In one legend, Mielikki sat down under a tree near a stream, letting the babbling water ease her mind. She felt the need for something new. She couldn’t decide what to do, so she pulled out her sewing pouch and found a thick length of brown wool. Her beloved, Tapio, needed a new cap. Every year, she made him a cloak of velvet moss, then knitted him a brown cap to go with it. As she played with the wool, twisting it in her hands, she had a vision. She saw a new animal, and decided to create it from the wool. The animal was huge and furry, both fierce and lovable. Excited, she stretched the wool and examined it. She began working immediately, as the vision was so powerful that she could think of nothing else.
The animal would be large, for Mielikki loved the large animals. Its coat would be dense, so that it could withstand the icy winters blanketing the forest with snow. She stopped while creating its stomach, deciding that this creature would be omnivorous, so it wouldn’t starve if a lack of game came upon the land, or if a drought choked off the vegetation. She gave it a strong sense of smell, so strong in fact that there was not enough creation energy left to give it good eyesight as well. The animal’s eyes became weak, but with its ability to sniff out food, this handicap seemed very small. She decided that it would hibernate during winters, as too many animals died during the harsh storms when they could not find food, and this new creature had already touched Mielikki’s heart in such a way that she wanted very much for it to live. While she wove the ears, a drop of honey fell from the tree above her, landing on the animal’s snout. With a cry of laughter, she smeared some of the honey on its lips, declaring that it would share her love of the food. At last, Mielikki came to the teeth and claws. She couldn’t create these herself, because only Ukko-Jumala, the Ancient Father Who Rules the Heavens, could give a creature such potentially dangerous weapons.
Mielikki took her creation with her and travelled on the north wind, going to the high peaks where Ukko-Jumala lived. There, she knelt before him and presenting her new animal. He circled the creature, peered into its eyes, and stroked the soft fur covering the huge beast. He played with its ears and tickled the fat belly that would help it survive through the long winters. Finally, he turned to the goddess and praised her work highly, agreeing to give the animal claws to climb trees and catch fish, and teeth with which to grind its food- but only on the condition that it promise to never use these gifts for evil. Mielikki bowed her head and agreed to this, telling him that she would destroy the creature if it would not promise these things, even as a tremor ran through her heart. She already loved the animal, and to have to destroy it would hurt her deeply.
Ukko-Jumala bent near the animal and took its paw, asking if it pledges to never use its fangs or claws for the sake of evil, and if it would abide under Mielikki’s rule. The creature squinted at them, so that it could see them. When it spoke, its voice was gruff but clear, and all of the goddess’s fear left her. He promised what they asked of him. Ukko-Jumala took a sliver of Mielikki’s fingernail, and from it he fashioned the animal’s claws and teeth. When he finished, he asked her what she would name the creature.
The goddess thought for a while before declaring him her darling ‘Otso’, and that he would wander freely to eat honey, fish, and berries. She took Otso home and introduced him to the forest. After she had created a mate for him, she left them alone to multiply and thrive. In time, she introduced the bears to Suomi, where they grew in numbers and spread to other lands.
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