Classic Myths

Page: 18

Then--for this was ages ago--he provided golden armor for himself, silver armor for his nobles, iron for the crew, copper for the old men, and steel for the wise men.

When everything was ready, he and his sailors set out for Finland. But they soon turned and headed "The Flyer" to the far north. The Great Bear in the sky guided them.

At the helm of the ship was a wise pilot who knew all languages and the speech of birds and beasts. The winds of Finland were angry because he slighted their country, and a great storm arose and blew the ship out of her course. The birds sang to the helmsman and told him by their song that his ship was being driven on the bleak and desolate coast of Lapland.

The king and his bold comrades succeeded in landing in Lapland, but could find no people. At last a sailor discovered a house. In it dwelt a wise man and his daughter. The king asked the wise man the way to the end of the world. The wise man answered that he had asked a vain question.

"The sea has no end, and those who go westward have found their death in the Fire Island. Turn homeward and live," said the wise man.

The king only answered by asking the wise Lapp if he would be their guide to the Fire Island. He consented and went aboard the ship. His name was Varrak.

He steered the boat due north for thirty days and thirty nights. The first danger they met was a great whirlpool, whose center was a vast hole into which had been drawn many a brave ship. Varrak threw overboard a small barrel wrapped in red cloth and trimmed with many red streamers, but with a rope attached to it. A whale swallowed this bait and then tried to escape as he felt the rope pulling him. In his flight he towed the ship to a safe place in the open sea.

This brought them far westward and at last they came within sight of the Island of Fire. Iceland, men call it now, but surely it has as much fire as ice. From the middle of this Iceland they could see great pillars of flame and vast clouds of smoke ascending into the air.

Varrak warned the king of his danger, but was commanded to run the boat ashore. Those who explored the land found a vast mountain casting up flames and another mountain pouring out smoke. Soon the party came across great spouting fountains of boiling water, and they found the ground beneath their feet to be burning lava.

The son of Sulev, who was leading this exploring party, wandered through snow-fields covered with ashes. A shower of red-hot stones warned him that he was near the volcano. Going too close to this burning mountain, his hair and eyebrows were singed and his clothing took fire. He rolled in the snow and saved himself.