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The Freedom Bird
The Magic Pot

THE MAGIC POT by Pleasant DeSpain ©1985 from Ready-To-Tell Tales

A Tale from China

Once a poor, but hardworking woodcutter was walking home from the forest, with an ax strapped to his back. Suddenly he came upon a large old pot made of brass. It was the biggest pot he had ever seen.

"What a fine pot!" he exclaimed. "But how will I get it home? It's too heavy to carry...Wait, I know..." He untied his shoulder strap and dropped the heavy ax into the pot. He proceeded to tie one end of the strap through one of the pot's handles and the other end around his waist. Then he began the hard work of dragging the clumsy pot down the path to his small house.

The woodcutter's wife was most pleased to see the pot and said, "What a fortunate day, husband. You found a wonderful old pot and another ax.

"No, wife, I just found the pot. I had the ax before."

"But there are two axes in the pot," she said.

The woodcutter looked inside and was speechless. Two identical axes sat side by side. As he leaned down to pull them out, his straw hat fell from his head and into the pot. Now two hats rested near the axes.

"Wife! The pot is haunted!"

"Or it's magical!" she said happily. "Let's put tonight's dinner inside and see what happens."

One dinner became two.

"Quickly," said the wife. "Get our savings from the jar on the shelf!"

The handful of coins doubled.

"It is magical!" cried the woodcutter. "What shall we put in next?"

"The money, of course," said his practical wife. "Let's get rich while we can."

They placed the coins inside repeatedly, and the amount doubled each time. An hour later every jar, pan, basket, pocket, chest, shelf, and shoe they owned was filled with money. They were, indeed, rich!

"Dear wife," said the woodcutter, "we can build a fine house and have a big vegetable garden, and I won't have to work so hard from now on. I'm so happy that I could dance!"

Then he grabbed her around the waist and began to dance around and around the small room. Suddenly he slipped on some loose coins and accidentally dropped his wife into the pot! He tried to pull her back out--but it was too late. He now had two wives. They stepped out of the pot and looked closely at each other. It was impossible to tell them apart.

"What have I done?" cried the woodcutter. "Can a man live with two vies at the same time?"

"Not in my house," said the first wife.

"Not in my house," said the second wife.

Both women smiled and grabbed the woodcutter and made him get into the pot. Two woodcutters climbed back out.

"Can two families live in the same house?" asked both of the men.

"No," said the first wife.

"No," echoed the second wife.

Half the money was given to the second couple and they built an elegant house. It was right next to the first couple's fine, new house. Ever since that time, the people of the village have remarked on the strong resemblance of the woodcutter and his wife's new relatives, the ones who must have brought them all that money!

After this tale I often hear, "Wow! I want one of those pots!" Materialism must be a timeless and multicultural trait. Another version is in The Arbuthnot Anthology of Children's Literature by May Hill Arbuthnot (Chicago: Scott Forsman, 1961, pp. 333-334.)


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