was ready we were called in. The host served the meat, which had been put in a large platter, in portions, guessing what would satisfy the hunger of each person. The fattest parts, which are considered the most dainty, were given to me, being the guest of honor, and the meat was served to us in wooden plates. We had nothing but reindeer meat. I was getting accustomed to eat meat without bread or potatoes.
During the meal small pieces of roots of fir trees, which are full of resin, were thrown into the fire for light. After the meal I thanked all for it, according to the custom. Then the Lapps lighted their pipes again.
Pehr Wasara employed a man and a woman servant. From their clothing you could not tell them apart from the other people. They were treated like members of the family. The girl was paid three reindeer a year, the man six.
"How much can you buy a tent for?" I inquired of Pehr Wasara. "Thirty or forty dollars," he replied. "This is a great deal of money for us poor Lapps." Pehr had plenty of money in the bank, but pretended poverty. I learned also that a trained reindeer costs eight dollars.
I asked many questions. How long a tent lasted? He replied: "The vadmal is very durable, and a tent lasts about twenty years, but it has to be patched very often during that time." I looked round and saw a good many patches, and I thought of the story of the knife and handle,—first the blade broke, then a new blade was put in; after this the handle broke, and a new handle was put on. I remembered that once a dear old aunt of mine said to me: "Paul, this black silk dress has lasted me twenty years." I exclaimed, "Twenty years, aunty! Are you sure of this?" Then in the course of a few days, by indirect questions I found out that she had had three new bodices put on at different times, and three different skirts. I thought the tent of the Lapp might be twenty years old in the same way.
After the meal had been finished the babies were taken from their cradles, and their little beds were made afresh. The cradle bottoms were covered with fine, soft, well-dried lichen or reindeer moss, over which a little cotton sheet was spread. The babies were stark naked, and were wrapped in little sheepskins while their beds were being made. Then they were laid in, the sheet turned down, with a coarse piece of vadmal and sheepskin over it; the whole was made fast by a cord fastened through holes on each side of the cradle and laced across.
One of the mothers said to me: "When a child is born it is the custom among Lapps to give him or her a reindeer. When baptized the sponsor, too, often gives a reindeer to the babe, and these animals, and the increase thereof, become the child's own property."
This woman, pointing out her sister to me, observed: "When my baby had his first teeth, my sister here presented him with a reindeer. This is a custom among us Lapps."
Then two of the men and two of the women with their dogs and their skees went to relieve the people who were watching the reindeer herd, and Pehr Wasara remarked, "My reindeer are divided in a number of herds—for they could not all pasture together. We are afraid of wolves. These people are to remain on the watch all night."
The family was very pious; they were, like all the Lapps, Lutherans. Before going to sleep they sang psalms and hymns, praising God for the blessings of the day.
Then they dressed themselves for the night, putting on over the garments they wore during the day a long reindeer kapta, a sort of nightshirt reaching below the feet. More reindeer skins were put over the skins on which we were seated. Then a big bearskin was given to me as a blanket, Pehr saying, "I killed this bear myself."
Before retiring I took off my shoes, the Lapp grass, and my stockings, and hung them on the cross poles to dry. All did likewise. I carefully arranged my precious Lapp grass so every vestige of dampness would be absorbed when I should put it on again in the morning. One of the women lent me a pair of her own stockings, which she took from one of the little chests by her side.
The fire had gradually died out. "We seldom keep fires burning at night," said the head of the family, "for it would be dangerous." The dogs were driven out and the door made secure, comparatively speaking. We were all huddled close together. Then we bade each other good-night. I looked at my thermometer, it marked 39 degrees below zero inside the tent; it was 46 degrees outside and everything was perfectly still, there was not a breath of air stirring. Through the opening in the tent for the smoke to pass, I could see the stars twinkling in the blue sky as I lay on my back. Then putting my head under my bearskin I soon fell asleep, though some dogs succeeded in smuggling themselves in, and two or three times they awoke me by trying to get under my bearskin and lie by me. They did likewise with the other people. Once I was awakened by a big booming sound. It was the cracking of the ice over a lake not far off from us.
TOILET WITH SNOW.—A LAPP BREAKFAST.—LAPP DOGS.—TALKS WITH MY LAPP FRIEND ABOUT THE REINDEER.—THEIR HABITS AND VARIOUS FORMS OF USEFULNESS.
When we awoke in the morning it was 40 degrees below zero in the tent and 48 degrees below outside. I felt like washing my face and my hands, but melted snow was sure to turn into ice as soon as it was on my face. I did not want to wash in warm water, for it would have made my skin too tender. So I rubbed my face and hands with snow and dried them thoroughly. This was my usual morning wash when I slept out of doors.
