Definitions

sampo

sampo

[sahm-paw]

In Finnish mythology, a mysterious object that has been variously identified but is typically believed to be a cosmological pillar that supports the vault of heaven. Because it is the axis around which the heavens revolve, all life depends on it as the source of all good. In one legend, the creator-smith Ilmarinen forged the sampo for Louhi, the hag-goddess of the underworld, and then stole it back, resulting in its near-destruction. In the Kalevala, sampo is a magic mill that grinds out an endless supply of salt, gold, and meal for its possessor.

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In Finnish mythology, the Sampo was a magical artifact constructed by Ilmarinen that brought good fortune to its holder; nobody knows exactly what it was supposed to be. When the Sampo was stolen, it is said that Ilmarinen's homeland fell upon hard times and sent an expedition to retrieve it, but in the ensuing battle it was smashed and lost at sea.

The Sampo has been interpreted in many ways: a world pillar or world tree, a compass or astrolabe, a chest containing a treasure, a Byzantine coin die, a decorated Vendel period shield, a Christian relic, etc. In the Kalevala, compiler Lönnrot interpreted it to be a quern or mill of some sort that made flour, salt, and gold out of thin air. The world pillar theory, originally developed by historian of religions Uno Harva and linguistic Eemil Nestor Setälä in the early 20th century, is the most widely accepted one.

Description in the Kalevala

The Sampo was a pivotal element of the plot of the Finnish epic poem Kalevala, compiled in 1835 (and expanded in 1849) by Elias Lönnrot based on earlier Finnish oral tradition.

In the expanded second version of the poem, the Sampo is forged by Ilmarinen, a legendary smith, as a task set by the Mistress of Pohjola in return for her daughter's hand.

"Ilmarinen, worthy brother,
Thou the only skilful blacksmith,
Go and see her wondrous beauty,
See her gold and silver garments,
See her robed in finest raiment,
See her sitting on the rainbow,
Walking on the clouds of purple.
Forge for her the magic Sampo,
Forge the lid in many colors,
Thy reward shall be the virgin,
Thou shalt win this bride of beauty;
Go and bring the lovely maiden
To thy home in Kalevala."

Ilmarinen works for several days at a mighty forge until finally the Sampo is created:

On one side the flour is grinding,
On another salt is making,
On a third is money forging,
And the lid is many-colored.
Well the Sampo grinds when finished,
To and fro the lid in rocking,
Grinds one measure at the day-break,
Grinds a measure fit for eating,
Grinds a second for the market,
Grinds a third one for the store-house.

Later, Louhi the sorceress steals the Sampo, provoking Ilmarinen and Väinämöinen to enter her stronghold in secret and retrieve it. Louhi, in reply, pursues them and combats Väinämöinen. In the struggle, Louhi is vanquished and the Sampo is destroyed.

Portrayal in film

In 1959 the joint Soviet-Finnish film production Sampo (titled The Day the Earth Froze when released in the United States) adapted the Kalevala to the big screen. Directed by Risto Orko and Aleksandr Ptushko, and written by Väinö Kaukonen and Viktor Vitkovich, the movie somewhat alters the circumstances surrounding the Sampo's creation; Louhi kidnaps Ilmarinen's sister Annikki to compel him to build a Sampo for her. However, the movie remains reasonably true to the original tale in broad outline, and the Sampo's fate is the same.

Episode 422 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, produced in the 1992–93 season, featured The Day the Earth Froze. Though the movie does explain what a Sampo is, the MST3K characters are talking during the explanation and miss it, and are therefore confused throughout the film as to what exactly a "Sampo" is. In Episode 506, Eegah, they receive a letter from a fan which includes a photograph of a portable television set with the brand name "Sampo".

In the Warner Brothers cartoon What's Opera, Doc?, Elmer Fudd sings, "Yes, magic helmet. And I'll give you a Sampo," mispronouncing "sample" but smiling knowingly at the camera to reveal the inside joke.

The Sampo is also being forged in the 2006 movie Jade Warrior. The movie is a Finnish-Chinese co-production and is loosely based on the kalavela and includes Wuxia elements as well.

Similar devices

The Cornucopia of Greek mythology also produces endless goods.

Some versions of the Grail myth emphasize how the Grail creates food and goods.

The fictional world of Star Trek includes a "replicator", which creates complex materials from recorded information on their structures.

Other meanings

Sampo is also a Finnish given name.

In 1933, A. A. Öpik named a new genus of orthide brachiopod from the Ordovician period of earth history Sampo after the mythical artifact of the same name.

There is a Finnish brand of diverse products which is called Sampo.

Sampo is also the name of a Christian ska band.

See also

Footnotes

External links

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