Air Castles

folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1430
about daydreams of wealth and fame
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1998-2009


  1. The Broken Pot (India, The Panchatantra).

  2. The Poor Man and the Flask of Oil (India, Bidpai).

  3. The Daydreamer (India, Cecil Henry Bompas).

  4. The Barber's Tale of His Fifth Brother (1001 Nights).

  5. The Milkmaid and Her Pail (Aesop).

  6. Lazy Heinz (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  7. Lean Lisa (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  8. The Lad and the Fox (Sweden, Gabriel Djurklou).

  9. The Peasant and the Cucumbers (Russia, Leo Tolstoy).

  10. The Milkmaid and Her Bucket (USA, Ambrose Bierce).

  11. Bibliography of additional type 1430 tales (English -- Deutsch).

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

The Broken Pot

The Panchatantra

In a certain place there lived a Brahman by the name of Svabhâvakripana, which means "luckless by his very nature." By begging he acquired a quantity of rice gruel, and after he had eaten what he wanted, there was still a potful left. He hung this pot on a nail in the wall above his bed. As night progressed, he could not take his eyes from the pot. All the while he was thinking:

This pot is filled to overflowing with rice gruel. If a famine should come to the land, then I could sell it for a hundred pieces of silver. Then I could buy a pair of goats. They have kids every six months, so I would soon have an entire herd of goats. Then I would trade the goats for cattle. As soon as the cows had calved, I would sell the calves. Then I would trade the cattle for buffalo. And the buffalo for horses. And when the horses foaled, I would own many horses. From their sale I would gain a large amount of gold. With this gold I would buy a house with four buildings in a rectangle.

Then a Brahman would enter my house and give me a very beautiful girl with a large dowry for my wife. She will give birth to a son, and I will give him the name Somasarman. When he is old enough to be bounced on my knee, I will take a book, sit in the horse stall, and read. In the meantime, Somasarman will see me and want to be bounced on my knee. He will climb down from his mother's lap and walk toward me, coming close to the horses hooves. Then, filled with anger, I will shout at my wife, "Take the child! Take the child!"

But she, busy with her housework, will not hear me. So I will jump up and give her a kick!

And, buried in his thoughts, he struck out with his foot, breaking the pot, and painting himself white with the rice gruel that had been in it. Therefore I say:

He who dreams about unrealistic projects for the future will have the same fate as Somasarman's father: He will find himself lying there painted white with rice gruel.

The Poor Man and the Flask of Oil


There was once a poor man, who lived in a house next to a wealthy merchant who sold oil and honey. As the merchant was a kind neighbor, he one day sent a flask of oil to the poor man. The poor man was delighted, and put it carefully away on the top shelf.

One evening, as he was gazing at it, he said half aloud, "I wonder how much oil there is in that bottle. There is a large quantity. If I should sell it, I could buy five sheep. Every year I should have lambs, and before long I should own a flock. Then I should sell some of the sheep, and be rich enough to marry a wife. Perhaps we might have a son. And what a fine boy he would be! So tall, strong, and obedient! But if he should disobey me," and he raised the staff which he held in his hand, "I should punish him thus!"

And he swung the staff over his head and brought it heavily to the ground, knocking, as he did so, the flask off the shelf so that the oil ran over him from head to foot.

The Daydreamer


Once an oil man was going to market with his pots of oil arranged on a flat basket, and he engaged a Santal for two annas to carry the basket. And as he went along, the Santal thought:

With one anna I will buy food and with the other I will buy chickens, and the chickens will grow up and multiply, and then I will sell some of the fowls and eggs, and with the money I will buy goats. And when the goats increase, I will sell some and buy cows, and then I will exchange some of the calves for she-buffaloes, and when the buffaloes breed, I will sell some and buy land and start cultivation, and then I will marry and have children, and I will hurry back from my work in the fields, and my wife will bring me water, and I will have a rest, and my children will say to me, "Father, be quick and wash your hands for dinner," but I will shake my head and say, 'No, no, not yet!"

