Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Copper Pot (Uighur)

There was once a man who had an enormous copper pot. Since the pot was really too large, he had hardly ever had a chance to use it. So one day he somehow managed to drag the pot into a coppersmith's shop.

"Can you make this into two pots?" he asked the coppersmith.

"Of course. Come back in a week," the coppersmith replied. He had no intention, though, of doing what he had been asked to do. He intended to keep the fine copper pot for himself, come what may.

A week later, the owner of the copper pot returned to the shop.

"Are my two pots ready?" he asked.

"I'm afraid not" was the reply. "There just isn't enough copper for two nice-sized pots."

"How about fashioning one large pot and one small pot, then?"

"Yes, I can do that," replied the coppersmith. "Come back in a week."

A week later, the owner returned, expecting to pay for and to receive one large copper pot and one small copper pot.

"Well," he asked the coppersmith, "do you have my two pots?"

"No, I'm afraid not," said the coppersmith. "The quality of the copper isn't as good as I had thought. There just isn't enough for one big pot and one small pot."

"Could you then perhaps make a pot and a kettle?"

"Why, yes, I could do that," replied the coppersmith. "Come back in a week."

One week later, the owner of the copper pot returned.

"Are my pot and kettle ready now?" he asked.

The coppersmith sadly shook his head and said, "Sir, there just isn't enough copper even for a kettle."

"Well, can't you at least make a pot and a ladle, then?"

"Splendid idea. I can indeed do that. Come back in a week."

Yet another week passed. The owner returned to the shop.

"All right, coppersmith. Where are my pot and ladle?"

"My brother, " answered the coppersmith, "I am sorry to tell you that there isn't even enough copper for a ladle."

"Look," said the owner of the copper pot, "I have waited for you to make me two pots, a pot and a kettle, and a pot and a ladle. Now you tell me there isn't even enough copper for a ladle! I'm at the end of the road with you. How about a pot and, say, a small hammer?"

"Yes, absolutely! I'm sure I could that easily. Please come back in a week."

Still another week passed. Again the owner went back to the shop.

"Where are my things?" was all he said.

"O my brother," the coppersmith said, "there just isn't enough copper for even a small hammer."

The owner clenched his jaw and his nostrils flared. Normally a peaceful, even meek, man, he was now speechless. He decided it would be better just to turn around. He stormed out of the shop before his anger could get the better of him.

"I'll be back to settle accounts!" he said, glaring at the coppersmith as he left. "If not for the fact I need to go somewhere, I'd give you a sound thrashing!"

As soon as the man had left his shop, the coppersmith burst out laughing, rubbing his hands in delight. He called for his assistant.

"Did you see the man who just left?" he asked the younger man.

The assistant nodded.

"Well, he is an honest fool. I just hoodwinked him out of a valuable copper pot, and I think I can still squeeze some money out of him."

"How so?"

"We'll go to his home. I'll carry in two money sacks. I'll then demand that he pay for all the work I did on his copper pot."

"All the work?" laughed the assistant. "You didn't do any work on it at all."

"I know that; you know that; that fool doesn't know that."

"So," continued the assistant, "what do you want me to do?"

"It's very simple. This is where you come in. When you hear him ask, 'Is this enough?', answer right away, 'No! More! More!'"

The pair got on their donkeys and rode to the home of the man who owned the huge copper pot. Once they had arrived, they dismounted. The coppersmith then brazenly walked through the gate into the courtyard where the man of the house, the pot's owner, was sitting, sunning himself. He arose.

"Oh, so you wish to return my pot to me?" the owner asked.

"Don't you talk to me of pots! You owe me for all the work I've done! I spent many hours trying to do something useful with that worthless copper pot of yours. Then you had the nerve to walk off like that without paying, " spoke the coppersmith.

"I see. And how much do you suppose I owe you, coppersmith?"

"Don't ask me. You obviously don't trust me. Ask my assistant. He is standing outside the gate. Ask him if whatever you give me is enough."

The owner strode over and saw that the assistant was indeed standing in the open gateway. The owner of the pot then slammed the door of the gate in the assistant's face. He locked the door and picked up a cudgel. He returned to where the coppersmith was standing and grabbed him by the collar.

"Here! I shall give you this!" he roared and proceeded to beat the smith about the head with his stick. Then calling out to the assistant, the angry owner of the pot cried, "How's this? Is this enough?"

"No! More! More!" the assistant cried from behind the closed and locked gate.

"Very well!"

He then furiously beat the coppersmith again and again and again.

"Is this enough yet?" he cried.

"No! More! More!" was once again the reply from beyond the gate.

Finally the owner of the pot, completely worn out, opened the gate and said to assistant, "Come and get your reward."

The assistant took a long look and saw his master lying in a heap upon the flagstones.

"Owww, my head!" moaned the coppersmith.

The owner of the pot and the assistant then pulled the coppersmith up and draped him over his donkey.

"Now, go!" shouted the owner of the pot. "Make sure you have my pot ready by tomorrow, for I am going back to collect it. No more tricks or there'll be more rewards for the both of you!"

The coppermsith and his assistant rode away as fast as one can on a donkey.

On the way back, the coppersmith, now sitting upright, turned to his assistant and said, "You idiot! Why did you keep saying, 'No! More! More!' as I was beaten about the head? Just wait till we get back and I get my hands upon you!"

"How was I supposed to know you weren't getting coins but a club to your head?" the other cried. "I was just doing what--"

"Oh, shut up!"

And the pair bickered like this all the way back to the shop.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


Liu, p. 56-60

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