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Iku-Turso (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈikuˌturso], "the eternal Turso"; also known as Iku-Tursas, Iki-Tursas, Meritursas, Tursas, Turisas among others) is a malevolent sea monster in Finnish mythology. Nowadays Meritursas means octopus in Finnish, named after Iku-Turso, but originally tursas is an old name for walrus while the more common term is mursu. However, it is more common to see the word Mustekala (lit. "ink fish"), the name of its Subclass Coleoidea in Finnish, for the octopus.
His appearance remains unclear, but he is described with several epithets: partalainen (the one who lives on the brink, or alternatively, the bearded one), Tuonen härkä (the ox of Tuoni, Death), tuhatpää (thousand-headed), tuhatsarvi (thousand-horned). It was sometimes said that he lived in Pohjola, but that may be because Pohjola was often perceived as the home of all evil.
In some versions of the spell The Birth of Nine Diseases Iku-Turso is mentioned as the father of diseases with Loviatar, the blind daughter of Tuoni, the god of death. The Scandinavian giants (þursar, sg. þurs) had the ability to shoot arrows which caused diseases in people. This and the fact that þurs resembles Tursas gives credence to the idea that they may be related. Some runes tell that Meritursas partalainen makes pregnant the Maiden of Air (Ilman impi, Ilmatar). She later gave birth to Väinämöinen, which would make him a truly primeval creature. On the other hand, he is also mentioned as the son of Äijö (a name usually assigned to the God of sky).
As a god of war
In the list of Tavastian gods by Mikael Agricola, he is mentioned as the god of war: Turisas voiton antoi sodast (Turisas brought victory in war). It has been suggested that the god in the list is same as the Scandinavian god of war Tyr; however, this theory is not widely supported today.
Iku-Turso in Kalevala
He is mentioned several times in the Finnish national epic, Kalevala. In the second cantos he rises from the sea and burns a stack of hay. Later, a giant oak grows from the ashes. The tree grows so large that it hides the sun and the moon and is cut down.
|From the ocean rose a giant,||From the acorn, quickly sprouting,|
|Mighty Tursas, tall and hardy,||Grows the oak-tree, tall and stately,|
|Pressed compactly all the grasses,||From the ground enriched by ashes,|
|That the maidens had been raking,||Newly raked by water-maidens;|
|When a fire within them kindles,||Spread the oak-tree's many branches,|
|And the flames shot up to heaven,||Rounds itself a broad corona,|
|Till the windrows burned to ashes,||Raises it above the storm-clouds;|
|Only ashes now remaining||Far it stretches out its branches,|
|Of the grasses raked together.||Stops the white-clouds in their courses,|
|In the ashes of the windrows,||With its branches hides the sunlight,|
|Tender leaves the giant places,||With its many leaves, the moonbeams,|
|In the leaves he plants an acorn,||And the starlight dies in heaven.|
Later, Iku-Turso is summoned by Louhi, the Lady of the North, to stop the theft of the magical artefact Sampo. Väinämöinen, the leader of the plunderers, grabs Iku-Turso from his ears and using magical words makes him promise to never return from the bottom of the sea.
|Wainamoinen, brave and mighty,||Asked the second time the monster,||To the people of Wainola,|
|Seizes quick the water-monster,||Urgently inquired a third time:||Never while the moonlight glimmers|
|Lifts him by his ears and questions:||"Iku-Turso, son of Old-age,||On the hills of Kalevala!"|
|"Iku-Turso, son of Old-age,||Why art rising from the waters,|
|Why art rising from the blue-sea?||Wherefore dost thou leave the blue-sea?||Then the singer, Wainamoinen,|
|Wherefore dost thou leave thy castle,||Iku-Turso gave this answer:||Freed the monster, Iku-Turso,|
|Show thyself to mighty heroes,||For this cause I left my castle||Sent him to his deep sea-castles,|
|To the heroes of Wainola?"||Underneath the rolling billows:||Spake these words to him departing:|
|Came I here with the intention||"Iku-Turso, son of Old-age,|
|Iku-Turso, son of Old-age,||To destroy the Kalew-heroes,||Nevermore arise from ocean,|
|Ocean monster, manifested||And return the magic Sampo||Nevermore let Northland-heroes|
|Neither pleasure, nor displeasure,||To the people of Pohyola.||See thy face above the waters I|
|Was not in the least affrighted,||If thou wilt restore my freedom,||Nevermore has Iku-Turso|
|Did not give the hero answer.||Spare my life, from pain and sorrow,||Risen to the ocean-level;|
|I will quick retrace my journey,||Never since have Northland sailors|
|Whereupon the ancient minstrel,||Nevermore to show my visage||Seen the head of this sea-monster.|
One of the five submarines used by Finland in the Second World War was named after Iku-Turso. After the war the Soviet Union denied Finland the use of submarines, and it was sold to Belgium for scrapping. Other things named after the mythical being are the Asteroid 2828 Iku-Turso and a Finnish metal band Turisas. In popular culture, Iku-Turso wreaks havoc in Helsinki in the Donald Duck comic book story The Quest for Kalevala by Don Rosa.
In popular culture
- Finnish Folk metal band Turisas is named after the war god.
- Iku-Turso is featured as a monster in Final Fantasy XI.
- In late 2009 the professional wrestling promotion CHIKARA introduced a character named Tursas, based on the mythological being. A member of the Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (BDK) heel stable, Tursas' appearance is true to the source material, as he wears a mask with a large beard and several large horns and is billed as being a Finn. His nickname is "The Scandinavian Messenger of War". Interestingly, one of the wrestler's former stablemates is named Ares (the Greek god of war) and Ares formed the BDK with the goal of regaining the Eye of Tyr from UltraMantis Black, with Tyr being the Norse god of combat.
- Turunen, Aimo (1981). Kalevalan sanat ja niiden taustat. Karjalaisen kulttuurin edistämissäätiö. ISBN 951-9363-24-6.