Journey With Story


Journey With Story

Why the Sea is Salt:E167

Why the Sea is Salt

Why the Sea is Salt:E167

On Christmas eve a poor man discovers a magic mill that will grind him whatever he wishes so that he never has to go hungry again, but when others get a hold of this magic mill, they run into problems when they don’t know how to stop the mill from grinding.  A perfect story that illustrates how the truth of that saying – too much of a good thing.  (duration-20 minutes) An episode from storytelling podcast, Journey with Story, for kids, ages 5-10.

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Discover How a Magic Mill Makes Mayhem in this Classic Christmas Tale: Norwegian Folktale

December 16, 2021 

Why the Sea is Salt:E167

Have you ever heard the expression – too much of a good thing?  What do you think it means?  Can you think of an example that explains this and how you can have too much of a good thing?  

Hello everyone.  I’m Kathleen Pelley. Welcome to Journey with Story.  I am sure some of you knew the meaning of that phrase?   It means, even if something is a good thing – something you want or need, if you get a whole lot of that thing, then it can lead to problems and you begin to wish you never had it in the first place.    

So, today’s episode is folktale from a country called Norway, about a poor man who manages to get hold of a magic mill that can grind out just about anything he asks for, but…when others get a hold of this magic mill and do not know how to make it stop…well –let’s just say, it is a great example of that phrase – too much of a good thing!  

Before I begin – a huge thanks to the second graders at Cottonwood Elementary here in CO for welcoming me to their school last month, we had a wonderful time discussing our Writers’ Roots and how to keep nourishing those roots so we can all become better writers and readers and also happier and kinder people – because as you may have heard me mention before – the qualities that help us become better writers also help us become better people who can make the world a better place.  Thanks to my wonderful second grade friends at Cottonwood Elementary. 


Now, let’s take a journey with – Why the Sea is Salt 

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lived two brothers, one rich and one poor.  

When Christmas Eve came, the poor brother had not a morsel of food in the house, so he went to his brother, and begged him, to give him some food for Christmas Day.  

Now this was not the first time the poor brother had come to beg for sustenance, and the rich brother had begun to grow weary of sharing. 

So, he agreed to give his brother a whole ham, but only if he promised to do what he asked.  “If I give you this ham,” he said, “then you must go straight to the Dead Man’s Hall.” 

“Yes, I will do that,” agreed the poor brother. And off he went in search of this place.  That evening, he came to an out-house, where an old man with a white beard was busy chopping Yule logs. 

“Good-evening,” said the poor brother. 

“Good-evening to you. Where are you going at this late hour?” said the man. 

“I am going to Dead Man’s Hall, if only I am on the right track,” answered the poor man. 

“Oh! yes, you are right enough, for it is here,” said the old man. “When you get inside they will all want to buy your ham, for they don’t get much meat to eat there; but you must not sell it unless you can exchange it for the hand-mill which stands behind the door.  When you come out again I will teach you how to work the hand-mill so you can use it to your advantage.” 

So the poor brother thanked the old man for his good advice, and rapped at the door of the Hall. 

When he stepped inside, everything happened just as the old man had said it would: all the people, great and small, came round him like ants on an ant-hill, and each tried to outbid the other for the ham. 

“By rights my old woman and I ought to have it for our Christmas dinner,” said the poor brother, “but, since you have set your hearts upon it, I will let you have it.  Only if I hand it over to you, then I must I take that hand-mill which is standing there behind the door.” 

At first the people refused to agree to this proposition, and they started to haggle and bargain.  But the poor brother remained firm in his resolve, so that at last, the people gave in and let him have the hand-mill in exchange for the ham. 

As soon as the poor brother stepped outside into the yard, he asked the old woodcutter to show him how the hand-mill worked. 

With a wave of thanks he then set off for home as fast as he could, but still, hurry as he might, he did not arrive there until after the clock struck twelve on Christmas Eve. 

“Where in the world have you been?” said his wife. “Here I have sat waiting hour after hour, and have not even two sticks to lay across each other under the Christmas porridge-pot.” 

“Oh! I could not come before; I had something of importance to see about, and a long way to go, too; but now you shall just see!” said the poor brother, and then he set the hand-mill on the table, and first he ordered it to grind light, then a table-cloth, and after that, meat, and beer, and everything else that was good for a Christmas Eve’s supper; and the mill ground all that he ordered.  

“Bless me!” said the old woman as one thing after another appeared.  “Tell me, how did you lay hands on such a treasure as this?” she asked.  

“Never mind where I got it,” replied her husband.  “You can see for yourself what a marvel it is.  Look!  look – see the water that turns it will never freeze.” 

And he continued to order the mill to keep grinding, more meat and drink and all manner of tasty treats to last all through the Christmas festivities, and on the third day, he invited all his friends to join them for an enormous feast, the likes of which had never been seen before. 

Now when the rich brother saw such a banquet and swarms of people flowing to his brother’s house, he grew jealous and angry.  “On Christmas Eve he was so poor that he came to me and begged for a trifle, for, and yet, now he gives a feast as if he were both a count and a king!” he thought.  And he marched up to his brother and demanded,  “Tell me at once where you got your riches from,”  

“From behind the door,” replied the poor brother, deliberately trying to keep his good fortune a secret from his rich brother. 