A big fire was lighted and the maidservant went to work kneading dough—yeast was not used. The loaves were baked on charcoal, as is often done among the Lapps, and at the same time coffee was made.
The breakfast was composed of the dry powdered blood of reindeer, mixed with flour, diluted in warm water and made into pancake. We had a porridge of dried reindeer's milk that had been stirred in warm water with a wooden spoon. The milk of the reindeer is very rich and thick. When it was served to me, the wife remarked: "This food is very nutritious." We also had some reindeer meat and finished up with reindeer cheese and a cup of coffee. It was a fine breakfast. I ate heartily of everything. When it is so cold one is always hungry. After the breakfast, all the household with the exception of the host and hostess started on their skees for the reindeer herd, which was to be removed to some other quarters, for the moss had been more or less eaten and they were to take them to a place where the snow was not so deep. The mothers had slung their cradles with their babies on their shoulders. Each Lapp was followed by his dog.
About one hour after breakfast the night watch returned with their dogs. Immediately the wife gave to each a cup of coffee; then they took their breakfast. They gave their dogs some of the powdered blood mixed with flour and warm water. The dogs relished this greatly. Then they were given the bones, which they had been watching with glaring eyes. They went out with them and gnawed them until there was nothing left of them. Such is generally the meal given to the dogs every day. Once in a while they get a small piece of meat, which they swallow voraciously in a single mouthful.
When the night watch had done eating they went to sleep; so did their dogs. These Lapp dogs are thickset. They resemble the Pomeranian breed, but are larger; their hair is long, very thick, and bushy. Their ears stand upright; they seem to have some wolf blood in them. The tail is curly. Pehr Wasara said to me: "Lapps could not do without their dogs. They are faithful animals; they are our helpmates; they keep our reindeer together when we are on the march, watch them when they are pasturing; they look out constantly for wolves, and warn us when they are in the neighborhood, and of their approach beforehand, and attack them without fear. Neither are they afraid of bears. They are very brave.
"Every man, woman, manservant or maidservant and grown-up child, has his or her dog which obeys and listens to his master alone. They are never allowed to stay behind; wherever their master goes they go, and watch with him night and day if necessary. Occasionally, for some reason unknown to us, or because the deer scent the wolves afar off, a panic seizes the herd of reindeer, and instinctively they move away. That is the time when our dogs prove most useful and of the greatest service to us. They go around in every direction and bring the reindeer together. They seem to know that there is some unseen danger. When the wolves come into the herd, the dogs attack them fiercely and act with great cunning, taking care not to be bitten by them and waiting for the opportunity to spring on the wolves."
While Pehr was talking I wished I could see a pack of wolves attacking reindeer, to see how the dogs fight them.
"Do not think," added Pehr, "that it is our inclination to be harsh towards our dogs. We never overfeed them; it is the only way to keep them hardy, strong, and healthy. They are not allowed to rest until their master or mistress has returned to the tent. Then we want them to stay out doors."
"I should like very much," I said to Pehr, "to see how you break in reindeer and accustom them to harness."
"Well," he replied, "you will see how we train our reindeer to draw sledges. You came just in time, for we are now training some, as we have several that are getting too old. The males are used as draught animals, as they are stronger than the females. When the snow is in good condition they can draw as much as four hundred pounds, or two or three logs of pine or fir."
So he sent two men after the reindeer. They took their lassos with them, and in less than an hour they returned with two reindeer.
"The process of teaching a reindeer to draw a sleigh or carry a pack on his back," observed Pehr, "is very tedious and very hard work. Some of the reindeer are more difficult to teach than others, and in spite of the best training the wild nature and restlessness of the animal shows itself not infrequently."
I thought so. I remembered my first lessons.
"We begin to train the reindeer," he continued, "when he is about three years old, and he does not become a well trained animal before he is five. When they are under training a daily lesson is given them to let them know their masters, and also a lesson to accustom them to be lassoed, of which they are very much afraid at first. We give them salt and angelica, of which they are very fond, every day, to make them come when they are needed, and in that case the lasso is not necessary. They are never subjected to ill-treatment at any time; if they were we could do nothing with them."
The work of teaching the reindeer to draw a sleigh began. Salt was first given to one of the deer, which he seemed to enjoy very much. Then without trouble a very strong leather cord with a loop was put carefully over his horns, and the loop was drawn tight at the base. The collar was carefully put on his neck and more salt given to him. The trace attached to the sleigh was much longer than those used when driving; it was several yards in length, so that the sleigh could not be touched when the animal kicked; then it was tied to the collar of the reindeer. As soon as the animal was urged to move, and felt the weight of the sleigh, he plunged wildly forward and kicked, then plunged first in one direction and then in another. It was a great sight. I thought they would never be able to break the animal in. It required all the strength of the Lapp not to be dragged by the animal. The other man, with a cord, held the sleigh. After a few trials both man and beast were exhausted.
A short rest was then taken and another trial was made. With repeated rests for the trainer and the animal, the day's lesson proceeded. The trainer was in profuse perspiration, though it was 38 degrees below zero. My host said to me: "This exercise is repeated day after day until the animal submits to it. They are in their prime at seven or eight years and can work till the age of fifteen or seventeen years. The reason we have to wander so much with our reindeer is that we have to go where the snow is not so deep as in other parts, for the reindeer has to dig into the snow to find his food, the lichen, and he cannot go deeper than three or four feet. We generally know where these places are, for the wind, which blows every year more or less in the same direction, blows away a part of the snow. When we come to such a place we pitch our tent."
"When the reindeer is left to himself can he find such a place?" I inquired. "How can the animals know that the snow is only three or four feet deep?"
"I do not know," he replied, "but the wild reindeer can find it, otherwise they would starve."
"How can they dig through the snow?" I asked with a smile. "They have no shovels."
Pehr laughed at my remark. "Their fore feet are their shovels," he replied. "You will see for yourself how they dig the snow."
I asked Pehr also about the speed of the reindeer.
"The speed of the reindeer," he replied, "varies very much according to the time of the year and the state of the snow, October, November and December being the months when they are the fleetest, as they are fresh from the summer pastures. January and February are also very good months for them. The cold weather strengthens them, and they are not yet exhausted from digging through the snow, as they are at the end of the season. The rapidity of their gait depends very much also on the state of the surface of the snow. If it is well packed and crisp, they go very fast. Much depends, too, upon the distance and whether the country is hilly or not, or with a long range of slopes. On the rivers, over well packed snow, and a good track that has been furrowed by previous reindeer, they can average twelve or fifteen miles an hour when in good condition, sometimes twenty for the first hour; down a mountain slope twenty and twenty-five. They can travel five or six hours without stopping; the first hour very rapidly, the second more slowly, and towards the fifth and sixth hours still more slowly, perhaps not more than eight or ten miles an hour, for by that time they require rest and food, and we unharness them in places where the snow is not deep, and let them get their food. Early in the winter, when they are in good condition, one can travel with a swift bull reindeer one hundred and fifty miles in a day, and even two hundred miles if the condition of the snow is favorable and the cold is 30 or 40 degrees below zero. The colder the weather is the greater is the speed. Seventy or eighty miles a day is a good average for a reindeer."
When this talk was ended, Pehr Wasara said to me, "Let us take our skees and go to one of my herds near by." After a run of about two miles we came into the midst of a herd of about three thousand reindeer. "There are more," he said with pride. "Are they not fine animals?"
"Yes, indeed, they are," I replied.
While I was looking at the magnificent horns of some of the beasts, Pehr remarked: "The horns of the males, which often weigh forty pounds, attain the full size at the age of six or seven years, those of the cow at about four years. The time the reindeer drops his horns is from March until May. In the adult animals they attain their full size in September or at the beginning of October. After the age of eight years the branches gradually drop off. They are the easiest animals that man can keep. They require no barns. They are never housed. They like cold weather and snow. Food has not to be stored for them. They will not touch the moss that has been gathered unless brought up to do so by farmers. They get their food themselves. We do not give them water. When thirsty they eat the snow. When our people go among them they will often not even raise their heads, and remain quiet when we pitch our tents. Once in a while there is so much snow in some districts that it is impossible for reindeer to get at the moss; then the only way is to go to the lowlands, or into the forest, where the reindeer can feed on the moss hanging from the firs or pines.
"Some of the reindeer," he went on, "though trained to eat kept moss, hay, and even bread, thrive only when they are free to roam about; they cannot be kept all the time in their stables. They must wander over the snow and eat it. Otherwise they are sure to degenerate and become useless as draught animals."
"How many reindeer," I asked, "does a family require for its support?"
He replied, "A thousand at least. A herd of two thousand to two thousand five hundred gives from two hundred to two hundred and seventy-five, perhaps three hundred, calves a year. Sometimes we have bad years with our reindeer. Some years prove unfavorable to their increase. Some years the snow is very deep, which prevents them from digging for food; the herd then become emaciated from their exertions and want of sufficient food, and many die.
