Sacred-Texts Legends & Sagas Index Previous Next
THE Kalevide now decided on a journey north, to the uttermost end of the world, where it touches the sky. He imagined that he could only reach this point by sea, and thought at first of travelling on the wings of an eagle. Meantime, a raven directed him, when he came to a broad expanse of blue water, to look for a place where rushes grew on the bank, and to stamp on the ground with his right foot, when the mouth of the earth and the strongly guarded doors would fly open, and he would reach the end of the world.
Then the Kalevide reflected how he had waded through every lake and sea, and had found none too deep for him except Lake Ilma. He then thought he would visit Finland, Norway, and the islands, where he expected to find old friends to direct him on his journey. So he directed Olev p. 111 to fell the great oak-tree which their father and mother had planted, and which neither sun, moon, stars, nor rain, could penetrate,1 and to make the strongest sailing vessels for exploring voyages from the trunk, warships from the crown, merchantmen from the large branches, slave-ships from the smaller ones, children’s boats from the splinters, and maiden’s boats from the chips. He ordered the remainder to be used for building towns, fortresses, and bouses for the people in various parts of the country.
Olev replied, “I know what to do, dear brother, if we can find a strong man in the country able to fell the oak-tree.” The raven told them to send out to seek for such a man, and they did so; whereupon the wise men of Norway and Finland assembled to give them advice. But they told the Kalevide that it was no use building a wooden ship to sail to the world’s end, for the spirits of the Northern Lights would set it in flames. He must build a strong vessel of iron and copper and tin.
The Kalevide then constructed a vessel, not of p. 112 iron and copper, but of silver. The whole of the ship—planking, deck, masts, and chains—was of silver, and he named the vessel Lennuk.1 For himself he provided golden armour, silver for the nobles, iron for the crew, copper for the old men, and steel for the wise men.
The Kalevide selected experienced sailors and many wise men to accompany him, and they set sail joyfully towards Finland; but soon turned, and directed their course to the far north, in the direction of the Great Bear.
To the north they sailed under the guidance of a wise helmsman who knew all languages and the speech of birds and beasts. But the Finnish sorcerers raised storms against the ship, and they were driven along for seven days and nights, till a coast rose before them which the helmsman declared was quite unknown to him. The son of Kalev then sprang into the sea, swam ashore, and towed the ship after him.2 The birds sang to them that it was the poverty-stricken coast of Lapland.3 They went p. 113 to explore the country, but wandered a long way without meeting with any inhabitants. At last they found a solitary cottage, where a maiden sat on the grass plot before the door spinning. And she sang how a milkmaid once found a cock and a hen. The cock flew away, but she caught the hen, and brought it home, where it grew up into a proud princess who had many lovers, among whom were the sun and—“The Kalevide,” shouted he; and the maiden screamed and fled into the house. Then her father came to the door, and the Kalevide saluted him courteously, and asked him the way to the world’s end. The wise man answered that it was a vain quest. The sea had no end, and those who had formerly attempted this quest had found their deaths on the Fire Island. The raven had only directed them on the road to Pōrgu, but if they wished to return home, he would be pleased to guide them.
The Kalevide answered that he needed no pilot to show him the way home, but would be glad if the Lapp could pilot him to the door at the World’s End. The Lapp consented, but bargained for what was chained to the wall at home, which the hero readily promised.
So Varrak the Laplander took the helm and p. 114 steered the vessel due north for many days and nights. The first danger they encountered was a great whirlpool,1 which threatened to engulf the ship. Then Varrak threw a small barrel overboard, wrapped in red cloths and ornarnented with red strearners. This bait was swallowed by a whale, which took to flight, and towed the ship to a place of safety.
Again they sailed on for a long distance, till they came in sight of the Island of Fire,2 where huge pillars of flame were towering up, and vast clouds of smoke filled the air. The Kalevide wished to visit the island, but Varrak warned him of the danger, and at length the Sulevide volunteered to land alone. So Varrak ran the ship ashore at a spot where one mountain was casting up flames, a second smoke, and a third boiling water, while the burning lava ran down into the valley.
