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The Meal-Tub

Once an old man and his old wife and their only son lived together in a cottage. They were very poor and had nothing to live on except what was in a little tub. However, there was always plenty of meal in it. The cottagers meant the meal was a rather tiresome food every day, yet the old man saw that they must keep the meal-tub, for it was the main thing that kept them alive.

Once a priest came to the cottage on a parish visit, as was his ordained duty. Among other things he asked the old man how he could possibly live in this wretched hut.

The peasant said, "Yes, it is a miserable life we live here." And since he was fond of his priest, he offered him meal from the tub, saying that it was because of this grout-tub that they managed to live at all. "It is a strange tub. No matter how much meal is taken from it, what is in the tub never dwindles."

When the priest heard this, he wanted the tub very much, saying,

"If you will exchange the tub for something else, say it!"

The peasant answered that he did not want to get rid of his tub, for the meal in it was all they had to live on, even though the dishes they made from it, did not taste so well.

The priest thought he could make better dishes, since he knew a lot more than the old man and his wife and their son, and pressed the old man until he promised to send his son with it to the priest.

After this, the priest went away, but the old peasant and his wife were much grieved at the promise they had made; nevertheless, after some days when they sought to get as much meal from the tub as they could, they sent their son with it to the priest.

The lad went straightway to the priest, who gave him a cloth for the tub, saying that all that was to be done with it was to spread it on the table and say, "Cloth, cloth, be full of the best food." Then one dish after another would come forth on the table. The priest also told the boy:

"Go straightway home and by no means stop at the king's castle along the road. Remember this well."

The lad went homewards. But when he came near the castle, he suddenly met the king's daughter. She asked him what he was travelling for.

The boy did not keep his secrets well, and told her that he was heading homeward with a cloth that served food if he asked for it.

When the king's daughter heard of the cloth, she urged him to sell it to her.

"Do it for me, and I will pay you many times more than it is worth," she implored.

"That sounds good," said the lad, let her have the cloth, and got glittering coins in return for it.

The lad ran off for home with the money. He thought he had made an outstanding bargain. But his father thought otherwise. He reasonably supposed that the money would come to an end, but the food from cloth not. True enough; after a while there was no money left. Now he sent his son for the second time to the priest, begging him for help, now that there was nothing left for his family to eat.

The lad went to the priest againt, who got very angry to hear that he had traded away the cloth in a bad bargain. Still, the priest thought he must do something to help the needy cottagers in his parish. He went away for a moment and came back with a young mare that he led by a cord. He told the lad that he had only to say to the mare: "Shake, mare! Shake!" And the mare would shake itself, and money roll from it all over.

The priest bade the boy beware of going to the castle and those who lived there, and the boy set off, leading the mare after him. When he passed the castle on his way, the king's daughter came up to him again. When she greeted him cordially and asked him what was his errand this time, the boy forgot himself and told her that the price he had got from her for the cloth had proved rather short-lasting. And therefore he had had to seek get aid for his needy family.

"Now I have got this mare. One needs only to say to it: "Shake, mare! Shake, mare!" and money will drop from it all over," he told her.

When the king's daughter heard this, she became very fidgety and eager to get the mare, and asked the lad endearingly to sell it her, and promised him much more money than last time.

"Why, I may get that money and much more from the mare," he said. But even so he yielded and took the money she offered for his mare.

When he came home to the cottage, he did not tell anybody what had happened. The old man thought that he had got a great deal of money from the priest, but once again the coins came to an end, for the old man was not careful in using the money. In due time he sent his son to the priest again.

The lad was in very low spirits, but plucked up his courage as he best could and went to the priest and addressed him as politely as he could. The lad said he had been unwise and had not been able to get away without yielding to the entreaties of the princess to sell her the young mare.

This time, the priest did not rebuke the boy, but left him for a while, and then came back with a large club in his hand. He gave the club to the boy without telling what it was for. He only said:

"To let it work as intended, say 'Up! up! Up, club! when you may!' to it."

This time the priest did not warn the lad against going near the castle, but left him with the club and bade him farewell. The boy went in a merry mood on his way, thinking: "The priest did not warn me against going near the king's castle this time. Maybe I can see the king's fair daughter again!"

When he came near the castle, it showed up that the king's daughter had been on the watch for him. She went up to him and asked him as before what he was travelling for. He told her that a priest had been kind enough to give him a club. When it should work, the only thing needed, was to say to it:"'Up! up! Up, club! when you may!" The king's daughter at once asked the boy to sell it to her. She meant that it might do wonders and miracles, and got it from the boy at last. He went home to his father with what he had got for his club.

The king's daughter who had bartered three things for gold coins, now asked her father to give a great feast, and there she would show all her precious things and the wonders they did.

The king said yes, and invited to the feast the greatest people in his kingdom. They came in such numbers that his castle was quite filled with guests. When the guests had taken their seats, the king's daughter came at the fixed hour and had the cloth spread. Then she wished upon it one dish after the other, and wine, and all the rest of it, till every one of the guests had had his fill.

After dinner, some entertainment should follow for the guests, and the king's daughter had the young mare brought in. She said to it: "Shake, mare! Shake!" The mare shook itself, and coins dropped from every hair on its body. The guests marvelled, and were greatly amused.

"And here comes the clou," said the princess, ordered the club to be brought in, and said to it "Up! up! Up, club! when you may!" In an instant the club went up and broke the skull of everyone who was present, save that of the princess. "That was unexpected," said she. Now the old man's son, who knew that there was a grand feast at the castle, had come there to get some refreshments from the leavings of the rich table. As the club created this havoc in the palace, he stood at the door. When he saw what the club had done, he rushed into the palace and seized it and said to the king's daughter:

"I give you the choice between two things: "The first is that you marry me. The second is to refuse it and be treated by the club las the others, who lie strewn about in the castle like hay."

The princess said she preferred the first choice, and the peasant's son wooed her at once. After that, he had the good priest to perform the wedding. Thus he became the king with little effort. When he had mounted the throne, he took his old father and his aged mother to his castle, and they were fit for many a glad and joyful day in their old age. Thereafter, he governed his realms long, for he owned such a fine club.


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