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The Magic Sausage Mill - or - Jack and the Magic Mill


"The Magic Sausage Mill." In Roberts, Leonard. I Bought Me a Dog: A Dozen Authentic Folktales from the Southern Mountains. Berea, KY:  The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1954. Also in Sang Branch Settlers: Folksongs and Tales of a Kentucky Mountain Family. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1974. Rpt. in Smith, Jimmy Neil, ed. Why the Possum's Tail is Bare and Other Classic Southern Stories. New York: Avon, 1993. Roberts notes that the oral tale he collected in KY may have been influenced by written Norse tales (see "Why the Sea is Salt" below). This is a cautionary tale about greed, which is also a pourquoi tale about why the sea is salty. A poor boy gets a mill from goblins that will produce anything he wants so he doesn't have to work, but when his rich brother insists on buying it for $2000, his brother doesn't tell him the words to make it stop. After sending his wife out to work, the rich brother, eager to make dinner, nearly floods the town with fish and gravy. He has to pay his brother another $2000 to learn how to stop it, and gives the mill back. Then the newly rich brother sells it to a storekeeper for $10,000. The storekeeper grinds salt on his ship to sell abroad, but can't stop the mill and throws it overboard, where it still grinds and fills the sea with salt.

Shelby, Anne. "Grind Mill Grind." In The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales. Illus. Paula McArdle. Chapel Hill: Univ. of NC Press, 2007. pp. 48-54. There is one humorous, cartoon-like black and white drawing at the beginning of each of the 14 tales in this book, in this one showing the greedy rich brother standing on a chair surrounded by a flood of gravy and fish in pots, with the magic mill spewing out more behind him. Shelby's essay "About the Stories" is interesting but does not discuss this tale. For more on Shelby's book see Appalachian Folktale Collections K-Z.

"Jack and the Magic Mill." Told by Tom Bledsoe, Rich Kirby, and Joy D'Elia. Telling Tales. KY Educational TV series of folktale programs. In Part Two. See information on programs and videos. Teacher's Guide online has Table of Contents in Part One, then summaries of each tale and discussion questions and activities. In this version Jack's brother Tom buys the magic mill from Jack to make money selling pizza, but can't make the mill stop producing pizza. Then Will buys it to make salt and doesn't know how to stop it so it ends up in the ocean.

See also:

Sop Doll has a haunted mill with witches but it's a mill building.

Other Appalachian tales in which hungry people get a magic gift that produces plentiful food, such as a magic tablecloth, include Gail Haley's Jack and the Bean Tree.

In Anne Shelby's "Jack and the Christmas Beans," Jack is given a basket that produces food on command. For details, see Shelby in Appalachian Folktale Collections K-Z.

Many tales contain brothers who are mean to each other. See, for example, some of the tales listed at Cat 'n Mouse and Jack and the Bull - and - Jack and the Heifer Hide.

In Wicked John and the Devil, a wicked man brings disaster on himself and the end in some versions explain the origins of swamp gas or other things.

Other pourquoi tales about animals, natural phenomena, and human inventions, such as The First Fire, or How the Water Spider Captured Fire, are listed in the Native American section of this folktale index and in AppLit's picture book bibliography. Pourquoi elements are found in some tall tales such as Swamp Angel, Tony Beaver, and Steven Kellogg's Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett. See study guide on Tall Tales and Jack Tales.

Compare with:

"Why the Sea is Salt" from 1912 book East of the Sun, West of the Moon. In Heidi Anne Heiner's SurLaLune Fairy Tales Pages Also gives version from Asbjørnsen, Peter Christen and Moe, Jorgen. East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon. George Webbe Dasent, translator. Popular Tales from the Norse. Edinburgh: David Douglass, 1888.

"The Master and His Pupil." In Jacobs, Joseph. English Fairy Tales. London: David Nutt, 1890. With notes on parallels. Reprinted at this link in SurLaLune Fairy Tales.

"Sweet Porridge." In Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Trans. Margaret Hunt. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. Reprinted at this link in SurLaLune Fairy Tales. With notes on sources from Europe and India. Very short tale about a  mother filling the town with porridge because only her little daughter can stop the pot given to her by an old woman in the forest. The pot saved them from hunger and there is no wrongdoing in the tale.

"The Magic Porridge Pot." 1906 version from the "Food-Stuffs" section of the anthology For the Children's Hour by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, reprinted in The Baldwin Online Children's Literature Project.

"The Magic Porridge Pot" was adapted by Tomi de Paola in his popular picture book Strega Nona (1975). See de Paola's web site at this link for discussion of the origin of his tale, which is not based on Italian folklore, with a character he created whose magic pot produces pasta..

"Thunder and Anansi" In Barker, William H. and Cecilia Sinclair. West African Folk-tales. Lagos, Africa: Bookshop, 1917. Reprinted at this link in SurLaLune Fairy Tales. Thunder is an old man under the sea who gives Anansi a magic pot to save his family from famine. Anansi, the spider-man folk hero, is punished for trying to hide the pot from everyone.

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