Why the Sea is Salty

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Two brothers called Guba and Koi lived in a place near the sea. Guba was a wealthy man but had no children; Koi was a poor carpenter who carved canoes, but although he lived on the edge of hunger he was blessed with many sons, and Guba was jealous of his fortune.

When Koi was carving a canoe one day his cutlass slipped and cut his leg. The wound was deep, and he was unable to work for many days; his family grew hungry, and he begged Guba for food. Guba gave him a little food, and then a little more, but finally he said:

“I am tired of giving food to beggars. Take this bowl of rice and go to the Devil with it!”

Koi carried the rice home, and told his wife that Guba had requested him to take it to the Devil. He set off on this far journey despite the wound in his leg, and after a time he met a small old man sitting on a rock. The old man asked Koi where he traveled to, and Koi replied that he was taking rice to the Devil.

“When you give him the rice, “ the old man said, “ask him for some of his dried nuts. Bring the nuts to me, and I will give you anything you like.”

Koi went to the Devil with the rice, and the Devil received him kindly. He gladly gave Koi some nuts, and as he was returning Koi gave them to the old man on the rock.

“What do you want in return?” the old man asked. “Wives? Slaves? Riches? Tell me.”

Koi had a wife and loved her, and had no desire for others. He wanted no slaves, for he could not feed them. Riches? He considered riches. He knew his wife had always wanted to have a grinder, so he asked for one and the old man gave it to him.

His family rejoiced when he went home. He told them of his adventures, and gave the grinder to his wife.

“O husband, you are a fool,” she said gently. “There were so many better things you might have asked for. A grinder . . . I wish it could grind out gold, or meat, or grain.”

“Perhaps it can,” said Koi. “No one has asked it.”He asked the grinder to grind gold, and gold poured forth in a shower on the ground. He asked for meat, and meat came forth. Grain, and cloth, fine things they scarcely dreamed of — it was a magic grinder which humble Koi had won, and thenceforth his wife was blessed with every comfort.

After a time he invited Guba to visit him; Guba came, and marveled to find that his brother now lived in a fine palace hung with cloths of gold and silver, paved with precious stones and abounding with slaves who carried gourds of wine and golden bowls filled with choicest fruits and meats. When he discovered the secret of Koi’s success he stole the magic grinder and took it to his own house. He happened to arrive there at a time when his wife was needing salt.

Guba commanded the grinder to grind salt, and salt poured forth upon the ground. He commanded the grinder to stop, but it would not, having doubtless realized that Guba was not its master. Salt piled on salt and filled the house, until in desperation Guba flung it in the sea; and there the grinder is today, grinding salt and filling the seas with brine.

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