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In Finnish mythology, the Sampo was a magical artifact of indeterminate type constructed by Ilmarinen that brought good fortune to its holder. 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.[citation needed]


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

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.

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