How Sampo Lappelill saw the Mountain King
by Z. Topelius
FAR away in Lapland, at a place called A´m´o,
near the River Jana, there lived, in a little hut, a
Laplander and his wife, with their small son, Sampo.
Sampo Lappelill was now between seven and eight
years of age. He had black hair, brown eyes, a snub
nose, and a wide mouth, which last is considered a mark
of beauty in curious Lapland. Sampo was a strong child
for his age; he delighted to dance down the hills in his little snow-shoes, and to drive his own reindeer in his own
little sledge. The snow whirled about him as he passed
through the deep drifts, until nothing of him could be
seen except the tuft of his black forelock.
"I shall never feel comfortable while he is from home!"
said the mother. "He may meet HisŘ's reindeer with
the golden antlers."
Sampo overheard these words, and wondered what
reindeer it could be that had golden antlers. "It must
be a splendid animal!" said he; "how much I should
like to drive to Rasteka´s with it!" Rasteka´s is a high,
dreary mountain, and can be seen from A´m´o, from which
it is five or six miles distant.
"You audacious boy!" exclaimed the mother; "how
dare you talk so? Rasteka´s is the home of the trolls,
and HisŘ dwells there also."
"Who is HisŘ?" inquired Sampo.
"What ears that boy has!" thought the Lapp-wife.
"But I ought not to have spoken of such things in his
presence; the best thing I can do now is to frighten
him well." Then she said aloud: "Take care, Lappelill,
that you never go near Rasteka´s, for there lives HisŘ,
the Mountain King, who can eat a whole reindeer at one
mouthful, and who swallows little boys like flies."
Upon hearing these words, Sampo could not help
thinking what good fun it would be to have a peep at
such a wonderful being—from a safe distance, of course!
Three or four weeks had elapsed since Christmas,
and darkness brooded still over Lapland. There was no
morning, noon, or evening; it was always night. Sampo
was feeling dull. It was so long since he had seen the sun that he had nearly forgotten what it was like. Yet
he did not desire the return of summer, for the only thing
he remembered about that season was that it was a time
when the gnats stung very severely. His one wish was
that it might soon become light enough for him to use
One day, at noon (although it was dark), Sampo's father
said: "Come here! I have something to show you."
Sampo came out of the hut. His father pointed towards
"Do you know what that is?" asked he.
"A southern light," replied the boy.
"No," said his father, "it is the herald of the sun.
To-morrow, maybe, or the day after that, we shall see
the sun himself. Look, Sampo, how weirdly the red light
glows on the top of Rasteka´s!"
Sampo perceived that the snow upon the gloomy
summit, which had been so long shrouded in darkness,
was coloured red. Again the idea flashed into his mind
what a grand sight the terrible Mountain King would be—from
a distance. The boy brooded on this for the
remainder of the day, and throughout half the night, when
he should have been asleep.
He thought, and thought, until at length he crept
silently out of the reindeer skins which formed his bed,
and then through the door-hole. The cold was intense.
Far above him the stars were shining, the snow scrunched
beneath his feet. Sampo Lappelill was a brave boy, who
did not fear the cold. He was, moreover, well wrapped
up in fur. He stood gazing at the stars, considering what
to do next.
Then he heard a suggestive sound. His little reindeer
pawed the ground with its feet. "Why should I not take
a drive?" thought Sampo, and proceeded straightway to
put his thought into action. He harnessed the reindeer
to the sledge, and drove forth into the wilderness of
"I will drive only a little way towards Rasteka´s," said
Sampo to himself, and off he went, crossing the frozen
River Jana to the opposite shore, which—although the
child was unaware of this fact—belonged to the kingdom
As Sampo drove, he sang a bright little song. The
wolves were running round his sledge like grey dogs, but
he did not mind them. He knew well that no wolf could
keep pace with his dear, swift little reindeer. Up hill
and down dale he drove on, with the wind whistling in
his ears. The moon seemed to be racing with him, and
the rocks to be running backwards. It was thoroughly
Alas! at a sudden turning upon the downward slope
of a hill the sledge overturned, and Sampo was pitched
into a snow-drift. The reindeer did not observe this, and,
in the belief that its master was still sitting behind it,
it ran on. Sampo could not cry "Stop!" for his mouth
was stuffed with snow.
He lay there in the darkness, in the midst of the vast
snowy wilderness, in which was no human habitation for
At first, he naturally felt somewhat bewildered. He
scrambled unhurt out of the big snow-drift. Then, by the
wan moonlight, he saw that he was surrounded on all
sides by snow-drifts and huge mountains. One mountain
towered above the others, and this he knew must be
Rasteka´s, the home of the fierce Mountain King, who
swallowed little boys like flies!
