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Why the Sea is Salt? - Story

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About the Story: Why the Sea is Salt?

A story of a poor brother who is rewarded by a generous mill.

This is a classic fairy tale and it may have violence. If your youngster is sensitive to such issues, we recommend that you read ahead of time.

Once upon a time, there were two brothers, one wealthy and the other impoverished. When Christmas Eve arrived, the poor man had not a scrap of meat or bread in the house, so he went to his brother and pleaded with him to give him something for Christmas Day in God's name. It wasn't the first time the brother had been forced to give him something, and he wasn't any happier about being asked now than he usually was.

The Story

He said, "If you do what I want, I'll give you a whole ham." The poor one thanked him and promised to do so.

“Well, here is the ham, and now you must go straight to Dead Man’s Hall,” said the rich brother, throwing the ham to him.

“Well, I will do what I have promised,” said the other one, and he took the ham and set off. He continued throughout the entire day, till he arrived at the location with a bright light at nightfall.

“I have no doubt this is the place,” the man thought with the ham.

In the outhouse, an elderly man with a long white beard was chopping Yule logs.

“Good evening,” the man said with the ham.

“Good evening to you. At this hour, where are you going?” the man said.

"If I'm on the correct route, I'm going to Dead Guy's Hall," the sad man said.

“Oh! yes, you are right enough, for it is here,” the old man said. “When you get inside, they will all want to buy your ham, for they do not get much meat to eat there; but you must not sell it unless you can get the hand-mill that stands behind the door for it. When you come out again, I’ll teach you how to stop the hand-mill that is useful for almost everything.”

The salty sea

The salty sea

So, the man with the ham thanked the other for his helpful counsel and knocked on the door.

When he walked in, everything went just as the old guy had predicted: everyone, big and tiny, surrounded him like ants on an anthill, each trying to outbid the other for the ham.

"By rights, my old woman and I should have it for Christmas dinner," the guy remarked, "but since you have your heart set on it, I must just give it up to you." “But, if I sell it, I’ll have the hand-mill that is standing there behind the door.”

They refused to hear it at first, haggling and bargaining with the man, but he kept to his word, and the locals were obliged to give him the hand-mill. When the man returned to the yard, he inquired of the elderly woodcutter as to how he was to stop the hand-mill, and after learning this, he thanked him and set off home as quickly as he could, arriving after the clock had struck twelve on Christmas Eve.

“Where in the world have you been?” the old woman said. "I've been here for hours, and I don't even have two sticks to place across each other under the Christmas porridge-pot."

“Oh! I couldn't come earlier since I had something important to see and a long way to go, but now you'll simply have to wait and see!" the guy remarked, and then he placed the hand-mill on the table, telling it to grind light first, then a tablecloth, then meat, beer, and everything else fit for a Christmas Eve lunch. The mill obediently did so. “Bless me!” the old woman said, as one thing after the other appeared. She wanted to know where her husband had got the mill from, but he would not tell her that.

"It doesn't matter where I brought it from; you can tell it's a nice one, and the water that turns it won't freeze," the man explained. So he ground up enough meat, wine, and other good things to last the entire Christmas season, and on the third day, he invited all of his friends to a feast.

When the wealthy brother saw everything at the banquet and the mansion, he was both disturbed and angry, for he grudged all his brother possessed. "On Christmas Eve, he was so poor that he came to me and pleaded for a little, for God's sake, and today he gives a feast as if he were a king," he thought. "But, for the sake of the heavens, tell me where you obtained your riches," he said to his brother.

He did not choose to please his brother on that issue, so he said who owned the mill "from behind the door," but later that evening, when he had taken a drop too much, he could not refrain from describing how he had come by the hand-mill. "You see, that is what has brought me all of my good fortune!" he exclaimed, pulling out the mill and causing it to grind one thing after another. When the brother saw this, he insisted on having the mill, and after much persuasion, he obtained it; however, he had to pay $300 for it, and the poor brother was to keep it until the haymaking was finished, because he reasoned, "If I keep it that long, I can make it grind meat and drink that will last many a long year."

