Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/The Wonderful Pot

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A MAN and his wife were once living in a very small cottage—the smallest and most ill-looking hut in the whole village. They were very poor, and often wanted even daily bread. Somehow or other they had managed to keep an only cow, but had been obliged to sell nearly everything else that they had. At length they decided that the cow, too, must go, and the man led her away, intending to bring her to the market. As he walked along the road a stranger approached and hailed him, asking if he intended to sell the animal, and how much he would take for it.

"I think," answered he, "that twenty dollars would be a fair price."

"Money I cannot give you," resumed the stranger, "but I have something which is worth as much as twenty dollars. Here is a pot which I am willing to give for your cow." Saying this, he pulled forth an iron pot with three legs and a handle.

"A pot!" exclaimed the cow's owner. "What use would that do me when I have nothing to put in it? My wife and children cannot eat an iron pot. No; money is what I need, and what I must have."

The two men stood still a moment looking at each other and at the cow and the pot, when suddenly the three-legged being began to speak. "Just take me," said it. When the poor man heard this he thought that if it could speak no doubt it could do more than that. So he closed the bargain, received the pot, and returned home with it.

When he reached his hut he first went to the stall where the cow had been standing, for he did not dare to appear before his wife at once. Having tied the pot to the manger, he went into the room, asking for something to eat, as he was hungry from his long walk. "Well," said his wife, "did you make a good bargain at the market? Did you get a good price for the cow?" "Yes," he said, "the price was fair enough." "That is well," returned she. "The money will help us a long time." "No," said he, again, "I received no money for the cow." "Dear me!" cried she. "What did you receive, then?" He told her to go and look in the stall.

As soon as the woman learned that the three-legged pot was all that had been paid him for the cow, she scolded and abused him. "You are a great blockhead!" cried she. "I wish I had myself taken the cow to the market! I never heard of such foolishness!" Thus she went on for a while.

"Clean me and put me on the fire," suddenly shouted the pot.

The woman opened her eyes in great wonder, and now it was her turn to think that it the pot could talk no doubt it could do more than this. She cleaned and washed it carefully and put it on the fire.

"I skip, I skip!" cried the pot.

"How far do you skip?" asked the woman.

"To the rich man's house, to the rich man's house!" it cried again, running from the fireplace to the door, across the yard, and up the road, as fast as the three short legs would carry it. The rich man lived not very far away. His wife was engaged in baking bread when the pot came running in and jumped up on the table, where it remained standing quite still. "Ah," exclaimed the woman, "isn't it wonderful! I just needed you for a pudding which must be baked at once." Thus she heaped a great many good things into the pot—flour, sugar, butter, raisins, almonds, spices, and so on. The pot received it all with a good will. At length the pudding was made, but when the rich man's wife reached for it, intending to put it on the stove, tap, tap, tap went the three short legs, and the pot stood on the threshold of the open door. "Dear me, where are you going with my pudding?" cried the woman. "To the poor man's home," replied the pot, running down the road at great speed.

When the poor people saw the pot coming back, and found the pudding, they rejoiced, and the man lost no time in asking his wife whether the bargain did not seem to be an excellent one after all. Yes, she was quite pleased and contented.

Next morning the pot again cried: "I skip, I skip!" "How far do you skip?" asked they.

"To the rich man's barn!" it shouted, running up the road. When it arrived at the barn it stopped in the door. "Look at that black pot!" cried the men, who were threshing wheat. "Let us see how much it will hold." They poured a bushel of wheat into it, but it did not seem to fill rapidly. Another bushel went in, but there was still room. Now every grain of wheat went into the pot, but still it seemed capable of holding much more. As there was no more wheat to be found, the three short legs began to move, and when the men looked around the pot had reached the gate. "Stop, stop!" called they. "Where do you go with our wheat?" "To the poor man's home," replied the pot, speeding down the road and leaving the men behind, dismayed and dumfounded.

The poor people were delighted when they received wheat enough to feed them for several years.

On the third morning the pot again skipped up the road. It was a beautiful day. The sun shone so bright and pleasant that the rich man had spread his money on a table near the open window to prevent his gold from becoming mouldy. All at once the pot stood on the table before him. He began to count his money over, as wealthy men sometimes like to do, and although he could not imagine where this black pot had come from, he thought it would be a good place to keep his money in the future. So he threw in one handful after another until it held all. At the same moment the pot made a jump from the table to the window-sill. "Wait!" shouted he. "Where do you go with all my money?" "To the poor man's home," returned the pot, skipping down the road until the money danced within it. In the middle of the floor in the poor man's hut it stopped, making its owners cry out in rapture over the unexpected treasure. "Clean and wash me," said the pot, "and put me aside."

Next morning it again announced that it was ready to skip.

"How far do you skip?" asked they.

"To the rich man's house!" So it ran up the road again, never stopping until it had reached the wealthy people's kitchen. The man happened to be there himself this time, and as soon as he saw it he cried: "There is the pot which carried away our pudding, our wheat, and all our money! I shall make it return what it stole!" He flung himself upon it, but found that he was unable to get off again. "I skip, I skip!" shouted the pot. "Skip to the north pole, if you wish!" yelled the man, furiously, trying in vain to free himself. The three short legs at once moved on, carrying him rapidly down the road. The poor people saw it pass their door; but it never thought of stopping. For all that I know, it went straight to the north pole with its burden.

The poor people became wealthy, and often thought of the wonderful pot with the three short legs which skipped so cheerfully for their good. It was gone, however, and they have never seen it since it carried the rich man towards the north pole.