Sacred-Texts Legends & Sagas Index Previous Next
ONE hot day, the youngest son of Kalev was sitting on the top of a cliff watching the clouds and waves. Suddenly the sky became overcast, and a terrific storm arose, which lashed the breakers into foam. Aike,1 the Thunder-God, was driving his brazen-wheeled chariot over the iron bridges of the sky, and as he thundered above, the sparks flew from the wheels, and he hurled down flash after flash of lightning from his strong right hand against a company of wicked demons of the air, who plunged from the rocks into the sea, dodged the thunderbolts among the waves, p. 25 and mocked and insulted the god. The hero was enraged at their audacity, and plunging into the water, dragged them from their hiding-places like crabs, and filled a whole sack with them. He then swam to the shore, and cast them out on the rocks, where the bolts of the angry god soon reduced them to a disgusting mass that even the wolves would not touch.
Another day, the three sons of Kalev went hunting in the forest with their three dogs.1 The dogs killed a bear among the bushes, an elk in the open country, and a wild ox in the fir-wood. Next they encountered a pack of wolves and another of foxes, numbering five dozen of each, and killed them all. All this game the youngest brother bound together and carried on his back; and on the way home they found the rye-fields full of hares, of which they likewise secured five dozen.2
Meantime the Finnish sorcerer had been watching Kalev’s house from his boat, where he remained in hiding among the rocks a little way from the shore, till he saw that the three young heroes had left the house and wandered far into the forest, leaving their home unprotected. The sorcerer then steered boldly to the shore, hid his boat, and made his way by devious and unfrequented paths to the house of Kalev, where he climbed over the low gate into the enclosure, and went to the door, but he looked cautiously round when he reached the threshold. Linda was just boiling soup over the fire when he rushed in, and, without saying a word, seized her by the girdle and dragged her away to his boat. She resisted him with tooth and nail, but he muttered spells which unnerved her strength and overpowered her feeble efforts, and her prayers and cries for help were unheard by men. But she cried to the gods for protection, and the Thunder-God himself came to her aid.
Just as the sorcerer was about to push off from the shore, Pikker darted a bolt from the clouds. His chariot thundered over the iron bridges of the sky, scattering flames around it, and the sorcerer was struck down senseless. Linda fled; but the p. 27 gods spared her further sorrow and outrage by transforming her into a rock on Mount Iru.
It was a long time before the sorcerer woke from his swoon, when he sat up, rubbing his eyes, and wondering what had become of his prey; but he could discover no trace of her. The rock is now called “Iru’s Stepmother;” and old people relate that when it was once rolled down into the valley, it was found next morning in its original place on the mountain.
The sons of Kalev were now making the best of their way home, sometimes along well-trodden paths or across the plains, sometimes wading through deep sand or mossy bogs, and then through forests of pine, oak, birch, and alder. The pine forest was called the King’s Wood; the oak forest was sacred to the God Taara; the forest where the slender birch-trees grew was called the Maidens’ Wood, and the alder-wood was sacred to mourners, and was called the Wood of the Poor Orphans.
As they passed through the pine forest which was called the King’s Wood, the eldest brother sat down under a tree and began to sing a song. He sang till the leaves on the trees shone brighter than ever, and the needles on the fir-trees turned to p. 28 silken tassels, and the fir-cones gleamed purple in the sunshine. Acorns sprouted on the oaks, tender catkins on the birch-trees, and other trees were covered with sweet-scented snow-white flowers, which shone in the sunshine and glimmered in the moonlight, while the woods re-echoed with his singing, and the tones were heard far over the heaths and meadows, and the daughter of the king of Kungla wept tears of rapture.1
The second brother sat down in the birch-wood under a weeping birch-tree, and began to sing a song. As he sang, the buds unfolded and the flowers bloomed, the golden ears of corn swelled, and the apples reddened, the kernels formed in the nuts, the cherries ripened, red berries grew on the hills and blue berries in the marshes, while black berries grew at the edges of the swamps, yellow ones on the mossy hillocks, and the elder-trees were covered with rich purple grapes, while the woods re-echoed with the song, and its notes spread far over the heaths and meadows till the little water-nymphs shed tears of rapture.
The third brother sat down under a magnificent oak in the sacred oak-forest of Taara, and began to sing a song. As he sang, the wild beasts of the neighbouring woods and heaths gathered round him, and the cuckoos, doves, magpies, larks, nightingales, and swallows joined in the concert. The swans, geese, and ducks swam towards the sound, the waves of the sea beat on the rocks, and the crowns of the trees bowed down. The green hills trembled, and the clouds parted to permit the sky to listen to the singing, while the forest-king’s daughter, the slender wood nymphs, and the yellow-haired water-nymphs wept tears of rapture and glowed with longing for the handsome singer.
Evening now approached, and the heroes made the best of their way homewards, the youngest, as before, loading himself with all the game. They looked out anxiously for the smoke of their home and the glow of the kitchen-fire, but they could discover nothing.
They quickened their pace as they crossed the deep sand of the heath, but no smoke nor fire nor steam from the kettle could be seen. They rushed into the house, but the fire was out and the hearth was cold. Again and again they shouted to their p. 30 mother, but there was no answer save the echo. The evening became darker and stiller, and the brothers went out to search in different directions. The youngest went down to the beach, where he found such traces of his mother’s presence that he concluded that she had been carried off by her disappointed suitor, the Finnish sorcerer.
The eldest brother proposed that they should eat their supper and go to sleep, hoping that a dream might show them where to seek for their mother. The second assented, hoping that Ukko would send them a vision; but the youngest was unwilling to put off till to-morrow what might be done to-day, and finally determined to repair to his father’s grave.1
|From his grave there spoke the father—|
“Who upon the sand is treading,
With his feet the grave disturbing?
In my eyes the sand is running,
On my eyelids grass is pressing.”
The youth told his father who he was, and all his trouble, and implored him to rise and help him. But his father answered that he could not rise, for the rocks lay on his breast, lilies of the p. 31 valley on his eyelids, harebells on his eyes, and red flowers on his cheeks. But he prayed the wind to show his son the right path, and a gentle zephyr to guide him on the way pointed out by the stars of heaven. So the young hero returned to the sea-shore and followed his mother’s footprints till they were lost in the sea. He gazed over the sea and shore, but could detect no further traces of her, nor was any boat in sight. There he sat till it grew quite dark, and the moon and stars appeared in the sky; but winds and waves, sea and sky, moon and stars, alike were silent, and brought him no tidings of his mother.
1 The Esthonian Thunder-God goes by a variety of names, but is usually called Pikker or Pikne, evidently the Perkunas of the Lithuanians. He resembles Thor in driving about in a chariot, waging war with the evil demons; but one of his attributes, not appertaining to Thor, is his flute (or bagpipe, as some critics regard it). It will be seen in many places that the Esthonians, like all other peoples among whom the belief in fairies, demons, &c., survives, do not share the absurd modern notion that such beings must necessarily be immortal.
1 Peter, in the story of the Lucky Rouble, is also attended by three black dogs. The dogs of the sons of Kalev were named Irmi, Armi, and Mustukene; the last name means Blackie, not Throttler, as Reinthal translates it.
2 In the Maha-Bharata Bhima is represented as carrying enormous loads, and in one passage Yudhishthira is searching for his brother in the Himalayas, when he comes to a place where slaughtered lions and tigers are lying about by thousands, which convinces him that he is on the right track.
1 This passage would seem to indicate that the daughter of the king of Kungla was sometimes looked upon rather as a fairy than as a human princess.
1 Visits to a father’s grave for counsel are very common in the literature of Northern Europe.