Sacred-Texts Legends & Sagas Index Previous Next
ON the following morning the three sons of Kalev set out before sunrise towards the south; but they rested under the trees and took some refreshment during the heat of the day. In the evening they passed a house which was lighted up as if for company. The father and mother stood at the door, and invited them to choose brides from among their rich and beautiful daughters. The eldest brother answered that they were not come to woo brides, and had no thought of marriage; but the second brother said he should like the girls to come out to swing with them; and they were forthwith summoned. Then the youngest brother said he hoped the young ladies would not distress themselves, but really he and his brothers had no idea of marrying at present, and they must beg to be excused.
Then they continued their journey southwards, and on the third day they reached a small lake with steep banks.1 Water-birds were sporting in the lake, and on the opposite shore they saw the holy forest of Taara shining in the sunset. “Here is the place where our lot must be decided,” said the eldest brother; and each selected a stone for the trial of strength. It was arranged that whoever should cast his stone across the lake to the firm ground opposite should be adjudged his father’s heir, and the other two should wander forth to seek their fortunes in other lands.
The eldest brother, in all friendliness, claimed his right to the first trial, and cast his stone. It flew from his hand with the speed of a bird or of the tempest, but suddenly changed its direction, and plunged into the middle of the lake. The water foamed up over it, and entirely concealed it from sight.
The second brother then seized his stone, and sent it whistling through the air like an arrow. It rose up till it was nearly lost to sight, and then turned and fell on the shore close to the water, where it sank for half its bulk into the p. 57 mud. Then came the turn of the third, who, though the youngest, was much taller and stronger than his brothers.
The youngest brother made some sad reflections on his posthumous birth, and on the course of his childhood, and then cast forth his rock like a bird, or like a ship in a storm. It flew up far and high, but not up to the clouds, like that cast by his brother, and afterwards made great ducks and drakes across the whole lake, reaching at last the firm ground beyond.
“Don’t let us wait here,” said the eldest brother, “but let us go and look for the stones, and decide our competition.” As the nearest way to the opposite shore was through the lake, they waded straight across it, and at the deepest place the water reached a little above their knees. The stone cast by the eldest brother had disappeared entirely in the water, and no trace of it could be found; but that thrown by the second was found on the shore half sunken in the mud. Only the stone thrown by the youngest brother, easily recognisable by its marks, was found on firm ground, lying on the grass at some little distance beyond the lake. Then the eldest brother declared p. 58 that the gods had plainly assigned the kingdom to the youngest, and that the others must now bathe him and adorn him as king.1 After this the three brothers took an affectionate leave of each other, and the two elder ones wandered cheerfully away. The youngest sat on the rock sadly reflecting on the lost joys of youth, and how he must now depend on his own unaided efforts. At length he threw a silver coin into the water as an offering to the gods, an old custom now forgotten.
It was the duty of the new king both to plough the country and to defend it, and he therefore set to work with his sword by his side. Early and late he ploughed, stocking the country with corn, grass, trees, and berries.
One hot noonday, seeing his white horse2 nearly exhausted, he unyoked him from the plough, hobbled him, and left him to graze, while he p. 59 himself lay down in the grass and fell asleep. His head rested on the top of a hill, and his body and legs spread far over the plain below. The sweat ran from his forehead and sank into the earth, whence arose a healing and strengthening spring of wonderful virtues. Those who taste the water of this spring are greatly strengthened; weak children grow strong, the sick grow healthy; the water heals sore eyes, and even blindness; the weary are refreshed, and the maidens who taste it have rosy cheeks for their whole lifetime.
While the Kalevide lay asleep, he dreamed that he saw his good horse torn to pieces by wolves. And truly the horse had strayed away to some distance, when a host of wild animals, wolves, bears, and foxes, emerged from the forest. As the horse’s feet were hobbled, he could not escape, and was soon overtaken. He defended himself as well as he could with hoofs and head, and killed many of the beasts; but he was finally overpowered by their ever-increasing numbers, and fell. Where he sank the ground is hollow, and a number of little hills represent the wolves killed in the struggle. The horse’s blood formed a red lake, his liver a mountain, his entrails a p. 60 marsh, his bones hills, his hair rushes, his mane bulrushes, and his tail hazel-bushes.1
1 This lake (Saad järv) lies a little north of Dorpat.
1 Nothing is said as to how the government was carried on during the Kalevide’s minority.
2 White horses constantly occur in Esthonian tales; and the devil’s mother or grandmother usually appears as a white mare. One of the commentators remarks that as the white horse was sacred in pre-Christian times, the missionaries represented it as peculiarly diabolical. It will be remembered with what severity the early missionaries suppressed the horse feasts among the Teutonic tribes.
1 This is a little like the formation of the world from the body of the giant Ymir, as described in the Edda. As W. Herbert paraphrases it,
|“Of his bones the rocks high swelling,|
Of his flesh the globe is made,
From his veins the tide is welling,
And his locks are verdant shade.”