folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 1592B
in which a trickster steals a pot
by convincing its owner that it has died
D. L. Ashliman
Nasreddin Hodja, having need for a large cooking container, borrowed his neighbor's copper cauldron, then returned it in a timely manner.
"What is this?" asked his neighbor upon examining the returned cauldron. "There is a small pot inside my cauldron."
"Oh," responded the Hodja. "While it was in my care your cauldron gave birth to a little one. Because you are the owner of the mother cauldron, it is only right that you should keep its baby. And in any event, it would not be right to separate the child from its mother at such a young age."
The neighbor, thinking that the Hodja had gone quite mad, did not argue. Whatever had caused the crazy man to come up with this explanation, the neighbor had a nice little pot, and it had cost him nothing.
Some time later the Hodja asked to borrow the cauldron again.
"Why not?" thought the neighbor to himself. "Perhaps there will be another little pot inside when he returns it."
But this time the Hodja did not return the cauldron. After many days had passed, the neighbor went to the Hodja and asked for the return of the borrowed cauldron.
"My dear friend," replied the Hodja. "I have bad news. Your cauldron has died, and is now in her grave."
"What are you saying?" shouted the neighbor. A cauldron does not live, and it cannot die. Return it to me at once!"
"One moment!" answered the Hodja. "This is the same cauldron that but a short time ago gave birth to a child, a child that is still in your possession. If a cauldron can give birth to a child, then it also can die."
And the neighbor never again saw his cauldron.
The owner seeing a little saucepan in the cauldron, said, "What is this ?"
"Why," cried the Cogia, "the cauldron has borne a child;" whereupon the owner took possession of the saucepan.
One day the Cogia asked again for the cauldron, and having obtained it, carried it home. The owner of the cauldron waited one day and even five days for his utensil, but no cauldron coming, he went to the house of the Cogia and knocked at the door.
The Cogia, coming to the door, said, "What do you want?"
"The cauldron," said the man.
"O set your heart at rest," said the Cogia. "The cauldron is dead."
"O Cogia," said the man, "can a cauldron die?"
"O," said the Cogia, "as you believed it could bear a child, why should you not believe that it can die? "
One day Johha borrowed a large tanjera, or copper saucepan, from a neighbor for domestic use. Next day he returned it together with a very small but quite new one.
"What is this?" asked the surprised owner.
"Your tanjera gave birth to a young one during the night," replied the jester, and, in spite of the incredulity of the other man, maintained his assertion, refusing to take back the smaller tanjera, on the ground that the young belonged to the parent and the parent's owner. Besides, it was cruel to separate so young a child from its mother. After a deal of protestation, the neighbor, believing him mad, resolved to humor him, and took the small tanjera, greatly wondering at the jester's whim.
Its point was revealed to his chagrin some days later, when Johha came and borrowed a large and valuable copper dist, or cauldron. This he did not return, but carried it off to another town, where he sold it.
When its owner sent to Johha to reclaim it, the knave said that he regretted his inability to send it back, but the utensil had unfortunately died and been devoured by hyenas.
"What!" exclaimed the owner angrily. "Do you think me fool enough to believe that?"
"Well, my friend," was the reply, "wonderful things sometimes happen. You allowed yourself to be persuaded that your tanjera, for instance, gave birth to a young one. Why, then, should you not believe that your dist, which is simply a grown-up tanjera, should die?"
In the circumstances, the argument seemed unanswerable, especially when, after searching through Johha's house, the cauldron could not be found.
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Revised March 22, 2013.