But later that evening, after eating and drinking his fill, the poor brother felt more inclined to share his precious secret with his brother. He took out the mill and began to order it to grind one thing after another.   

The rich brother’s eyes grew wide with amazement to see how this magic mill could fill the house with one treasure after another.  Now he determined to make his brother hand the mill over to him. 

At first the poor brother refused to give up the mill, but the rich brother harped on and on, until, finally when he offered him three bags of gold for it, and told him he could keep it until after the haymaking was over, the poor brother agreed.  

“If I can keep it for a little longer,” thought the poor brother, “then I can make it grind meat and drink that will last me many a long year and more.” 

So, all during the haymaking season, the poor brother worked that mill day in and day out, and on the last day of the hay-harvest, he duly handed it over to the rich brother.  But although he had taken care to show his brother how to start the mill and give it orders for whatever he wanted it to grind, he deliberately did not teach him how to stop the mill from grinding. 

By the time the rich brother arrived back home with the mill, it was evening.  So he went to bed and fell fast asleep.  The next morning, he ordered his wife to go out and spread the hay after the mowers, saying he would attend to the house himself that day. 

So, when dinnertime drew near, he set the mill on the kitchen-table, and said: “Grind herrings and milk pottage, and do it both quickly and well.” 

So the mill began to grind herrings and milk pottage.   On and on it ground, until all the dishes and tubs were filled, and then everything spilled out all over the kitchen floor.  Try as he might with twisting and turning and screwing and shaking, the rich brother could not make the mill stop grinding.  On and on it went so now the mix of milk and herrings rose so high, the brother was almost drowning. 

He threw open the parlor door, but it was not long before the mill had ground the parlor full too, and barely could the brother wade through the mix to catch hold of the door-latch. 

Finally, he managed to prise the door open and off he ran, with the milk and herrings streaming behind him.  Over field and farm it poured. 

Meanwhile, his wife who was busy spreading the hay, wondered why dinner was so long in coming.  “Even though the master has not called us home,” she said to the other mowers, “we may as well head that way, for perhaps he needs my help after all to make our meal.” 

So the workers left the field and straggled homeward.  But they had only gone a short distance when… 

They saw the stream of milk and herrings and bread all flowing and winding toward them, with the rich brother trying to get ahead of the flow. 

“Take care you do not drown in this mess!” he cried as he ran past them on his way to the poor brother’s house. 

“Take this mill back at once!” he begged his brother.  “If it keeps on grinding then the whole town will be ruined by herrings and milk.” 

“Only if you pay me three more bags of gold, will I take it back,” said the poor brother. 

The rich brother had no choice but to agree, and so now the poor brother had both the money and the mill again. 

In time, he was able to buy a farmhouse much finer than the one his rich brother lived in.  The mill ground him so much money that he filled the house with plates of gold, and since the farmhouse lay close to the seashore; it would shine and glitter far out to sea. 

All who sailed by wanted to visit this rich man in the gold farmhouse.  And all of them wanted to see the magical mill, because word of it had spread far and wide. 

Many years went by and one day, a captain from a ship who had come to see the mill, asked the brother if it could make salt. 

“Yes, of course, it can grind salt.” 

Now as soon as the captain heard this, he desperately wanted to have the mill for himself, no matter what price it cost him.  If he could make this mill grind salt, then no longer would he have to sail across the dangerous high seas in order to buy cellars of salt from far off lands. 

At first, the brother would not consider parting with his mill, but the captain begged and pleaded until at last after offering him hundreds of bags of gold, the brother agreed. 

When the captain hauled the mill on his back, he was so afraid the brother would change his mind, that he set off quickly without thinking to ask…how to stop the grinding. 

He boarded his ship as fast as he could and set sail.  A little ways out from the shore, he took the mill on deck, saying, “Grind salt, and grind it both quickly and well.” 

At once the mill began to grind salt, till it spouted out like water, and soon the ship was filled to the brim. 

Now the captain tried to stop the mill.  He turned it this way and that.  He screwed one way and another.  He banged it and shook it, but no matter what he did, it just kept on grinding salt- huge, gigantic mounds and heaps of salt, until finally, the ship itself sank. 

To this very day, they say, that mill lies at the bottom of the sea, day by day, grinding out salt, salt, and more salt and that is why the sea is salt.  

See what I mean about too much of a good thing? And that is the souvenir of this story for sure, right? 

Does this story remind you of any other story you might know about that tells  of magic object that cannot be stopped?  Do you know a story called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?  You might have seen the movie – about a magician’s assistant who meddles in his master’s spells and ends up having a magic broom that keeps multiplying and fetching buckets and buckets of water and will not stop?  A bit like the magic mill in today’s story.  I wonder – could you make up your own story about some other kind of magical object that  makes an infinite supply of something….maybe chocolate – or puppies – or bubbles – or popcorn and all the trouble it causes – I think that could be a fun story to write and read and a great example of – too much of a good thing! 

Oh, grown ups – if you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to rate, review and share this podcast with a friend or two.  Thank you to all of our listeners who have already written some terrific review for us – we really appreciate your support. 


Cheerio then, join me next time for Journey with Story. 

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