And as he thought about it he really shook his head, and the basket fell to the ground, and all the pots of oil were smashed.

Then the oil man abused him and said that he must pay two rupees for the oil and one anna for the pots. But the Santal said that he had lost much more than that, and the oil man asked him how that could be, and the Santal explained how with his wages he was going to get fowls and then goats and then oxen and buffaloes and land, and how he came to spill the basket, and at that the oil man roared with laughter and said, "Well, I have made up the account, and I find that our losses are equal, so we will cry quits." And so saying they went their ways laughing.

The Barber's Tale of His Fifth Brother

1001 Nights

When our father died, he left each of us one hundred dirhams. My fifth brother invested his inheritance in glassware, hoping to resell it at a handsome profit. He exhibited the glassware on a large tray, then fell to musing:

These pieces will bring me two hundred dirhams, which I can use to buy more glass, which I will then sell for four hundred dirhams. With this money I can buy more glass and other merchandise to sell, and so on and so on until I have amassed a hundred thousand dirhams. Then I will purchase a fine house with slaves and eunuchs, and when my capital has grown to a hundred thousand dinars, I will demand to marry the Prime Minister's eldest daughter, and if he refuses consent, I will take her by force.

On my wedding night I will don my finest attire and seat myself on a cushion of gold brocade to receive my bride. She will present herself in her most beautiful clothing, lovely as the full moon, but I will not even glance at her until her attendants kiss the ground before me and beg me to look at her, and then I will cast at her one single glance.

When they leave us alone I will neither look at her nor speak to her, but will show my contempt by lying beside her with my face to the wall. Presently her mother will come into the chamber and beg of me, "Please, my lord, your handmaid longs for your favor." I will give no answer. Then she will kiss my feet and say, "My lord, my daughter is truly a beautiful maid who has never before been with a man. Do speak to her and soothe her mind and spirit." Then she will bring a cup of wine, hand it to her daughter, saying, "Take this to your lord."

I will say nothing, leaning back so that she may see in me a sultan and a mighty man. She will say to me, "My lord, do not refuse to take this cup from the hand of your servant." I will say nothing, and she will insist, "You must drink it," and press the cup to my lips. Then I will shake my fist in her face and kick her with my foot.

With that he struck out, catching the tray of glassware with his foot. It crashed to the ground and everything broke to pieces, and thus my brother lost both his capital and his profit.

The Milkmaid and Her Pail


A farmer's daughter had been out to milk the cows, and was returning to the dairy carrying her pail of milk upon her head. As she walked along, she fell a-musing after this fashion:

The milk in this pail will provide me with cream, which I will make into butter and take to market to sell. With the money I will buy a number of eggs, and these, when hatched, will produce chickens, and by and by I shall have quite a large poultry yard. Then I shall sell some of my fowls, and with the money which they will bring in I will buy myself a new gown, which I shall wear when I go to the fair; and all the young fellows will admire it, and come and make love to me, but I shall toss my head and have nothing to say to them.

Forgetting all about the pail, and suiting the action to the word, she tossed her head. Down went the pail, all the milk was spilled, and all her fine castles in the air vanished in a moment!

Moral: Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.

Lazy Heinz

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Heinz was lazy, and although he had nothing else to do but to drive his goat out to the pasture every day, he nevertheless groaned every evening when he returned home after finishing his day's work.

"It is in truth a heavy burden," he said, "and a tiresome job, to drive such a goat out to the field year in and year out until late in the fall. If I could only lie down and sleep at it! But no, I must keep my eyes open so it won't damage the young trees, or force its way through the hedge into a garden, or even run away altogether. How can I get some rest and enjoy life?"

He sat down, collected his thoughts, and considered how he could lift this burden from his shoulders. For a long time his thoughts led to nothing, but suddenly it was as if scales were removed from his eyes.

