Today’s tale, “Why the Sea is Salt”  from East O’ the Sun and West O’ the Moon by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen, starts with a poor man on Christmas Eve. The man went to his rich brother and begged for something for Christmas.  The brother gave him a whole piece of bacon, two loaves of bread, and candles under the condition that the poor brother never step foot in the rich brother’s home again.

The poor brother set out back toward home but along the way met an old man who begged him for a bite to eat. Although the man himself was poor, he still shared what little he had, especially since it was Christmas eve. We all know it’s good to help people, especially old, mysterious people, in fairy tales, and this time is not exception. The brother handed the old man a loaf of bread and a candle and was just about to give him a hunk of bacon when the old man stopped him, telling him that the bread is more than enough for him. Furthermore, the old man gave him some advice. The old man told him that not far away was the entrance to the home of the underground folks. They had a mill that could grind out anything they wished for except bacon, so of course they wanted bacon. My daughter and husband would totally agree with them. The old man told him to go there and that they would want to buy the bacon. He was not to sell it for anything less than the  mill which stood behind the door. The old man would teach him how to use it.

It took a great deal of haggling, but the poor man succeeded, and the old man showed him how to use it. He took it to his wife who had been waiting at home, and had it grind out everything they needed for Christmas, from lights to tablecloth to meat and ale. They ate well and on the third day, they had a great feast, inviting all their friends and family. His brother was astounded and when the poor man had drunk too much, he showed his rich brother the hand-mill.. His brother finally persuaded him to sell it at hay harvest time, which gave the poor brother plenty of time to grind out years’ supplies of meat and drink.

At hay-harvest time, the mill was sold to the rich brother who took it quickly home, in too much of a hurry to get the directions. We know that can’t be good. He had the mill grind out herrings and broth, but it soon flooded his house. He ran back to the brother’s house and the poor brother agreed to take it back and soon it stopped grinding out the herrings and broth.

The formerly poor brother ground out anything he wanted, meat, ale, even gold. He built a fine farmhouse covered in gold that could be seen from far out to sea.  One day a skipper wanted to buy the hand-mill from him as the skipper was tired of making long voyages for loads of salt, and eventually persuaded him. The new owner took it to sea and set it to grind out salt. It ground out salt until it sank the boat, and then went on grinding in the sea, turning the sea salt.

A bit of Christmas, a bit of magic and a bit of a Pourquoi story. I enjoyed it.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


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