Kalevala: Joukahainen's Revenge

This story is part of the Kalevala unit. Story source: Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot, translated by W. F. Kirby (1907).

Runo 6: Joukahainen's Revenge
Väinämöinen, old and steadfast,
Now resolved upon a journey
To the cold and dreary regions
Of the gloomy land of Pohja.

Then he took his straw-hued stallion
Like a pea-stalk in his colour,
And the golden bit adjusted,
Bridle on his head of silver,
On his back himself he seated,
And he started on his journey,
And he trotted gently onward,
At an easy pace he journeyed,
Mounted on the straw-hued courser,
Like a pea-stalk in his colour;
Thus through Väinölä he journeyed,
Over Kalevala's wide heathlands,
And the horse made rapid progress,
Home behind, and journey shortened,
Then across the sea he journeyed,
O'er the far-extending billows,
With the horse's hoofs unwetted,
And his feet unsunk in water.

But the youthful Joukahainen,
He, the puny son of Lapland,
Long had cherished his resentment,
And had long indeed been envious
Of the aged Väinämöinen,
Of the ever-famous minstrel.

Then he wrought a mighty crossbow.
And a splendid bow he fashioned,
And he formed the bow of iron,
Overlaid the back with copper,
And with gold inlaid it also,
And with silver he adorned it.
Where did he obtain the bowstring?
Whence a cord to match the weapon?
Sinews from the elk of Hiisi,
And the hempen cord of Lempo.
Thus at length the bow was finished,
And the stock was quite completed,
And the bow was fair to gaze on,
And its value matched its beauty.
At its back a horse was standing,
On the stock a foal was running,
On the curve a sleeping woman,
At the catch a hare was couching.
Shafts of wood he likewise fashioned.
Every arrow triply feathered,
And the shafts were formed of oakwood,
And he made the heads of pinewood;
Thus the arrows were completed,
And he fixed the feathers on them,
From the swallows' plumage taken.
Likewise from the tails of sparrows.
After this, the points he sharpened.
And the arrow-points he poisoned.
In the black blood of the serpent,
In the blood of hissing adders.
Thus he made his arrows ready,
And his bow was fit for bending,
And he watched for Väinämöinen,
Waited for Suvantolainen,
Watched at morning, watched at evenings
Waited also through the noontide.

Long he watched for Väinämöinen,
Waited long, and wearied never,
Sitting gazing from the window,
Or upon the stairs he waited,
Sometimes lurking by the pathway,
Sometimes watching in the meadow,
On his back his well-filled quiver,
'Neath his arm his crossbow ready;
Then he waited further onwards,
Lurking near another building,
On the cape that juts out sharply,
Where the tongue of land curves outward,
Near a waterfall, all foaming,
Past the banks of sacred rivers.

And at length one day it happened:
Very early in the morning,
As he turned his eyes to westward,
And he turned his head to eastward
Something dark he spied on ocean,
Something blue upon the billows.
"Is a cloud in east arising,
Or the dawn of day appearing?"

In the east no cloud was rising,
Nor the dawn of day appearing:
'Twas the aged Väinämöinen,
'Twas the ever-famous minstrel,
Who to Pohjola was hasting,
As to Pimentola he journeyed,
Mounted on his straw-hued courser,
Like a pea-stalk in his colour.

Then the youthful Joukahainen,
He, the meagre son of Lapland,
Spanned in haste his mighty crossbow.
And he aimed the splendid weapon
At the head of Väinämöinen,
Thus to kill Suvantolainen.

Then his mother came and asked him,
And the aged one inquired,
"Wherefore do you span your weapon,
Bending thus the iron crossbow?"

Then the youthful Joukahainen
Answered in the words which follow:
"Therefore do I span the weapon,
Bending thus the iron crossbow,
For the head of Väinämöinen,
Thus to kill Suvantolainen,
I will shoot old Väinämöinen,
Strike the ever-famous minstrel,
Through the heart, and through the liver,
'Twixt the shoulders I will shoot him."

But his mother straight forbade him,
And dissuaded him from shooting.
"Do not shoot at Väinämöinen,
Do not Kalevalainen slaughter.
Of a noble race is Väinö;
He's my sister's son, my nephew:
If you shoot at Väinämöinen,
And should Kalevalainen slaughter,
Gladness from the world will vanish,
And from earth will song be banished;
In the world is gladness better.
And on earth is song more cheerful,
Than to Manala if banished.
And to Tuonela's darkest regions."

(800 words)

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