"Some Lapps," he added, "own five or six thousand reindeer, one or two among us, eight or ten thousand. The spring is a bad time for them; the snow melts during the day from the sun's heat, and a thick crust forms at night from the frost, so that their feet break through, causing lameness and disease. At that time we move them as much as we can only during the day, but it is hard work for them to go through the soft snow.
"Without the reindeer we could not exist in this northern land of snow. The reindeer is our horse, our beast of burden. On him we feed. He gives us our clothing, our shoes, our gloves; his skin is our blanket and our bed; his sinews our thread. On the march a herd of reindeer is easily managed. We keep them together without much trouble, and in winter they remain where we leave them to get the moss; but if the wolves are after them, then they flee in every direction, and many herds then become mixed together."
"When your reindeer get mixed with those of other herds, how can you tell which are yours?" I inquired.
Pehr answered, "Every owner has his own mark branded on the ears of all his reindeer, and no other person has the right to use the same, as this is legal proof of ownership; otherwise, when several herds were mingled together the separation would be impossible. The name of the owner of a herd, and each mark, have to be recorded in court like those of any owner of property."
MOVING CAMP.—ANOTHER GREAT BLIZZARD.—A REMARKABLE SIGHT.—DEER GETTING THEIR FOOD BY DIGGING THE SNOW.—HOW REINDEER ARE BUTCHERED.
The next day after our conversation about reindeer Pehr Wasara said to me: "We are going to move away our camp and take our reindeer to a new pasture," an expression that struck me as somewhat singular, as the country lay under snow to the depth of five or six feet. "Some of us are going to fetch the draught animals, and I will be back in a short time." With these words he left with some of his people.
They returned with a fine lot of trained reindeer.
In the mean time there had been a great commotion in the camp; everybody was busy; the tent had been packed in two bundles; its frame made three packages; the frozen reindeer milk, all the provisions, meat, garments, robes, skins,—in a word, everything they had was loaded on different sleighs and secured.
The babies were carefully fixed in their queer-looking cradles, and made quite safe against blustering winds.
Everything being ready, the reindeer were harnessed and we started. Soon after, we came to the herd which had been bunched by the Lapps, the dogs keeping them together. Then we began our march.
The herd moved in advance, in a body. Men, women and children on their skees moved after them with great rapidity, with their dogs to help them in the work of keeping the herd together. They all shouted and urged the dogs to look out, but this required, I thought, no urging, for the dogs were on the alert and knew what to do. In the rear were three Lapps with their dogs driving the reindeer forward; the dogs barked behind the heels of the animals, and once in a while would bite the legs of those that did not move fast enough.
The women worked just as hard as the men, and those who had babies carried them in their cradles, slung on their backs, and went as fast on their skees as if they had been free from burdens. The babies were evidently very comfortable, for they were very quiet.
It was a fine sight to see the herd of over three thousand reindeer on the move over the vast plain of snow. After two hours we arrived at the place of our encampment.
The Lapps hurried the putting up of the tent. The snow had been shovelled from the place where it was to stand. They were laying the birch twigs for a floor, and skins were put on the top of these; alongside of the tent inside boxes and firewood were placed, and outside snow was piled along the sides, also. This was to prevent the wind coming in. In the mean time the reindeer had been unharnessed and some of the sleighs unloaded.
Just then Pehr Wasara exclaimed: "Paulus, we are going to have a great windstorm very soon. That is the reason we are in so much of a hurry."
He was right. Soon after the wind began to rise and blew stronger and stronger, hissing and striking against the tent. In another moment we were in the midst of a hurricane. I thought every instant that our tent would be blown away and the woollen canvas torn to pieces.
The snow was flying thickly in the air. I said to myself: "If our tent is blown away I will get into my reindeer bags." I was astonished to see that the tent could withstand the storm, but the frame was well knit together, and the woollen vadmal being porous allowed the wind to pass through and did not give the resistance that canvas would have done. If the tent had been made of canvas I am sure the frame could not have withstood the pressure and fury of the blast. The door was protected from the violence of the wind, which struck against the tent on the other side.
The reindeer had huddled close together and stood still, except that now and then those which were outside wanted to go inside and let some of the other animals bear the brunt of the storm. I noticed that many of the bulls formed the outer ring, thus protecting the female reindeer. The poor fellows on the outside had a hard time of it. All the herd faced the wind.
Inside the tent, when everybody was in, we were packed close together, including the dogs. In spite of all the drawbacks the tent was comfortable compared with the weather outside. A blazing fire, over which hung a kettle full of reindeer meat, sent the smoke into our faces; but we were thinking of the warm broth and of the good meal we were going to have, and we laughed merrily and did not care for the storm. The Lapps knew that the tent would stand the hurricane. The dogs were in the way of everybody; the Lapps continually drove them out, but soon after they were in again.
