Sacred-Texts Legends & Sagas Index Previous Next
ONCE upon a time the son of the Thunder-God made a compact with the Devil. It was agreed that the p. 150 Devil was to serve him faithfully for seven years, and to do everything which his master required of him, after which he was to receive his master’s soul as a reward. The Devil fulfilled his part of the bargain faithfully. He never shirked the hardest labour nor grumbled at poor living, for he knew the reward he had to expect. Six years had already passed by, and the seventh had begun; but the Thunderer’s son had no particular inclination to part with his soul so easily, and looked about for some trick by which he could escape the necessity of fulfilling his share of the bargain. He had already tricked the Devil when the compact was signed, for instead of signing it with his own blood, he had signed it with cock’s blood, and his short-sighted adversary had not noticed the difference. Thus the bond which the Devil thought perfectly secure was really a very doubtful one. The end of the time was approaching, and the Thunderer’s son had not yet attempted to regain his freedom, when it happened one day that a black cloud arose in the sky, which p. 151 foreboded a violent thunderstom. The Devil immediately crept down underground, having made himself a hiding-place under a stone for that purpose. “Come, brother,” said he to his master, “and keep me company till the tempest is over.” “What will you promise me if I fulfil your request?” said the Thunderer’s son. The Devil thought they might settle this down below, for he did not like to talk over matters of business just then, when the storm was threatening to break over them at any moment. The Thunderer’s son thought, “The Old Boy seems quite dazed with terror to-day, and who knows whether I may not be able to get rid of him after all?” So he followed him into the cave. The tempest lasted a long time, and one crash of thunder followed another, till the earth quaked and the rocks trembled. At every peal the Old Boy pushed his fists into his ears and screwed up his eyes tight; a cold sweat covered his shaking limbs, and he was unable to utter a word. In the evening, when the storm was over, he said to the Thunderer’s son, “If your old dad did not make such a noise and clatter now and then, I could get along with him very well, for his arrows could not hurt me underground. But this horrible clamour upsets me so p. 152 much that I am ready to lose my senses, and hardly know what I am about. I should be willing to offer a great reward to any one who would release me from this annoyance.” The Thunderer’s son answered, “The best plan would be to steal the thunder-weapon from my old dad.”1 “I’d do it if it were possible,” answered the Devil, “but old Kōu is always on the alert. He keeps watch on the thunder-weapon day and night; and how is it possible to steal it?” But the Thunderer’s son still maintained that the feat was possible. “Ay, if you would help me,” cried the Devil, “we might perhaps succeed, but I can’t manage it by myself.” The Thunderer’s son promised to help him, but demanded no less a reward than that the Devil should abandon his claim to his soul. “You may keep the soul with all my heart,” cried the Devil delighted, “if you will only release me from this shocking worry and anxiety.” Then the Thunderer’s son began to explain how he thought the business might be managed, if they both worked well together. “But,” he added, “we must wait till my old dad again tires himself out so much as to fall into a p. 153 sound sleep, for he generally sleeps with open eyes, like the hares.”
Some time after this conversation, another violent thunderstorm broke out, which lasted a great while. The Devil and the Thunderer’s son again retreated to their hiding-place under the stone. Terror had so stupefied the Old Boy, that he could not hear a word of what his companion said. In the evening they both climbed a high mountain, when the Old Boy took the Thunderer’s son on his shoulders, and began to stretch himself out by his magic power higher and higher, singing—
|“Higher, brother, higher,|
To the Cloudland nigher,”
till he had grown up to the edge of the clouds. When the Thunderer’s son peeped over the edge of the clouds, he saw his father Kōu sleeping quietly, with his head resting on a pillow of clouds, but with his right hand resting across the thunder-instrument. He could not seize the weapon, for he would have roused the sleeper by touching his hand. The Thunderer’s son now crept from the Devil’s shoulder along the clouds as stealthily as a cat, and taking a louse from behind his own ear, he set it on his father’s nose. The old man raised his hand to p. 154 scratch his nose, when his son grasped the thunder-weapon, and jumped from the clouds on to the back of the Devil, who ran down the mountain as if fire was burning behind him, and he did not stop till he reached Pōrgu. Here he hid the stolen property in an iron chamber secured by seven locks,1 thanked the Thunderer’s son for his friendly aid, and relinquished all claims upon his soul.
