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AS the Kalevide proceeded on his way, carrying his heavy load of planks, the sorcerer’s three sons rushed upon him from an ambush close to a high waterfall which foams over steep rocks. He had been walking quietly along, and the man in his wallet had fallen comfortably asleep. The villains sprang upon the hero from behind, armed with slender young birch-trees and dry pine-trunks. Two of them carried long whips, the handle formed of strong beech-wood, and the lash armed with a great millstone, with which they belaboured the hero unmercifully. He had just armed himself with a huge club, in case he should be assaulted in passing through the wood. It was a great pine-trunk from which he had broken the crown. It was five-and-thirty ells long, and two feet thick at the thick end, and with this he could defend himself as with a sword.
The Kalevide tried at first to remonstrate with his assailants, but as they continued to annoy him he rushed upon them with his club. The pine club was soon splintered, the fragments flying in all directions, and then the Kalevide defended himself with the planks which he was carrying, and at every blow he smashed one on the backs of his enemies. Presently his load was nearly exhausted, and the sorcerer’s sons, hoping now for an easy victory, pressed him more hardly, when suddenly he heard a little voice crying from the bushes, “Dear son of Kalev, strike them with the edges!”1 The hero at once took the hint, and, instead of striking with the flat side of the planks, began to strike with the sharp edges, and his enemies soon fled before him, howling like wolves. If the savages had not been thoroughly hardened by long exposure to heat and cold by day and night, he would have left them dead on the field.
The Kalevide sat down to rest after the battle, and called to his dear brother, who had aided him, to show himself. But his friend answered p. 82 that he could not venture out into the open, for he was only a poor naked little hedgehog. So the hero called to him to come, and he would clothe him. The hedgehog crept out of his warm nest, naked and shivering, and the hero cut a piece from the lining of his own coat, and gave it to the hedgehog, who joyfully wrapped himself in the warm covering. But the piece was not large enough to cover him entirely, and his legs and belly remained naked as before.
The Kalevide now wanted to sleep, but he was in the midst of a swamp. He therefore fetched a load of sand from the distant sandhills, to make himself a bed. He then felt into his bag for something to eat, when his thumb came against the cold stiff body of his little friend, who had been killed in his sleep by a chance blow during the fight, without having had time to cry out or move a limb. He was much grieved at the untimely death of his protégé, and dug him a grave with his own hands, round which he planted berry-bearing bushes. Then he ate his supper and fell asleep, to dream of the events of the past day.
While he was asleep, the sorcerer himself crept p. 83 to his side, and by his spells and incantations, and the use of magic herbs, threw him into a deep slumber, which lasted for days and nights. Presently a messenger came in haste to summon the king, and the cup-bearer directed him to Lake Peipus; but no one had seen or heard anything of him.
On a fine summer’s day, the people flocked from all parts of the country to the sacred hill of Taara for a great festival, and as yet there came no news of the king. Summer faded into autumn, and the Kalevide still slept on, but he was dreaming of a new sword, much better than the uncle of his father Kalev had forged for him, which was forged in an underground smithy.
This sword had been forged by the pupils of Ilmarine1 in a workshop in the interior of a great mountain at the middle point of the earth, the peak of which was lost in the clouds. Seven strong smiths wrought it with copper hammers, the handles of which were of silver, and one of their company turned it on the fire or laid it on the anvil with tongs of the purest silver, while Ilmarine himself watched every stroke of the hammers.
Presently a young man entered, pale and covered with blood, and he only touched his cap without further salutation, and cried out to the workmen not to waste the sword on the murderous son of Kalev, who could slay his best friends in his rage. The Kalevide tried to cry out that it was false, but the son of the old Tübja1 oppressed him with a nightmare, and he could not utter a word; he felt as if a mountain lay upon his breast, and the sweat ran from his face.
On the following morning the Kalevide awoke from his sleep. He knew that the vision of the smithy was a dream, but he was not aware that he had slept for seven weeks without intermission. He found that his planks were nearly all destroyed, and determined to fetch a fresh load from Pleskau.
When he came to the lake, he heard a boy shouting for help. It was a herd-boy, whose favourite lamb was being carried off by a wolf. He killed the wolf with a stone,2 and then stood by the lake considering what to do next. Presently he decided to build a bridge across the “puddle;” p. 85 and built it out into the lake for perhaps a couple of miles, when a great storm arose and swept away the unfinished structure. When he saw his work destroyed, he said, “Why didn’t I wade straight through, as I did before, instead of wasting my time like this?” So he caught a supply of crayfish, which he roasted and ate, and then set out on his journey through the water.
On the shores of Lake Peipus lived a poor orphan boy, who had lost all dear to him by famine, pestilence, and war, and who was now compelled to slave as herd-boy for a hard mistress,1 and to mind the children as well as to look after the sheep and goats. He sang sad songs, till at length the wood-nymph took compassion on him, and sang to him one evening from the summit of an oak-tree, telling him that good luck would be his in the morning. Next morning he found a lark’s egg hidden among leaves, which he hid in his bosom next his heart wrapped in wool and a strip of linen. A mouse was hatched from it, which he fostered in the same way till it became p. 86 a kitten, a puppy, a lamb, and at length a sheep1 with fine white wool, and the sheep was so dear to the boy that he left off weeping and lamenting, and always felt happy and contented, though his lot was still a hard one.
1 This reminds us of the help given to Hiawatha by the woodpecker during his fight with Megissogwun; but the one incident can hardly be copied from the other. Hiawatha was published some years before the Kalevipoeg.
1 This is the only passage in the Kalevipoeg in which one of the heroes of the Kalevala is personally introduced.
1 Emptiness; probably the Contemptible One; a name often used for one of the principal demons.
2 The rock is still shown, bearing the imprints of the hero’s fingers, each cleft large enough to hold a man.
1 This was the fate of Kullervo himself in the Kalevala. Orphans, for whom much sympathy is expressed, constantly appear in Esthonian tales. Compare p. 236 of the present volume.
1 We have a similar series of transformations (mouse, cat, dog, ass, buffalo) in the story of Noor Ed-Deen and Shes Ed-Deen in the Thousand and One Nights.