"I know what I will do," he shouted. "I will marry Fat Trina. She too has a goat, and she can drive mine out with hers, and then I shall no longer have to torment myself."

So Heinz got up, set his weary limbs into motion, and walked across the street, for it was no further than that, to where Fat Trina's parents lived, and asked for the hand in marriage of their industrious and virtuous daughter.

Her parents did not think about it for long. "Birds of a feather, flock together," they thought, and gave their consent.

So Fat Trina became Heinz's wife, and drove out both of the goats. Heinz now enjoyed life, having no work to rest from, but his own laziness.

He went out with her only now and then, saying, "I'm doing this so that afterwards I will enjoy resting more. Otherwise I shall lose all feeling for it."

However, Fat Trina was no less lazy.

"Dear Heinz," she said one day, "why should we make our lives so miserable, ruining the best days of our youth, when there is no need for it? The two goats disturb our best sleep every morning with their bleating. Wouldn't it be better for us to give them to our neighbor, who will give us a beehive for them? We will put the beehive in a sunny place behind the house, and then not give it any more thought. Bees do not have to be taken care of, nor driven into the field. They fly out and find their way home again by themselves, and they collect honey without any effort at all on our part."

"You have spoken like a sensible woman," replied Heinz. "We will carry out your proposal without delay. And furthermore, honey tastes better and is more nourishing than goat's milk, and it keeps longer too."

The neighbor willingly gave them a beehive for the two goats. The bees flew tirelessly in and out from early morning until late evening, filling the hive with the best honey. Thus that fall-time, Heinz was able to take out a whole jugful.

They placed the jug on a shelf on their bedroom wall. Fearing that it might be stolen, or that the mice might get into it, Trina brought in a stout hazel stick and put it beside her bed, so that she would be able to reach it without having to get up, and then from her place in bed drive away the uninvited guests.

Lazy Heinz did not like to get out of bed before noon. "He who rises early," he would say, "wastes his wealth."

One morning when he was still lying in the feathers in broad daylight, resting from his long sleep, he said to his wife, "Women are fond of sweets, and you have been snacking on the honey. It would be better for us to exchange it for a goose with a young gosling, before you eat it all up."

"But not before we have a child to take care of them." replied Trina. Am I to torment myself with the young geese, wasting all my energy on them for no reason?"

"Do you think," said Heinz, "that the boy will tend geese? Nowadays children no longer obey. They do just as they please, because they think that they are smarter than their parents, just like that servant who was supposed to look for the cow and chased after three blackbirds."

"Oh," replied Trina, "he will get it if he does not do what I say. I will take a stick and tan his hide with more blows than can be counted."

"See here, Heinz," she shouted in her fervor, seizing the stick that she intended to use to drive away the mice. "See here! This is how I will beat him."

She struck forth, unfortunately hitting the jug of honey above the bed. The jug struck against the wall and fell down in pieces. The fine honey flowed out onto the floor.

"There lies the goose with the young gosling," said Heinz. "And they do not need to be tended. But it is lucky that the jug did not fall on my head. We have every reason to be satisfied with our fate."

Then noticing that there was still some honey in one of the pieces of the jug, he reached out for it, saying quite happily, "Wife, let us enjoy the leftovers, and then we will rest a little from the fright we have had. What does it matter if we get up a little later than usual? The day will be long enough."

"Yes," answered Trina, "there is always time enough. You know, the snail was once invited to a wedding and started on his way, but arrived at the child's baptism. In front of the house it fell over the fence, and said, 'Haste makes waste.'"

Lean Lisa

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Lean Lisa was not at all like Lazy Heinz and Fat Trina, who would not allow anything to disturb their rest. She burned herself out from morning until evening and loaded so much work on her husband, Lanky Lenz, that it was harder for him than for a donkey loaded with three sacks. But it was all for naught. They had nothing, and they got nothing.