Sampo Lappelill was frightened now, and heartily wished
himself safe at home. But how was he to get there?
There sat the poor child, alone in the darkness, amongst
the desolate, snow-covered rocks, with the big, black
shadow of Rasteka´s frowning down upon him. As he wept his tears froze immediately, and rolled down over
his jacket in little round lumps like peas; so Sampo
thought that he had better leave off crying, and run about
in order to keep himself warm.
"Rather than freeze to death here," he said to himself,
"I would go straight to the Mountain King. If he has
a mind to swallow me, he must do so, I suppose; but
I shall advise him to eat instead some of the wolves in
this neighbourhood. They are much fatter than I, and
their fur would not be so difficult to swallow."
Sampo began to ascend the mountain. Before he had
gone far, he heard the trotting of some creature behind
him, and a moment after a large wolf overtook him.
Although inwardly trembling, Sampo would not betray
his fear. He shouted:
"Keep out of my way! I am the bearer of a message
to the King, and you hinder me at your peril!"
"Dear me!" said the wolf (on Rasteka´s all the animals
can speak). "And, pray, what little shrimp are you,
wriggling through the snow?"
"My name is Sampo Lappelill," replied the boy. "Who
"I," answered the wolf, "am first gentleman-usher to
the Mountain King. I have just been all over the
kingdom to call together his subjects for the great sun
festival. As you are going my way, you may, if
you please, get upon my back, and so ride up the
Sampo instantly accepted the invitation. He climbed
upon the shaggy back of the wolf, and they went off
at a gallop.
"What do you mean by the sun festival?" inquired
"Don't you know that?" said the wolf. "We celebrate
the sun's feast the day he first appears on the horizon
after the long night of winter. All trolls, goblins, and
animals in the north then assemble on Rasteka´s, and on
that day they are not permitted to hurt each other.
Lucky it was for you, my boy, that you came here to-day.
On any other day, I should have devoured you long
"Is the King bound by the same law?" asked Sampo
"Of course he is," answered the wolf. "From one hour
before sunrise until one hour after sunset he will not
dare to harm you. If, however, you are on the mountain
when the time expires, you will be in great danger. For
the King will then seize whoever comes first, and a
thousand bears and a hundred thousand wolves will also
be ready to rush upon you. There will soon be an end
of Sampo Lappelill!"
"But perhaps, sir," said Sampo timidly, "you would
be so kind as to help me back again before the danger
The wolf laughed. "Don't count on any such thing,
my dear Sampo; on the contrary, I mean to seize you
first myself. You are such a very nice, plump little boy!
I see that you have been fattened on reindeer milk and
cheese. You will be splendid for breakfast to-morrow
Sampo began to think that his best course might be
to jump off the wolf's back at once. But it was too late. They had now arrived at the top of Rasteka´s. Many
curious and marvellous things were there to be seen.
There sat the terrible Mountain King on his throne of
cloudy rocks, gazing out over the snow-fields. He wore
on his head a cap of white snow-clouds; his eyes were
like a full moon; his nose resembled a mountain-ridge.
His mouth was an abyss; his beard was like tufts of
immense icicles; his arms were as thick and strong as
fir trees; his coat was like an enormous snow-mountain.
Sampo Lappelill had a good view of the King and his
subjects, for a bow of dazzling northern lights shone
in the sky and illuminated the scene.
All around the King stood millions of goblins, trolls,
and brownies; tiny, grey creatures, who had come from
remotest parts of the world to worship the sun. This
they did from fear, not from love; for trolls and goblins
hate the sun, and always hope that he will never
return when they see him disappear at the end of
Farther off stood all the animals of Lapland, thousands
and thousands of them of all sizes; from the bear, the
wolf, and the glutton, to the little mountain-rat, and
the brisk, tiny reindeer-flea. No gnats appeared, however;
they had all been frozen.
Sampo was greatly astonished at what he saw. Unobserved,
he slipped from the wolf's back, and hid behind
a ponderous stone, to watch the proceedings.
The Mountain King shook his head, and the snow
whirled about him. The northern lights shone around
his head like a crown of glory, sending long, red streamers
across the deep blue sky; they whizzed and sparkled,
expanded and drew together, fading sometimes, then again
darting out like lightning over the snow-clad mountains.
This performance amused the King. He clapped with
his icy hands until the sound echoed like thunder, causing
the trolls to scream with joy, and the animals to howl
with fear. At this the King was still more delighted,
and he shouted across the desert:
"This is to my mind! Eternal darkness! Eternal
night! May they never end!"
"May they never end!" repeated all the trolls at the
top of their voices. Then arose a dispute amongst the
animals. All the beasts of prey agreed with the trolls,
but the reindeer and other gentle creatures felt that they
should like to have summer back again, although they
disliked the gnats that would certainly return with it.