How nice the broth was when we drank it! How good the meat tasted! This was a splendid meal.
When it was time to go to sleep I took off my shoes and stockings, and carefully put the Lapp grass with the stockings on my breast to dry the moisture, for the fine snow came through the smoke hole. Then I got into my two bags and said good-night to the family.
I was bothered by the dogs during the night. They were no sooner driven out than they would come in to huddle with the people. One tried to come into my bag and awoke me. I did not blame the poor dogs, for it was far more comfortable inside than outside. When I awoke in the morning the weather was fine, there was no wind, and some of the Lapps took the reindeer to their new pasture.
After breakfast, my host and I drove to see some of his friends who had pitched their tent some forty or fifty miles from us. On our way we entered a large forest of fir trees, and soon after found ourselves in the midst of a number of deep holes dug by reindeer in order to reach the moss. We also saw furrows made by Lapp sleighs and tracks of skees. The holes increased in number as we got deeper into the forest, and driving instead of being a pleasure became a hard task. There was no mistake about that. Our little sleighs pitched forward, then side-wise, and rolled on one side or the other. I had the hardest work to keep inside. At last I was pitched into one of the holes with my sleigh almost on top of me. This was no joke. Fortunately I had undone the twist of my rein round my wrist, for I did not wish to be dragged against a tree in case I did upset. I was soon in my sleigh again, however, and before long Pehr Wasara said: "We shall come to the tent of my friend very soon." He had hardly uttered these words when we heard the fierce barking of dogs announcing our arrival. Soon after we found ourselves before a tent.
These dogs were strange looking, a breed I had never seen; they had the dark color of the brown bear, and were without tails. A man came out to silence them. He was the owner of the tent, the friend of Pehr Wasara. He bade us in, we were made welcome, and the snuffbox was passed around. Coffee was made and served to us with true Lapp hospitality, but to my taste it was seasoned with a little too much salt.
We had a grand time. A big kettle filled with reindeer meat was cooked, and Pehr Wasara told his friend all the news, and how his son had come with me to see him. The place of honor was given to us in the tent; we slept well, under a lot of skins, and the next morning after breakfast we bade our host and his family good-bye.
We had not been gone long when I saw something very strange ahead. An exclamation escaped from me. I stopped. I thought I saw the ground covered with hares. I could see them moving. "What are such great numbers of hares doing here?" I said to myself. They moved in such a strange manner; they seemed to jump, or rather leap. Suddenly I saw my mistake. "These are not hares," I exclaimed; "but the tails of reindeer just above the snow. That is all I see of their bodies. The rest is hidden. They have dug the snow and are eating the moss, and their tails are in motion." I had never seen such a sight before. It was a queer landscape; over two thousand tails shaking above the snow at about the same time. This herd also belonged to Pehr Wasara, who was smiling all over when he saw how amazed I was at this sight.
Then we continued our journey, and soon found ourselves in the midst of hundreds and hundreds of reindeer of all sizes. They were just beginning to dig the snow with their fore legs. How strange was the sight! As we passed among them they were not in the least afraid of us. They were left to themselves. There were no dogs with them, and no people to watch.
Every reindeer was working as hard as he could, busily digging in the snow. They were evidently hungry. I said to Pehr Wasara: "Let us stay here a while; I want to watch the reindeer working." Pehr, who had been accustomed to see reindeer all his life, wondered at my curiosity, which seemed rather to amuse him. They dug with the right fore foot, then with the left, rested at times, then worked again. It was hard work indeed, but the holes got larger and larger. The bodies gradually disappeared in the holes they made, and were partly hidden by the little mounds of snow coming from these holes, until only the tails of many could be seen. They had reached the moss of which they were so fond. They were really working hard for their living.
Some of the female reindeer were working with a will, while the young does were looking on, and when the moss had been reached the mothers called the calves by a peculiar grunt and let them feed by their side.
After looking at the reindeer for a while, we continued our journey and were completely lost in the midst of deep holes made by the thousands of reindeer. Wherever we turned we discovered holes and mounds, until we came to fresh furrows of sleighs and knew that these led to an encampment. We had succeeded in getting out of the honeycombed track into a smooth and open region.
All at once I noticed that Pehr Wasara was going much faster than I did. I was losing ground. His reindeer seemed now to fly over the snow. Suddenly he disappeared; he was going down a hill. Now it was the turn of my reindeer to go fast. I prepared myself for the occasion, for I did not know how steep was the descent. I said to myself, "Paul, you must not upset; bend your body on the opposite side when the sleigh makes the curve, and be quick when the time arrives. Do this in the nick of time."