One evening she was lying in bed, too tired to move a muscle but still unable to fall asleep, when she poked her husband in the side with her elbow and said, "Lenz, listen to what I just thought of. If I were to find a florin, and you were to give me another one, then I'd borrow yet another one, and you'd give me still another one, and then I would take the four florins and buy a young cow."

The man agreed. "I don't know," he said, "where I'm to get that florin I'm supposed to give you, but after you have the money to buy a cow, it will be a good thing." Then he added, "I'm looking forward to the time after the cow calves, so I can have some good refreshing milk to drink."

"The milk is not for you," said the woman. "We will let the calf suck, so it will grow large and fat, and we can sell it for a good price."

"Of course," said the man, "but it won't hurt anything if we take a little milk."

"Who taught you about cows?" said the woman. "I won't allow it, whether it will hurt anything or not. You can stand on your head, but you won't get a single drop of milk. Lanky Lenz, just because you are always hungry, you think that you can devour everything that my hard work brings in."

"Woman," said the man, "be quiet, or I'll plant one on the side of your face."

"What!" she cried. "Are you threatening me! You glutton! You good-for-nothing! You lazybones!"

She was reaching for his hair, but Lanky Lenz raised himself up, took hold of both her skinny arms with one hand, then pushed her head into the pillow with the other one. He held her there and let her scold until she fell asleep from exhaustion.

The next morning when she woke up, I do not know whether she continued to quarrel, or whether she went out to look for the florin that she wanted to find.

The Lad and the Fox


There was once upon a time a little lad, who was on his way to church, and when he came to a clearing in the forest he caught sight of a fox, who was lying on the top of a big stone fast asleep, so that the fox did not know the lad had seen him.

"If I kill that fox," said the lad, taking a heavy stone in his fist, "and sell the skin, I shall get money for it, and with that money I shall buy some rye, and that rye I shall sow in father's cornfield at home. When the people who are on their way to church pass by my field of rye they'll say, 'Oh, what splendid rye that lad has got!' Then I shall say to them, 'I say, keep away from my rye!' But they won't heed me. Then I shall shout to them, 'I say, keep away from my rye!' But still they won't take any notice of me. Then I shall scream with all my might, 'Keep away from my rye!' and then they'll listen to me."

But the lad screamed so loudly that the fox woke up and made off at once for the forest, so that the lad did not even get as much as a handful of his hair.

No, it's best always to take what you can reach, for of undone deeds you should never screech, as the saying goes.

The Peasant and the Cucumbers

Leo Tolstoy

A peasant once went to the gardener's, to steal cucumbers. He crept up to the cucumbers, and thought, "I will carry off a bag of cucumbers, which I will sell; with the money I will buy a hen. The hen will lay eggs, hatch them, and raise a lot of chicks. I will feed the chicks and sell them; then I will buy me a young sow, and she will bear a lot of pigs. I will sell the pigs, and buy me a mare; the mare will foal me some colts. I will raise the colts, and sell them. I will buy me a house, and start a garden. In the garden I will sow cucumbers, and will not let them be stolen, but will keep a sharp watch on them. I will hire watchmen, and put them in the cucumber patch, while I myself will come on them, unawares, and shout, 'Oh, there, keep a sharp lookout!'"

And this he shouted as loud as he could. The watchmen heard it, and they rushed out and beat the peasant.

The Milkmaid and Her Bucket

Ambrose Bierce

A senator fell to musing as follows: "With the money which I shall get for my vote in favour of the bill to subsidise cat-ranches, I can buy a kit of burglar's tools and open a bank. The profit of that enterprise will enable me to obtain a long, low, black schooner, raise a death's-head flag and engage in commerce on the high seas. From my gains in that business I can pay for the presidency, which at $50,000 a year will give me in four years --" but it took him so long to make the calculation that the bill to subsidise cat-ranches passed without his vote, and he was compelled to return to his constituents an honest man, tormented with a clean conscience.

Bibliography of additional type 1430 tales

Tales in the English language

Erzählungen in der deutschen Sprache

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Revised March 19, 2013.