One creature alone was ready to welcome summer quite
unreservedly. This was the reindeer-flea. She piped out
as loudly as she could:
"If you please, your Majesty, have we not come here
to worship the sun, and to watch for his coming?"
"Nonsense!" growled a polar bear. "Our meeting
here springs from a stupid old custom. The sooner it
ends the better! In my opinion, the sun has set for
ever; he is dead!"
At these words the animals shuddered, but the trolls
and goblins were much pleased with them, and reiterated
them gaily, shaking with laughter to such an extent that
their tiny caps fell off their heads. Then the King roared,
in a voice of thunder:
"Yea! Dead is the sun! Now must the whole world
worship me, the King of Eternal Night and Eternal
Sampo, sitting behind the stone, was so greatly enraged
by this speech that he came forth from his hiding-place,
"That, O King, is a lie as big as yourself! The sun
is not dead, for only yesterday I saw his forerunner.
He will be here very shortly, bringing sweet summer
with him, and thawing the icicles in your funny, frozen
The King's brow grew black as a thunder-cloud.
Forgetful of the law, he lifted his tremendous arm to strike
Sampo; but at that moment the northern light faded.
A red streak shot suddenly across the sky, shining with
such brilliancy into the King's face that it entirely dazzled
him. His arm fell useless at his side. Then the golden
sun rose in slow stateliness on the horizon, and that flood
of glorious light caused even those who had rejoiced in
his supposed death to welcome his re-appearance.
But the goblins were considerably astonished. From
under their red caps they stared at the sun with their
little grey eyes, and grew so excited that they stood on
their heads in the snow. The beard of the Mountain King
began to melt and drip, until it was flowing down
his jacket like a running stream.
By-and-by, Sampo heard a reindeer say to her little
"Come, my child, we must be going, or we shall be
eaten by the wolves."
"Such will be my fate also if I linger longer," thought
Sampo. So he sprang upon the back of a beautiful
reindeer with golden antlers, which started off with him
at once, darting down the rocks with lightning speed.
"What is that rustling sound that I hear behind us?"
asked the boy presently.
"It is made by the thousand bears; they are pursuing
us in order to eat us up," replied the reindeer. "You
need not fear, however, for I am the King's own enchanted
reindeer, and no bear has ever been able as yet to nibble
They went on in silence for a time, then Sampo put
"What," asked he, "is that strange panting I hear
"That," returned the reindeer, "is made by the hundred
thousand wolves; they are at full gallop behind us, and
wish to tear us in pieces. But fear nothing from them!
No wolf has ever beaten me in a race yet!"
Again Sampo spoke:
"Is it not thundering over there amongst the rocky
"No," answered the now trembling reindeer; "that noise
is made by the King, who is chasing us. Now, indeed,
all hope has fled, for no one can escape him!"
"Can we do nothing?" asked Sampo.
"There is no safety to be found here," said the reindeer,
"but there is just one chance for us. We must try to
reach the priest's house over yonder by Lake Enare.
Once there, we shall be safe, for the King has no power
"Oh, make haste! make haste! dear reindeer!" cried
Sampo, "and you shall feed on golden oats, and out of
a silver manger."
On sped the reindeer. As they entered the priest's
house, the Mountain King crossed the courtyard, and
knocked at the door with such violence that it is a wonder
he did not knock the house down.
"Who is there?" called the priest from within.
"It is I!" answered a thundering voice; "it is the
mighty Mountain King! Open the door! You have
there a child, whom I claim as my prey."
"Wait a moment!" cried the priest. "Permit me to
robe myself, in order that I may give your Majesty a
"All right!" roared the King; "but be quick about
it, or I may break down your walls!" A moment later
he raised his enormous foot for a kick, yelling: "Are you
not ready yet?"
Then the priest opened the door, and said solemnly,
"Begone, King of Night and Winter! Sampo Lappelill
is under my protection, and he shall never be yours!"
Upon this, the King flew into such a violent passion
that he exploded in a great storm of snow and wind.
The flakes fell and fell, until the snow reached the roof
of the priest's house, so that every one inside it expected
to be buried alive. But as soon as the sun rose, the
snow began to melt, and all was well. The Mountain
King had completely vanished, and no one knows exactly
what became of him, although some think that he is
still reigning on Rasteka´s.
Sampo thanked the priest heartily for his kindness,
and begged, as an additional favour, the loan of a sledge.
To this sledge the boy harnessed the golden-antlered
reindeer, and drove home to his parents, who were
exceedingly glad to see him.
How Sampo became a great man, who fed his reindeer
with golden oats out of a silver manger, is too lengthy
a story to tell now.