Kalevala: Väinämöinen Goes Fishing

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

Runo 5: Väinämöinen Goes Fishing
Now the tidings were repeated,
And the news was widely rumoured,
How the youthful maid had perished,
And the fair one had departed.

Väinämöinen, old and steadfast,
Deeply sorrowed at the tidings,
Wept at evening, wept at morning,
Spent the livelong night in weeping,
For the fair one who had perished,
For the maiden who had slumbered,
In the muddy lake downsunken
To the depths below the billows.

Then he went, in sorrow sighing,
While his heart was filled with anguish,
To the blue lake's rocky margin,
And he spoke the words which follow:
"Tell me, Untamo, thou sleeper,
Tell me all thy dreams, O idler,
Where to find the realm of Ahto,
Where dwell Vellamo's fair maidens?"

Sleeper Untamo made answer,
And his dreams he thus repeated:
"There has Ahto fixed his country,
There dwell Vellamo's fair maidens,
Near the cloud-encompassed headland,
Near the ever-misty island,
In the depths below the billows,
On the black ooze at the bottom;
There has Ahto fixed his country,
There dwell Vellamo's fair maidens,
Living in a narrow chamber,
In a little room abiding,
With the walls of varied marble,
In the depths beside the headland."

Then the aged Väinämöinen
Hastened to his little vessel,
And he scanned his fishing-tackle,
And his hooks with care inspected,
Put the tackle in his pocket,
And the barbed hooks in his wallet;
Through the waves his boat he ferried,
Making for the jutting headland,
To the cape, with clouds encompassed,
And the ever-misty island.

Then he set about his fishing,
And he watched his angle closely,
And he held his hand-net ready,
Dropped his angle in the water,
And he fished, and tried his fortune,
While the rod of copper trembled,
And the thread of silver whistled,
And the golden line whirred loudly.

And at length one day it happened,
Very early in the morning,
On his hook a fish was hanging,
And a salmon-trout was captured;
In the boat he drew it quickly,
And upon the planks he cast it.

Then he scanned the fish, and turned it,
And he spoke the words which follow;
"'Tis a fish, among the fishes,
For I never saw its equal,
Smoother is it than a powan,
Than a salmon-trout more yellow,
Greyer than a pike I deem it,
For a female fish too finless,
For a male 'tis far too scaleless;
Has no tresses, like a maiden,
Nor, like water-nymphs, 'tis belted;
Nor is earless like a pigeon;
It resembles most a salmon,
Or a perch from deepest water."

In his waistband Väinämöinen
Bore a case-knife, silver-hafted,
And he drew the knife of sharpness,
Drew the case-knife, silver-hafted,
And prepared to slit the salmon,
And to cut the fish to pieces,
Thought to eat it for his breakfast.
Or a snack to make his luncheon,
To provide him with a dinner,
And a plenteous supper likewise.

As he would have slit the salmon.
And would cut the fish to pieces,
Sprang the salmon in the water,
For the beauteous fish jumped sideways
From the planking of the red boat,
From the boat of Väinämöinen.
Thereupon her head she lifted,
Raised her shoulders from the water,
On the fifth wave's watery hillock,
From the sixth high wave emerging,
Then her hands in air uplifted,
And displayed her left foot also,
When the seventh wave roses upswelling,
And upon the ninth wave's summit.
Thereupon the fish addressed him,
And it spoke, and thus protested:
"O thou aged Väinämöinen,
Surely I have not come hither,
Like a salmon, to be slaughtered,
Or a fish, to cut to pieces,
Only to become your breakfast,
Or a snack to make your luncheon,
To provide you with a dinner.
And a plenteous supper likewise."

(600 words)

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