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Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm translated by Margaret Hunt

Sweet Porridge

THERE was a poor but good little girl who lived alone with her mother, and they no longer had anything to eat. So the child went into the forest, and there an aged woman met her who was aware of her sorrow, and presented her with a little pot, which when she said, "Cook, little pot, cook," would cook good, sweet porridge, and when she said, "Stop, little pot," it ceased to cook. The girl took the pot home to her mother, and now they were freed from their poverty and hunger, and ate sweet porridge as often as they chose. Once on a time when the girl had gone out, her mother said, "Cook, little pot, cook." And it did cook and she ate till she was satisfied, and then she wanted the pot to stop cooking, but did not know the word. So it went on cooking and the porridge rose over the edge, and still it cooked on until the kitchen and whole house were full, and then the next house, and then the whole street, just as if it wanted to satisfy the hunger of the whole world, and there was the greatest distress, but no one knew how to stop it. At last when only one single house remained, the child came home and just said, "Stop, little pot," and it stopped and gave up cooking, and whosoever wished to return to the town had to eat his way back.


From Hesse. This is the primeval fable of the pitcher which never ran dry, and which only those who were perfectly innocent had the power of using. Compare the Indian story of the pan in which it was only necessary to place a single grain of rice, and it would cook food incessantly (Polier, 2. 45). Then there is the saga of the Zauberlehrling (from Lucian's [greek title] in Goethe's lyric; but although it has received a form that can never be equalled, the deep myth which underlies it is not clearly brought out, and it depends for its effect on the rulership of the master. Pottage, like bread, as a primitive, simple fare, generally signifies all kinds of nourishment (Compare the Frogs of Aristophanes, 1073). It was formerly the custom in Thuringia for people to eat pottage made of millet at Shrovetide, because they believed that if they did so they would never lack anything all the rest of the year. See Prätorius's Glückstopf, p. 260. The wise woman also institutes a feast of sweet pottage as a reward to her workmen. Here we must mention a Norwegian story in Asbjörnsen, part 2, The Mill which grinds everything.

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.

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Page created 10/15/06; Last updated 10/28/07