|"Because of your kind greeting, |
I will not devour you." said the water spirit.
Illustrated by Hogrogian, N.
Once upon a time, in Greece, "there was a king with three daughters. One day he sent for them and asked each one how much she loved him. The eldest said that she loved her father like honey. The second said that she loved him like sugar. And the third claimed that she loved him like salt." The king was so angry at what his youngest daughter had said that he told the first man who walked by that he could marry the girl. "What could the man do but accept the Princess, whom, of course, he admired very much. He took her home to his mother, who was very old, and they lived together as good friends, though in great poverty." It happened one day that the man had the opportunity to earn some money, by traveling along with some merchants for a time. He agreed to make the journey. His first task was to draw water from the well which they passed that evening. "Scarcely had he begun to draw the water when a water spirit came up." The poor man could only stammer politely, and hope for the best. Now the spirit told him," Because of your kind greeting, I shall not devour you as I have others who came here to draw water. Instead, I give you these three pomegranates. But do not cut open these pieces of fruit until you are alone." So the man hid them in his pouch, and went back to the merchants with a full jug of water. The party continued, and soon, they passed a traveler going the opposite direction. The man asked him to deliver one of the pomegranates to his wife and daughter, back in the village, and the man promised that he would. The traveler was true to his word, and went straight away to the village, and gave the wife the fruit. Now the old mother said, "Let us cut it at once!' What magic! Instead of seeds, the pomegranate held diamonds, nothing but diamonds! These the women decided to sell, so that they might buy a proper house." Such were their riches that the house seemed more a palace than a country home. The hearts of the ladies were good, and they provided "a fountain for the pleasure of the passersby". Now the princess realized that she was with child, and soon, a fine baby boy was born to her. He thrived in his beautiful home, with his mother and grandmother, his father still far away. By the time the merchant's party had returned to the village, so many years had passed that "the lad had become a tall, handsome youth". When he found his old hut gone, and saw his wife sitting beside this strong, young man by a sparkling fountain, he was bewildered. Then he became angry, assuming that his wife had been unfaithful. Just as he was about to berate her, she spoke, telling the young man," Come, kiss your father's hand." So the man knew that the boy was his own. But when he questioned his wife as to the origin of the fine home, she was perplexed. "Why,' she said,' your own diamonds made it possible, those you sent us in the pomegranate." And the man suddenly remembered the gift from the water spirit so many years ago. He found the red fruits "deep in his pouch, dried and forgotten". Seizing a knife and slicing one in two, he was flabbergasted to find that enough "diamonds poured out to dazzle the eyes". Now the couple were rich beyond dreams, and wanted to share their riches. So they built a dainty shop and filled it with pastries and bonbons, which they gave freely to all who entered. Quickly, word spread of these charitable people, and the King himself decided to go and see the rich man who gave away so much. Arriving in the village with his vizier, they soon found the shop. The princess, of course, immediately recognized her father, but remained out of sight. Now she told her husband of her desire to invite the king to dinner, and he agreed. The princess sought out her cook, and gave special instructions for the preparation of the meal. She told the woman to "prepare a number of dishes — half were to be cooked without salt, and half of them with salt. "That evening, the saltless roasts, soups, and vegetables were served to the guests. Though the food looked rich, and smelled savory, the flavor was flat and bland. The king poked politely at his meal, and the vizier merely moved the morsels around the plate. At length, the princess called for the dishes to be removed. Now the properly seasoned victuals were brought forth, and the feasting began in earnest. "When the king was asked how he liked the food, he replied, ' The first had no salt and was uneatable. Food without salt is no good.' 'Oh,' said his daughter,' do you remember, Father, that when I told you I loved you like salt, you drove me away?' Surprised and ashamed, the king kissedd his daughter and said, 'Sat is better than honey and better than sugar."
From: Favorite Fairy Tales Told in Greece: Retold by Virginia Haviland. (1970)
Notes: This story is another of the several major variants other than the Perrault derived Cinderella. This has one of the hallmarks of a Catskin, as the father gives the girl away to the first passing stranger. It features a male water spirit, not unlike Grandfather Snake in India, or the Kind Uncle in Yeh-Shen. Notice the parallel of the fairy at the well with the woman who appears in Toads and Diamonds. Here we have good, kind people. From the husband, who is poor but loving, and the mother in law, who does not abuse the princess, all the way to the passing stranger who bears home the pomegranates. Note also the parallels to Three Oranges from Portugal and Three Citrons from Corsica. A kind of whole-family Cinderella tale featuring magic fruits that, when cut open, contain jewels, is from Korea. That story is called The Two Brothers and Their Magic Gourds.
Montessori Connection: History of Ancient Cultures/Greece/Mythology/Pomegranates
1. Read this story and think about what the water spirit gives the man.
2. Try and find a real pomegranate, and eat some of the seeds. Do you like them?
3. Imagine that the fruit had a diamond for every seed!
4. Read about another very famous Greek story involving pomegranates: Persephone and Demeter, D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths