One night in September 1943, a wounded sailor is found on a quay in Trieste. The only identification is the name tag on his jacket: Sampo Karjalainen. He has lost both his memory and language. The Finnish doctor who rescues Sampo begins to teach him to speak and sends him back to Finland in the hopes that he may recover his former life.
In Helsinki, Sampo is befriended by a shamanistic pastor; and a nurse, Ilma, who writes him long and intimate letters to which Sampo can never manage a reply. But the more he learns of the Finnish language and legends, the less familiar it seems.