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My friends E. and M. brought to my attention the case of the Sampo artifact from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevela. The Sampo is something of a MacGuffin for much of the Kalevala, fought over by many of the characters after its creation. It is, however, never described in such a way that it can be easily matched to a preexisting cultural concept. The description of the Sampo is the following, as translated by John Martin Crawford:
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.
The only conclusion from this that I can really take is that the Sampo is something equivalent to an automated factory that produces food product, salt, and precious metals reliably without apparent outside input. There is no description of the object requiring mechanical labor from a human. Given the apparent production of primary elements of precious metals, the Sampo must be capable of atomic fusion without the released energy destroying the device and its environs, providing an apparent power source. Plausibly, the only reason that the Sampo isn’t set to produce anything other than flour, salt, and precious metal is that the characters in the Kalevala haven’t managed to figure out how its interface works, and it’s actually a generalized molecular manufacturing device.
I must admit that I haven’t read anything but summaries of the Kalevala, and that I don’t really know anything other than what I’ve written directly in this post. Still, this is a much more interesting MacGuffin than the Rheingold or the Golden Fleece, and definitely on the same level as The Holy Grail or the Ring of Gyges, depending on the interpretation.