Down I went. The animal reached the bottom, and before I knew it made a sharp curve to prevent the sleigh striking his legs. I gave a shout of joy. I had not upset. I felt quite proud.
At the next hill I was more proud than ever, for Pehr Wasara upset and I did not, but I had never seen a Lapp get quicker into a sleigh than he did. Further on Pehr stopped and waited for me. When I came to him I found myself on the edge of a long and very abrupt hill, and he said: "This hill is too steep, we must descend it in long zigzags, so that the sleighs may not strike the legs of our reindeer, for if we do not do this the sleigh will go faster than the reindeer. Follow in my track, and use your stick with skill to guide the sleigh. Your reindeer will follow mine without trouble."
Hill after hill was ascended and descended. Now I had got the knack. At every sharp curve I managed to bend my body out on the other side in time, and thus avoided being thrown out. Then we came to a forest of large fir trees, which surprised me, for we were in 69 degrees latitude.
The trees were very thick. Pehr Wasara alighted and led his reindeer, for fear of striking against them, and I did likewise. It was a relief to move one's legs, for it is very tiresome to sit for hours with legs stretched out. Afterwards we got again into our sleighs, and at the end of a pleasant drive we reached our own tent and I was received with a hearty welcome by the family.
The next day Pehr said to me, "We are going to kill some reindeer this morning, for the skins of the animals are at their best now and their fur is very thick. We want clothing, shoes, and gloves. With their sinews we will make our thread. We want also new reins, new traces, new lassos."
In the afternoon eight reindeer were brought before the tent. These were to be slaughtered. My host said to me: "Paulus, we are going to show you how we slaughter our reindeer." An old bull was brought forward and one of the Lapps seized the animal by the antlers, and by a peculiar twist, without apparently great effort, threw him on his back. Then he thrust a long, sharp, narrow knife deeply between his forelegs until it pierced the heart, where he let it remain. The poor creature rose dazed, turned round upon himself twice, then tottered and fell dead.
I did not like the sight, but I was studying the life of the Laplanders and I had to see everything for myself. After the blood had accumulated in the cavity of the chest it was removed and put into a bladder. The intestines were taken out and washed. The skin belonging to the forehead between the eyes, and from the knees to the hoofs, was cut off from the rest of the hide.
"This," said Pehr Wasara, "will be for shoes and gloves;" and each piece was stretched on wooden frames, likewise the skin of the carcass. The tongues were set aside, the host saying to me, "If it were summer we would smoke them." The sinews were collected for thread.
The other reindeer were then butchered, and the meat placed on the racks outside of the tent.
WATCHING FOR THE REAPPEARANCE OF THE SUN.—THE UPPER RIM FIRST VISIBLE.—THE WHOLE ORB SEEN FROM A HILL.—DAYS OF SUNSHINE AHEAD.
I watched the horizon every day towards noon, hoping to see the sun, for the light was getting brighter and brighter. The glow of the hidden sun was so great at noon that it looked as if sunrise were going to take place. How disappointed I felt when the glow became less and less, as the unseen sun sank lower without showing itself. Then came to my mind the coast of New Jersey, where in the early morning I had often watched for the appearance of the sun above the horizon, in the long glow that preceded sunrise.
One day I saw a golden thread above the snowy horizon. It was the upper rim of the sun. I watched, hoping to see the whole sun. But it was at its meridian, and in a very short time the golden thread had disappeared and the sun was on its downward course. I shouted, "Dear Sun, how much I should like to see you. I am so tired of beholding only the stars and the moon. I am longing for sunshine."
Near by was a hill. A sudden thought came into my mind. I said to myself, "If I ascend this hill I shall see the whole sun, as the greater height will make up for the curvature of the earth."
I ran, and soon was ascending the hill. After a while I stopped, turned round, and looked where I had seen the golden thread. I saw about half the sun. I climbed higher as fast as I could, and when I reached the top of the hill I saw the whole sun. I shouted, "Dear Sun, I love you. I love sunshine. Come and reign once more on this part of the earth. Come and cheer me, and drive away the 'Long Night.'"
I watched the sun until it disappeared. Oh! I wished the hill had been higher so that I could have ascended it and kept seeing the sun.
When I came to the bottom of the hill I said, "I do not wonder that in ancient times there were people who worshipped the sun, for without the sun we could not exist on the earth, for nothing would grow."
I felt like a new being, for I had seen the sun and its sight had filled me with joy. Days of sunshine were coming, and I gave three cheers with a tiger for the sun.
I had had enough of the "Long Night." I wanted to see a sky without stars and also the pale moon during the day.
