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BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BEAT! BEAT! BEAT!--BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! through the long Arctic Night and across the white snow plains!

So ended the Great Nischergurgje his stories.

And the Four Ancient Wizards of the South Baltic Lands, ground their teeth, whistled, howled, and were still.

And as Nischergurgie beat! beat! beat! on is Magic Drum and tapped! tapped! tapped! on his Magic Drum, all Lapland was silent. The stars shone big in the dark winter sky. From the edge of the world sprang up the Northern Lights like a tent of colored flames--red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. The colored flames darted here, darted there, shifted, wavered, and spread to and fro over the sky.

And the Lapp children slid about swiftly on their skis and shouted mockingly:

"Northern Lights, flicker! Flicker! Flicker!"

Then the children, scared and trembling, ran into the tents to hide, crying out:

"Northern Lights, do not take our eyes!"

And a great silence fell upon the Four Ancient Wizards, and upon the Lapp tents. The dwarf birches, in their veils of filigree crystals, sparkled like rainbows. Threads of hoar frost and glittering ice lay on the eyebrows and hair of the Four Ancient Wizards, as they sat on the snow in front of the Great Nischergurgje.

Oh, very, very cold it was! The smoke, from the smoke-holes of the Lapp tents, curled straight up through the biting air. A flock of little birds, like snowflakes, settled down on dwarf birch and aspen.

"Great Comrades!" cried Nischergurgje. "See! The little snow-buntings come flocking down from the mountains; it bodes a storm of snow. See! The Northern Lights flash quickly; it bodes a fierce, high wind. See! Northern Lights spread widely; it bodes a deep, deep, heaping snow. See! The Northern Lights are many; it bodes a freezing, howling wind from the Pole.

"Your boots are stuffed with warm, sweet hay, and your robes are wrapped closely around you, yet not all your Magic will keep you warm! Come then, let us sit around yonder Lapp fire."

So into the biggest Lapp tent went Nischergurgje and the Four Ancient Wizards and sat them down on the birch boughs spread on the floor. And in the narrow space around the blazing smoking fire, they sat between Lapp children, Lapp men, and the little dogs.

And the Lapp women brought a feast--tasty morsels of reindeer flesh, hot from the cooking pot over the fire, reindeer marrow-bones, reindeer cheese in wooden saucers, reindeer milk mixed with dried berries, fragrant coffee with lumps of sugar and frozen reindeer milk, drinks of melted snow water, and tiny rye cakes baked before the fire.

Boom! Boom! Boom! The feast was over.

And the Great Nischergurgje struck his Drum with his golden hammer, and cried out:

"Kauko, Red-Haired Wizard of Finland, tell us Wonder Tales from your Thousand Lakes and Thousand Isles."

And the Four Ancient Wizards whistled, ground their teeth, howled, and were still.

And all the Lapp people were still.

Kauko the Red-Haired Wizard laid aside his own Drum.

He took up his living speaking Kantele, and drew his hand across its strings. Wild and weird was his music.

Then Kauko the Red-Haired Wizard began his stories.


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