Oral Literature. Unbreakable jars

Once upon a time, there was a potter, honest and diligent, who made jars of excellent quality and many sizes. He was also a very religious man: in his spare time, he prayed and went to the temple every evening to participate in the ceremonies and sing hymns. Once a week he fasted and always offered alms to the poor people.

But there was something that tormented him, a desire that did not make him entirely happy: he wanted to build perfect, unbreakable jars. However, despite his best efforts, he came close to his ideal, but never reached it. Unbreakable jars just didn’t come to him!

One night, while he was sleeping, God himself appeared to him and asked: “Do you really want to make jars that will never break? “Of course, Lord!” – the potter replied – “This would be my ideal. If I really achieved it, I would be the happiest man in the world.” “Think about it first,” continued the Lord, “because, if you really want it, I could also fulfil you with a miracle of my own.” The potter reiterated: “That’s just what I want … to be able to make at least a perfect jar!” “All right,” said the Lord, “You asked for this gift, and you shall have it.”

Having said this, God disappeared. The potter could no longer sleep and waited impatiently for dawn. The next morning, he got up in a hurry and ran to make a small clay jar. Then he picked it up and threw it against a wall. The jar remained whole, without a single scratch. The potter began to sing and shout aloud: “I did it! I did it! I am the best potter in the world.  No one can surpass me. To me the fame! To me the riches!”

The neighbours, convinced that he had gone mad, ran to help him, but were astonished when they saw that the jar just would not break.

From that day on, the potter’s life changed. He became the most sought-after man in the area. People queued up in front of his workshop. As his fame spread, soon the inhabitants of other villages also flocked to buy the jars that did not break.

The potter became rich and famous, as he had predicted. In the meantime, news of the unbreakable jars ran through the whole country and even reached the capital, Kathmandu. When it reached the ears of a rich merchant, he was at first sceptical: fairy tales, hearsay! But with the fine business sense he had, he told himself that no chance should be overlooked.

So, he set off for the potter’s village to see for himself. And to his astonishment he saw with his own eyes that the jars were not only beautiful but were truly unbreakable. He wanted to enter into partnership with the potter, offering him his capital, his experience in trade and all the workshops he had in the village. Not only that, but to show the potter all his enthusiasm, he offered him his only beautiful daughter in marriage.

The potter gladly accepted and also agreed to move to Kathmandu: here the young bride would be able to stay with her mother, this was the obvious reason; but there was another, more secret reason: he wanted to attain in the city that fame and honours that until now had only been bestowed on him in the villages. The wedding was soon celebrated with great pomp and great joy for all.

A large workshop was then opened in the capital and the precious jars sold like hot cakes here and throughout the nation. When, sometime later, news of an heir also reached the potter, he thought he had reached the height of happiness. But – there is always a but in human affairs – the demand for jars at some point began to wane. Since these did not break, no one needed to replace them. The queue in front of his shop diminished every day until the time came when he could no longer sell a single jar. “This is not necessary,” the potter thought to himself and set about designing new jar models, in the hope that they would be liked and bought instead of the others. But to no avail! The new models were liked, they were admired, but no one was buying them. And what would they do with new jars, when the old ones were perfect?

So, the potter put his hands in his hair and began to despair, worried about his future and that of his family.

One night, as he was about to fall asleep absorbed in dark thoughts, God appeared to him again and asked: “How are you? I am curious to know how it went. Tell me everything.”

“I am the saddest man on earth,” replied the potter.

“Why? Didn’t you want to make perfect jars? Then what’s wrong?”

The man spoke sadly: “I was wrong. I would love to make jars that break as soon as they are thrown against a rock.”

“I don’t understand,” said God, “Once you wanted jars that wouldn’t break; now you want jars that will break … Why?”

“You know everything”, replied the potter, “You know my thoughts. You know the reason for my despair. People bought the jars, but now they don’t want any more because those are unbreakable. I can no longer sell anything and the profit I have made won’t last much longer. Then what will happen to my family? What future will I be able to offer my son?”

“Think about it”, God repeated the advice the first time, “If I cancel my gift, you will no longer be able to make perfect jars. Think it over!”

“I will be happy to make normal jars. That way, every time one breaks, people will come back to me or go to other potters and we can all learn something. Please make me a normal potter again!” the man pleaded and suddenly he woke up. Seized with anxiety, he could not wait until morning. In the middle of the night, he went to the workshop and made a terracotta moulded into the shape of a jar. Then he took it and hurled it against the wall. The jar broke into a thousand pieces.

So, the potter returned happy. And he became even more religious because he had understood that happiness does not lie in trying to make perfect things, but in doing one’s work with honesty and simply, trying to have a big heart towards everyone and doing charitable works. (Photo: 123rf.com) – (Folktale from Nepal)

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