You might assume that the mill did not rust throughout that period, and that when the hay-harvest time arrived, the rich brother received it, but that the other had taken great care not to teach him how to stop it. The rich guy brought the mill home in the evening, and the next morning he told the old woman to go out and scatter the hay after the mowers, and he would take care of the house himself that day.

As dinner approached, he placed the mill on the kitchen table and said, "Grind herrings and milk pottage, and do it both well and quickly."

So the mill started grinding herrings and milk pottage, and it filled all the dishes and tubs first, before spilling all over the kitchen floor. The man twisted and turned it, doing everything he could to get the mill to stop, but no matter how he turned or screwed it, the mill continued to grind, and the pottage climbed to the point where the man was about to drown. So he threw open the parlour door, but it wasn't long until the mill had ground the parlour to a halt, and the man had to struggle and risk his life to reach the door-latch through the torrent of pottage. When he opened the door, he did not stay in the chamber for long, but dashed out, bringing the herrings and pottage with him, which poured out over both farm and field.

"Though the master does not call us home, we may as well go," the elderly woman, who was out spreading the hay, said to the women and the mowers, thinking dinner would be late. It's possible he's discovered; he's not very good at making pottage, and I'd be wise to assist him." So they started stumbling back home, but when they got a little farther up the hill, they encountered the herrings, pottage, and bread, all spilling forth and winding around one another, and the man himself in front of the flood.

"Oh, if only each of you had a hundred stomachs!" Make sure you don't get drowned in the pottage!" He screamed as he passed them as if the mischief was following him down to his brother's house. After that he begged him, for God’s sake, to take the mill back again, and that in an instant, for, he said: “If it grinds one hour more the whole district will be destroyed by the pottage and herrings.”

But the brother would not accept it unless the other paid him $300, which he was obligated to do. The impoverished brother now had both the money and the mill back in his possession. So it wasn't long before he had a farmhouse much nicer than his brother's, but the mill had made him so much money that he had to cover it with gold plates, and the farmhouse was close to the sea, so it shone and glittered far out to sea. Everyone who sailed by now had to be put in to see the rich man in the gold farmhouse, and everyone had to see the beautiful mill, for word of it had spread far and wide, and no one had missed it.

After a long and long time came also a skipper who wished to see the mill. He asked if it could make the salt. “Yes, it could make salt,” said that he who owned it, and when the skipper heard that, he wished with entire his might and main to have the mill, let it cost what it might, for, he thought, if he had it, he would get off having to sail far away over the perilous sea for the freights of salt. The man first refused to sell it, but the skipper begged and prayed, and eventually, the man agreed to sell it to him for a large sum of money. When the skipper received the mill on his back, he didn't remain long because he was concerned the man would change his mind, and he didn't have time to ask how he was going to stop it grinding, so he rushed back to his ship.

He took the mill on board after he had sailed a short distance out to sea. "Grind salt quickly and well," the skipper instructed. So the mill proceeded to grind salt till it poured out like water, and after the skipper had filled the ship, he wanted to stop it, but no matter which way he turned it or how hard he tried, it continued to grind, and the stack of salt climbed higher and higher until the ship sank. The mill rests at the bottom of the sea, grinding away day after day; this is why the sea is salty.


The sea wasn't always salty, but calamity strikes when a magical mill is brought aboard a ship and set to grind salt. The salt keeps flowing, but no one knows how to stop the mill, and the ship and mill finally sink to the bottom of the sea due to the weight of the salt.

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FAQs on Why the Sea is Salt? - Story

1. Who’s the author of the story “The Sea Salt?”

David Mason is the author of the story “The Sea Salt.” There are many other interesting stories, written by him that are still read and enjoyed by the students.

2. What’s the story about and give its moral?

The sea wasn't always salty, but disaster strikes when a magical mill is brought aboard a ship and set to grind salt. The salt keeps flowing, but no one knows how to stop the mill, and the ship and mill finally sink to the bottom of the sea due to the weight of the salt.