Gateway to the Classics: The Sampo by James Baldwin
The Sampo by  James Baldwin

Back Matter


Note A.—A very long time ago, among the ancestors of the people known as Finns, there were professional minstrels called runolainen, whose business it was to preserve the memory of the national songs, folk-lore tales, and old sagas of the race. They went from place to place, among the lowly as well as the great, singing their songs and playing the kantele, a primitive sort of harp from which they drew entrancing music. Through them a vast store of legends, wonder tales, songs, proverbs, tales of magic, etc., survived from generation to generation solely in the memories of the people. It was not until about a century ago that any systematic effort was made to give this legendary lore a permanent form by putting it into writing. The first person to attempt this was the Finnish poet Zakris Topelius, who put together and published a small volume of traditions and folk tales. An interest in the subject being awakened, Dr. Elias Lönnrot undertook the task of collecting and putting into permanent form all that was best in the legendary literature of his countrymen. Many years were occupied in this work. He travelled to every part of Finland, lived with people of every condition and listened to their recitals of stories and songs which they had learned from the lips of their ancestors. These he committed to writing, and from them he constructed a single poem which he called "Kalevala." This poem is remarkable for its great length and its tiresome, monotonous metre—qualities which discourage English readers from attempting its acquaintance. From the folk-lore tales of the runolainen  and from portions of this long poem, the present weaver of tales has constructed the story of "The Sampo," with such variations and connecting links as seemed most necessary to fit it to the tastes and requirements of modern readers.

Note B, page  2.—The Frozen Land may have been identical with modern Lapland. In any case, it was situated in the far-distant North and was known in the original tale as Pohyola, or Sariola. Hero Land, or the Land of Heroes (page 6), was the ancient home of the Finns. It was known sometimes as Kalevala, sometimes as Wainola, but of its exact location there is no certain knowledge.

Note C, page  10.—"Sampo"—compare this with Aladdin's lamp, with the philosophers stone of the mediæval alchemists, with Solomon's carpet, etc.

Note D, page  32.—This story of the origin of iron is derived from the ninth rune of the poem "Kalevala." It is here related with numerous variations.

Note E, page  126.—The Minstrel's journey to Tuonela is briefly related in the sixteenth rune of the "Kalevala." The story-teller has not attempted to follow the poetical account closely. Compare the visit of Odysseus to the Land of Shades ("Odyssey," bk. XI); also see Virgil's "Æneid," bk. VI, and the "Elder Edda" for similar narratives.

Note F, page  216.—The story of the tests of courage to which Ilmarinen was required to submit is related in the nineteenth rune of "Kalevala." Some points of similarity are found in the story of Jason and Medea.

Note G, page  321.—Old Persian books tell us that at an early period the climate of some distant northern countries was so mild that they enjoyed nine months of summer with only three months of winter. Finally, sudden changes occurred which completely reversed this order of the seasons. Can we believe that in the present story we have a faint reminiscence of that very ancient time?

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