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As the Kalevide was wandering through Esthonia, he arrived one day at the swamp of Kikerpärä. Two demon brothers had settled themselves in the swamp, and were fighting for its possession, and when the hero appeared they referred their dispute to him. As he could not stay to attend to the matter himself, he requested his friend, the son of Alev, who was with him, to measure out the swamp fairly. So the Alevide began to drive piles into the bed of the river at a place called Mustapall, to fasten his measuring lines to, when the wretched old water-demon1 raised his head from the river, and asked what he was doing. The hero replied that he was damming up the river; but the demon, who had lived under the water for many years, and p. 65 did not like to be turned out of his comfortable home, offered him a reward to desist. So the Alevide asked him to fill his old felt hat for him with bright silver coins; which he promised to do on the morrow, the hero declaring that he would hold him to his bargain in the words of the proverb:1
|By the horns the ox we grapple,|
By his word the man is fastened.
Then the demon dived back into the water, while the son of Alev, who was a cousin of the Kalevide, got a friend to help him to dig a hole in the ground during the night, a fathom in depth and broad at the bottom, but with an opening at the top just wide enough for the top of the hat to fit into; but the hat was cut at the sides, so that the heavy money should fall through into the pit.
Before daybreak the stupid demon brought a lapful of roubles,2 which he poured into the hat. He brought a second and a third, and afterwards brought money by the hogshead, but the hat still remained empty. Presently his coffers, purses, and p. 66 pockets were all exhausted. He then begged for time; but the Alevide declared that if he did not keep his promise, and fill his hat with bright silver coins, he should begin his work again.
Then the demon thought of appealing to his mother to help him; but first he asked the Alevide to come with him to receive his money himself, hoping to circumvent him. But the hero knew that it was only a trick to get him away from the hat, so he refused to budge, but sent the Kalevide’s cupbearer, the smallest of the company, to help to carry the money.
The boy was ready at once; but his heart failed him as the demon preceded him to the under-world,1 leading him by paths that no living man had ever trodden before, and through an utterly unknown country, where the sun and moon never shone, and where the only light came from the torches that flared on both sides of their way. When they reached the palace of the demon, his sons came to the door, and invited the guest to take his place at the table, which was loaded with gold and silver plate, and eat and drink. But the p. 67 boy could touch nothing from terror, for sparks of fire flew from the dishes and viands, and blue flames played over the beakers.
Then the water-demons began to titter, and to whisper to each other in their own language, which sounded just like Lettish,1 and which their guest could not understand. The boy began to reproach his avaricious friend in his thoughts for having thus sent him to Pōrgu without thinking of what might happen to him; but presently the younger demons seized upon him, and began to toss him from one to another like a ball, sometimes from one side of the room to the other, and sometimes up to the ceiling.
The boy begged them to let him rest a little, and presently they allowed him to do so. Then he drew a cord from his pocket, and pretended to measure the length and breadth of the room. Presently he came to the door, and seized the opportunity to bolt, and was fortunate enough to make his way back to daylight, where the demon had no more power to interfere with him.
As he passed the gates, the guards whispered to him to turn to the right to avoid the many snares in his path. He did not escape without a good fright; for only strong men can go where they please, like the birds, while the weak man is exposed to a thousand terrors. On the boy’s way he met a small bitch1 accompanied by two puppies; and this was the mother of the demons, just returning from the bath-house. The boy now remembered the warning he had received, and turned aside to the right, and the three ran past without noticing him.
When the boy reached the place where he had left the Alevide, he found that both his friend and the money had disappeared. Presently the water-demon came up, and asked him jestingly whether he had burnt himself, or whether he had been stung by a gadfly, that he ran away like that, instead of helping him to carry the heavy money-bags. He then proposed that they should look for a good place where they might wrestle. He thought he could easily overcome the boy by strength, if not by craft, and the boy consented.