The following day the glow above the horizon became more brilliant, and towards noon the sun rose slowly above the snow; but only about half of its body made its appearance. It was of a fiery red. Then it gradually sank. The third day the whole of the sun appeared above the horizon, then in a short time sank below. As it disappeared I imagined the sun saying to me: "Day after day I will rise higher and higher in the sky and shine a longer time. I bring with me joy and happiness. I will gradually transform 'The Land of the Long Night' into a land of sunshine and brightness. I will bring the spring; with me flowers will appear, the trees will be adorned with leaves, grass will grow, the land will be green; I will make gentle winds to blow, the rivers will be free and roll their crystal waters, the birds will come and sing. Man will be happy and gather the harvest that grows under my rays and husband it for the days of winter."
WOLVES THE GREAT FOE OF THE LAPPS.—HOW THE REINDEER ARE PROTECTED AGAINST THEM.—WATCHING FOR THE TREACHEROUS BRUTES.—STORIES OF THEIR SAGACITY.
After the reappearance of the sun I came to a region where the Lapps among whom I lived were in great fear of wolves, for three packs of them had made their appearance in the forests about one hundred and fifty miles away to the eastward, and the news had come to the people.
One day as I was in the tent watching the meal that was being cooked, one of the Lapps said to me, "We dread the wolves. No animal is as cunning as a wolf when he is hungry, and the Chief of the Pack is chosen by them as their leader because he is the most cunning of them all."
"What do you mean," I asked, "by the Chief of the Pack being chosen?"
He replied, "The wolves are very intelligent, and they choose their leader just as people do. They select the one among them that can lead them where there is prey."
Then he added, with a tone of sadness in his voice: "Our life is one of constant vigilance, and old and young are continually on the lookout for wolves. We have not suffered from them for three years, but they may appear suddenly at any moment when we think they are far away. When wolves attack our herds the reindeer scatter in great fright in every direction to long distances, and we have very hard work in bringing them together again. When they have once been attacked by the wolves they become very suspicious, and take fright easily, and at the least alarm run away. After their flight they roam in small bodies without any one to watch over them, or dogs to look out for their enemies, and they become an easy prey to the wolves. Sometimes the herd is destroyed, and the rich Lapp becomes suddenly poor. Yes," he added with flashing eyes, and in a loud tone, "the wolves are our greatest enemies. We kill them whenever we can."
He remained thoughtful for a little while and then proceeded: "Reindeer bulls have more fight in them than the females, and sometimes fight successfully one wolf; but what can they do against a pack of them? Our life is a hard one indeed when wolves are around, for we have to be constantly on the watch night and day. The wolves are so wary that they always approach a reindeer or a herd of them when the wind blows from the herd towards them, so that neither dogs nor reindeer can scent them."
"I hope," I said to myself, "that I shall see bull reindeer fight some of these treacherous wolves and get the better of them; besides I will make them taste my buckshot, and kill them before the poor reindeer is overpowered."
After this conversation we went on our skees to scour the country for wolves, but there were none to be seen, and we returned in time for our dinner.
The following day, as we stood in front of our tent watching the sun above the horizon, we saw in the distance a black speck coming over the snow. We watched! What could it be? The speck came nearer, and we recognized a woman with a bludgeon coming towards us as fast as her skees could carry her. As soon as she was within hearing distance she shouted, "Wolves! Wolves!" The dreaded news had come; the wolves had made their appearance in our district.
She stopped when she reached us, and with one voice the Lapps asked her when the wolves had been seen, and if they had attacked any herd. "No," she answered, "but they will soon do so, for the tracks of three packs have been seen." She had hardly spoken these words when she bade us good-bye, and was on her way to some of her family who had pitched their tent about four miles from where we were. The bludgeon she carried for defence against the wolves.
Soon every man, woman, and child of our tent were on their skees. The men armed themselves with heavy bludgeons and guns and, followed by all the dogs, we started for the herd, taking a lot of reindeer meat with us. Now there was to be an increased watch day and night.
I followed the Lapps on my skees, and though I lagged behind, as I could not go as fast as they did, one of the girls remained with me to show me the way, and now and then she would stop and scan the country for wolves.
I was armed with my double-barrelled shotgun loaded with buckshot. "Oh, if I could encounter the wolves," I said to myself, "what havoc I would make amongst them."
When we came to the herd we told those who were on the watch the news of the appearance of wolves. Immediately preparations were made to discover their whereabouts.
Some of the people went in different directions to reconnoitre, all armed with their heavy bludgeons. They shouted as they left: "We will show the wolves if we meet and chase them on our skees what our bludgeons can do. We will smash their heads and break their legs."