The son of Sulev wandered on amid ashes and snowfields, amid a rain of red-hot stones, till he p. 115 reached the mouth of the volcano, when his coat caught fire and his hair and eyebrows were singed, and he returned scorched to the ship. The Kalevide asked if he had seen anything of the cupbearer, who had followed him; but he had not. Then a white bird perched on the ship, and the wise Finn, who knew the language of animals, asked for tidings of the boy. But the bird answered that he had wandered away to a beautiful country which lay behind the snow-mountains, where he was enjoying himself in the company of the water-nymphs. He would return no more; let the ship proceed on her course.1
Next they reached a country where the birds all fed on gold and silver and copper, and where the herbage grew as high as the pine-trees. The Kalevide sent some of the crew ashore, under the guidance of the magician, to view the country, while he and the Sulevide lay down on deck to sleep in the sun, leaving the Alevide to keep watch.
The ship’s company, headed by the magician, wandered into the country, and, when night came, lay down to rest under a bush. Next morning the p. 116 little daughter of a giant1 found them asleep, and wondering what they were, put them all into her apron, and carried them home to her father, and scattered them before him, saying:
|“Look at these, O dearest father,|
I have brought them here to play with,
For I found them in the cabbage,
Where the six like fleas were lying,
Stiffened in the chilly dewdrops,
Sleeping ’neath a head of cabbage.”
The giant2 wished to test the wisdom of the strangers, so he inquired, “What walks along the grass, steps on the edge of the fence, and walks along the sides of the reeds?” “The bee,” replied the magician.3 “What drinks from the brooks and wells, and from the stones on the bank?” “The rainbow.” “What comes hissing from the p. 117 meadow, and rushing from the blue forest?” “The rain.” The giant was pleased with the answers to his riddles, and told his daughter to carry the men back to where she had found them, but the wise man asked her to take them to the ship for fun. The maiden willingly obeyed; she leaned over the ship like a vast cloud, shook the men out of her apron on deck, and then blew the ship four miles out to sea, for which the Kalevide shouted back his thanks to her.
Now they sailed farther north, and the cold became intense, while the spirits of the Northern Lights began their combats in the air with silver spears and golden shields. The sailors were frightened, but the Kalevide was pleased that they should now be able to direct their course when they had left the sun and moon behind them.
Next they reached an unknown shore, where the inhabitants were half men and half dogs, and had long dog’s tails.1 They were armed with great clubs, and the Kalevide sprang ashore to fight. A p. 118 horse which he mounted soon fell dead under him, but he tore up an oak by the roots and began to lay the country waste. The wisest man of the country expostulated with him, and he repented of his violence, and prayed to Ukko to send fish to the country to replace the good ground which he had destroyed in his fury. Peace was thus concluded; and the wise man told the Kalevide that the raven had sent him on an idle quest to the gates of Pōrgu. The Kalevide then decided to return home, and they directed the ship towards Lalli in the bay of Lindanisa, where Olev was building a city.
1 Here we have the great oak-tree mentioned in Cantos 5 and 6 reappearing in another connection.
1 The Flyer.
2 In the present canto the Kalevide is never spoken of as of gigantic size, unless we may consider feats like this as implying it.
3 Baring Gould considers this country to be the North Cape, but the geography of the voyage is confused.
1 The Maelström?
2 The commentators identify this island with Iceland, but the voyagers were apparently on the wrong side of Scandinavia to reach either the Maelström or Iceland. Still we have both geysers and volcanoes in the text.
1 Here the Kalevide’s sun begins to decline, for the first of faithful companions leaves his side, as Hylas left Heracles.
1 This is Chamisso’s Alsatian legend, “Das Riesenspielzeug,” “The Giant’s Toy,” usually called in English translations “The Giant’s Daughter and the Peasant.” The girl in the poem seems to have far exceeded even the Kalevide in stature; and we may remember Gulliver’s remark respecting the Brobdingnagians—“Who knows but that even this prodigious race of mortals might be equally overmatched in some distant part of the world whereof we have yet no discovery?”
2 Throughout this passage the giant is usually called simply the magician, and the other “the wise man.”
3 Asking riddles of this kind was a common amusement in Northern Europe. Compare Prior’s Danish Ballads, i. 185, 334.
1 Baring-Gould ingeniously suggests that this country is Greenland, and that the Dog-men are Esquimaux, clad in furs, and riding in dog-sledges. The end of this canto is inconsequential, for the hero should have reached his goal during this voyage, not by a land-journey afterwards.