But now a misfortune fell upon the world and men which the Thunderer’s son had not foreseen, for the clouds no longer shed a drop of moisture, and everything withered away with drought.2 “If I have thoughtlessly brought this unexpected misery on the people,” thought he, “I must try to repair the mischief as best I can.” So he travelled north to the frontiers of Finland, where a noted sorcerer lived, and told him the whole story, and where the thunder-weapon was now hidden. Then said the sorcerer, “First of all, you must tell your old father Kōu where the thunder-weapon is hidden, and he will be able to find means for recovering his property himself.” And he sent the Eagle of p. 155 the North to carry the tidings to the old Father of the Clouds. Next morning Kōu himself called upon the sorcerer to thank him for having put him on the track of the stolen property. Then the Thunderer changed himself into a boy, and offered himself to a fisherman as a summer workman. He knew that the Devil often came to the lake to catch fish, and he hoped to encounter him there. Although the boy Pikker watched the net day and night, it was some time before he caught sight of his enemy. It often happened to the fisherman that when he left his nets in the lake at night, they had been emptied before the morning, but he could not discover the cause. The boy knew very well who stole the fish, but he would not say anything about it till he could show his master the thief.
One moonlight night, when the fisherman and the boy came to the lake to examine the nets, they found the thief at work. When they looked into the water over the side of their boat, they saw the Old Boy taking the fishes from the meshes of the net and putting them into a bag over his shoulder. Next day, the fisherman went to a celebrated sorcerer and asked him to use his magic to cause the thief to fall into the net, and to enchant him so that he could p. 156 not escape without the owner’s consent. This was arranged just as the fisherman wished. Next day, when the net was drawn up, they drew up the Devil to the surface and brought him ashore. And what a drubbing he received from the fisherman and his boy; for he could not escape from the net without the consent of the sorcerer. The fisherman gave him a ton’s weight of blows on the body, without caring where they fell. The Devil soon presented a piteous sight, but the fisherman and his boy felt no pity for him, but only rested awhile, and then began their work afresh. Entreaties were useless, and at last the Devil promised the fisherman the half of all his goods if he would only release him from the spell. But the enraged fisherman would listen to nothing till his own strength failed so completely that he could no longer move his stick. At length, after a long discussion, it was arranged that the Old Boy should be released from the net with the sorcerer’s aid, and that the fisherman and his boy should accompany the Devil to receive his ransom. No doubt he hoped to get the better of them by some stratagem.
A grand feast was prepared for the guests in the hall of Pōrgu, which lasted for a whole week, and p. 157 there was plenty of everything. The aged host exhibited his treasures and precious hoards to his visitors, and made his players perform before the fisherman in their very best style. One morning the boy Pikker said to the fisherman, “If you are again feasted and fêted to-day, ask for the instrument which is in the iron chamber behind seven locks.” The fisherman took the hint, and in the middle of the feast, when everybody was half-seas over, he asked to see the instrument in the secret chamber. The Devil was quite willing, and he fetched the instrument, and tried to play upon it himself. But although he blew into it with all his strength, and shifted his fingers up and down the pipe, he was not able to bring a better tone from it than the cry of a cat when she is seized by the tail, or the squeaking of a decoy-pig at a wolf-hunt. The fisherman laughed, and said, “Don’t give yourself so much trouble for nothing. I see well enough that you’ll never make a piper. My boy can manage it much better.” “Oho,” said the Devil, “you seem to think that playing this instrument is like playing the flageolet, and that it is mere child’s play. Come, friend, try it; but if either you or your boy can bring anything like a tune out of the p. 158 instrument, I won’t be prince of hell any longer. Only just try it,” said he, handing the instrument to the boy. The boy Pikker took the instrument, but when he put it to his mouth and blew into it, the walls of hell shook, and the Devil and his company fell senseless to the ground and lay as if dead. In place of the boy the old Thunder-god himself stood by the fisherman, and thanked him for his aid, saying, “In future, whenever my instrument is heard in the clouds, your nets will be well filled with fish.” Then he hastened home again.
On the way his son met him, and fell on his knees, confessing his fault, and humbly asking pardon. Then said Father Kōu, “The frivolity of man often wars against the wisdom of heaven, but you may thank your stars, my son, that I have recovered the power to annihilate the traces of the suffering which your folly has brought on the people.” As he spoke, he sat down on a stone, and blew into the thunder-instrument till the rain-gates were opened, and the thirsty earth could drink her fill. Old Kōu took his son into his service, and they live together still.
1 There is a variant of this story (Pikne’s Trumpet: Kreutzwald) in which Tühi himself steals the trumpet white Pikne is asleep. Pikne p. 150 is afraid to apply for aid to the Old Father, for fear of being punished for losing it, but recovers it by an artifice similar to that employed in the present story. This is interesting as showing Pikne to be only a subordinate deity. Löwe considers the Thunderer’s musical instrument to be a bagpipe.
1 He does not call his father Vanaisa, which would identify him with the Supreme God, but uses another term, Vana taat.
1 As Louhi, in the Kalevala, secures the magic mill, the Sampo.
2 This story is probably connected with the Finnish and Esthonian legends of the theft of the sun and moon by sorcerers.