Towards dark, when they returned, they had seen no wolves nor their tracks. "The wolves are so cunning and their ways are so unknown to us that we must be on the lookout all night," said the Lapps to me.
Then we partook of our reindeer meat, which had been kept between our clothing and our chests to prevent it from freezing. It is not pleasant to eat a frozen piece of meat as hard as a rock. But I had learned not to be so very particular. Otherwise I should never have been able to travel in the country.
The moon was on the wane. When it rose it cast its dim light upon the snow. It was a very busy night for the Lapps, for the reindeer had to be kept together and required constant watching.
The dogs acted with great intelligence; they seemed to know that their masters dreaded the wolves; they barked continually, and looked once in a while into the distance, moving away, as if to see if they could scent the wolves afar off.
I walked with my skees slowly, looking off into the distance! Suddenly I thought I saw far away a pack of them. I drew the attention of the Lapp who was with me to the spot; but his eyes, accustomed to scan the snow, soon discovered what it was. He said to me: "There are no wolves there; only the top of some branches of birch trees above the snow."
All the Laplanders, men, women, and big boys and girls, remained on their skees all night. The men were outside and made a circle round the herd. The second circle was made by the women; the third circle, the nearest to the reindeer, by the children. All shouted and yelled. I yelled also—I thought it was great fun! The dogs barked as they followed their masters or mistresses, going outside of the ring to look for wolves. They were constantly urged; but little urging was required, for almost all of them knew from past experience that it meant that the herd had to be protected from wolves, for they had seen them come when their masters were acting precisely as we were doing, and they were ready for the fray.
If it had been a dark night, or if it had been snowing, we should have been in a bad plight; but the moon was our friend. The night passed away and the wolves had not made their appearance. When daylight came we were all pretty tired, and we moved the reindeer nearer to the tent. Then after the coffee was made and drunk, and some reindeer meat had been eaten, we all huddled the best way we could into the tent, covered ourselves with skins, and soon after fell asleep, leaving the care of the reindeer to those who were on the watch and to the dogs—their untiring and faithful friends.
When I awoke, three dogs were fast asleep near me—the dear dogs required rest as well as ourselves; they had worked hard for their masters all night. I remembered the time we had had during the night, and said to myself, "Hard, indeed, is the life of the Laplander." The reindeer lay on the snow. After breakfast they were taken a short distance to pasture, and those who had slept watched them, ready to fight the wolves if they came.
The news had spread quickly among the Lapps in the district that wolves might make their appearance at any moment, and several families with their tents came to camp near us and their herds were kept near ours for mutual protection. We were numerous enough to fight a great number of hungry wolves, and the country was scoured in every direction.
Numbers of juniper-brush fires were lighted at night where we had cleared away the snow to scare off the wolves.
That evening the Lapps told wolf stories. One began thus:
"When wolves have lost the Chief of the Pack, they hold a council and name another Chief, who they expect will lead them safely through their wanderings and direct them when an attack is to be made. The wolves understand each other perfectly well, and they obey the Chief of the Pack. They often speak to each other with their eyes. This appears wonderful, but it is so. But woe to the Chief when the wolves become dissatisfied with him. When they find that under his leadership they are constantly starving, they agree among themselves to destroy him. They then pounce upon him, kill him, and devour him. They have a way of agreeing to do this without their Chief knowing what is to happen to him. They pass judgment upon him and sentence him to die."
"Wonderful indeed," I said, "is the intelligence of the wolves, if what you say is true."
"It is true," said the narrator, and the rest with one voice confirmed him. "Wolves are as knowing as people, and we know some of their cunning ways. The Chief of the Pack must often lead the wolves on long marches, through forests and unbeaten tracks, over the snow to some place where he supposes they will find prey. Besides he must not lead them into ambush where they may be destroyed. The Chief must be not only cunning, but brave also. We see them often, after they have discovered us, going away or taking another direction than the one in which they were going. It is simply to deceive us, to make us believe that they are going away. Then they make a long detour and take our reindeer in our rear. People say foxes are cunning, but the cunning of a fox is nothing to compare to the cunning of a wolf."
"That is so," repeated all the Lapps.
Another man said: "When the Chief of the Pack becomes old, and is not able to lead the wolves any more, the wolves kill him and eat him. When two packs meet there is often a great fight between the two chiefs for the mastery, and the defeated one runs away. Then his own pack over which he ruled runs after him and kills him. Then they proclaim the victor the new Chief and the two packs join forces. Often, when the wolves make an attack, the Chief looks on with a few of his followers as a reserve to see how things are going, and then rushes in with them to insure victory."