Before they had gone far, they met the sons of Kalev and Alev, who had hidden their treasure, walking arm-in-arm. The Kalevide asked, “Whence did you bring that Lettish comrade, and to what queer race does he belong?” His cousin answered that he was the same who had promised to fill his hat with silver, and hadn’t kept his word. Then the boy said that they were going to engage in a contest, and the Kalevide answered, “You must grow a little taller, my lad, before you engage in a serious struggle, for you are only a child at present.”
So the Kalevide, laughing, stuck the boy in his trouser-pocket to grow, and took over the challenge himself, and they all went to a mountain where the contest was to take place; and first they began with hurling stones. The demon took up a rock, which he balanced for an hour in his clumsy fingers, and at last swung it round more than ten times before he loosed it. The stone fell ten paces from the sandy shore of Lake Virts, and it lies there now, conspicuous by its size, for it is at least as big as a bath-house.
Then the Kalevide took up a rock in his hand, and threw it without more ado. They heard it rushing through the air for a long time, and at p. 70 last it fell on the shore of Lake Peipus, and anyone who visits the lake can see it there. Then they engaged in a wrestling match, and the Kalevide soon lifted the demon from his feet and flung him into the air. When he came to the ground, he rolled seven versts, and then fell down a little hill among the bushes, where he lay stunned for seven days, hardly able to open his eyes or lift his head, or even to move a limb.
At this the Kalevide and his companions laughed till the hills shook, and the cup-bearer loudest of all. Then the Alevide told his story; but when he came to mention the proverb, it reminded the son of Kalev that he had not yet paid the debt which he owed to the smith in Finland for his sword. So the Kalevide asked his cousin to take the goods across to Finland, and he himself laid down to rest under a tree, and pondered on how he could provide for the safety of the people during the war. He decided to improve and beautify the towns as well as to fortify them, and to make an excursion to survey the country while his cousin was away in Finland. Presently the Kalevide felt in his pocket, and pulled out the boy, with whom he began to jest; but soon their conversation became more serious, p. 71 and the Kalevide ordered him to wait for the expected messengers, while he himself should proceed to Lake Peipus, where he had important business.
As the Kalevide proceeded on his journey, he passed a well in a lonely place, where the Air-Maiden,1 the fair daughter of the Thunder-God, sat bewailing the loss of her ring, which had dropped into it.2 When the hero saw the blue-eyed, golden-haired maiden in tears, he asked the cause of her trouble, and when he heard it he plunged into the well to look for the ring. A party of young sorcerers quickly gathered round, thinking that the mouse was in the trap, and they flung a great millstone after him. But he searched in the mud and water for some time, and presently sprang out of the water with the millstone on his finger, which he offered to the maiden, saying that he had not been able to find anything else in the mud, and that she would not need a larger finger-ring.
1 The Esthonian demons are often represented as contemptible creatures, very easily outwitted. Later in the present canto the personage in question is distinctly called a water-demon.
1 A common proverb in Esthonian tales. We also find it in Italian, in almost the same words.
2 The money is sometimes called roubles, and sometimes thalers.
1 Visits to Hades or Hell (Pōrgu) are common in the Kalevipoeg and in the popular tales, some of which we shall afterwards notice.
1 The term “Lett,” which the Kalevide himself afterwards applies to the demon, seems to be used in contempt; otherwise the passage in the text might have been taken as equivalent to our old-fashioned expression, “It’s all Greek to me.”
1 Usually the devil’s mother (or grandmother) is represented as a white mare. Compare Canto 14 of the Kalivepoeg, and also the story of the Grateful Prince.
1 This Air-Maiden, who seems to be only a mischievous sprite, must not be confounded with Ilmatar, the creatrix of the world in the first Runo of the Kalevala.
2 Finn, the Irish hero, was once entrapped by a sorceress on a similar pretext into plunging into an enchanted lake, which changed him into an old man. (See Joyce’s Old Celtic Romances, “The Chase of Slieve Cullin.”) The story is also related in one of Kenealy’s ballads.