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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

(from) The Kalevala, Rune 10.

Basic Information

The Sampo is a somewhat enigmatic public domain artifact from Finnish folklore. Although not described in any great detail, it was known to have been created by the culture hero Ilmarinen and to have been capable of generating flour, salt and gold (or possibly silver) by "grinding" (and is thus sometimes depicted as a quern or hand-mill).

According to the Finns, Ilmarinen created this device in an attempt to woo a legendary sorceress, but was rejected by her. She then later stole the Sampo and, when he and his companions took it back, pursued them out to sea where, in the ensuing battle, the device was either destroyed or lost in the depths.

There are obvious similarities with the Cornucopia of Greek Mythology, the Grindstone from the Japanese myth Shiofuki usu, the Hindu Akshaya Pathram and some versions of the Holy Grail (possibly derived from earlier cauldron myths).


2. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 explains what the Sampo is (Episode The Day The Earth Froze)
3. TED-Ed animation condenses the story into about 5 minutes without skimping on the details.

Game and Story Use

  • Worth noting that the first few artifacts that Ilmarien created whilst trying to forge the Sampo were evil in various ways and had to be destroyed: a less responsible creator, especially one trying to recreate the Sampo, might not bother or might retain the evil (but useful) artifacts anyway.
    • The Sampo itself could easily be used for evil, destroying the local economy by hyperinflation and/or devaluing gold or a grain-based local currency. (On the bright side, if left "on" for long enough, it'll eventually end world hunger by producing infinite food.)
  • For those who like their after-the-end settings, the Sampo might actually be a nanofactory of some kind.
  • Obviously the best place for a device that can produce endless quantities of gold is in someone else's campaign…
  • When the epic talks of "grinds a measure for eating, for the market and for the store house" does that mean one measure of meal (to eat), one measure of salt (to sell) and one measure of silver (to store) or does it mean three measures of meal (one to eat, one to sell and one to store), three measures of salt etc.
    • And what size of measure? (Probably quickly answered by someone who recognises old Finnish measurements).
  • The Sampo is intentionally mysterious and inexplicable. You might want to lean into that, keeping the in-character descriptions of it as nebulous and vague as possible. Perhaps that's part of the magic.
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