Folktales > The Golden Pitcher

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Featuring photos from the 2005-06 touring production, taken at the library in Hannibal, MO.

Long ago in Mongolia, there lived an Emperor who was very vain. More than anything else, he loved to stare at his reflection in the mirror. But one day, he saw something that really puzzled him: there was a gray hair on his head!

Alarmed, he sent for his Royal Advisor.

"I have mouse hair on my head!" he said.

"Nonsense", said the Advisor. "You just have gray hair, as many people do when they get older. You will be seeing more and more of it whenever you look in your mirror."

mirror

The Emperor didn't like this at all. So he decided that the only thing to do was to stop looking in his mirror. Furthermore, he decided that mirrors were a big problem, so he decreed that all mirrors be destroyed, throughout his land. And the next day, there was the sound of mirrors breaking everywhere.

After that, the Emperor forgot about the gray hair for a time. But then one day he saw an old man in the streets, a man who was maybe 100 years old, a man with long white hair and beard. Then the Emperor was upset, because he knew that getting rid of mirrors wasn't enough to prevent him from seeing gray hair. He also had to get rid of the older people, so they would not remind him that he was getting older himself.

So he banned all the old people from his land. His problem had been solved...or so he thought. There was one young woman in his land who did not want her grandfather to leave. So she devised a plan. She hid her grandfather in a cave, and gave him a regular supply of food and drink.

wind

But shortly after, a very, very windy storm came. And it wrecked houses. And destroyed buildings. And blew everything out of the Emperor's palace. Of course his advisors searched and scoured the land for the Emperor's items, and they were all found ... except for his most prized possession-a golden pitcher.

The Emperor was very angry. He went out and searched the land himself. And he found the pitcher! It had been in one of his lakes. So advisor after advisor dived into the water...and came up empty-handed. "I dived down to the very bottom, but your pitcher wasn't there!" they exclaimed. The Emperor decided that this was nonsense. And he went after it himself.

The Emperor swam down. And down. And down. And down. And farther still. And just as he was about to run out of breath...he grabbed the pitcher! ...Or tried to. But it dissolved! So he hurried back to the surface.

lake

Obviously, there was some very powerful magic at work here. They could see the pitcher very clearly at the bottom of the lake. So why couldn't anyone get it? Nobody knew, but the Emperor did know he had to get it back -- -that pitcher was very valuable, and had been in his family for many generations. So the Emperor made a new decree.

"Whoever shall bring me my golden pitcher from the bottom of the lake shall have anything that he-or she-wishes", he proclaimed.

The young woman heard about this, and was very excited. It was a great opportunity to have her grandfather leave the cave and live in peace once again-if only she could get the pitcher!

She went back to the cave and told her grandfather. He thought about it for a moment, then smiled and told her his plan.

She returned to the Emperor and said, "Come with me to the lake, and I will get the pitcher for you."

The Emperor scoffed to think that such a young female would try to do what all his wise men had failed to do, but he thought it might be entertaining to watch, so he went along with her.

tree

But when they got to the lake, she did not dive into the water. Instead, she began climbing a tree. And that's where she found the pitcher-everyone else had seen only its reflection in the water.

The Emperor was delighted. "What wish do you wish to have granted?" he asked her.

"I wish to have all the gray-haired people come back and live with us", she answered.

The Emperor knew that he was beaten, so he granted her request. And from that day on, he learned to see things as they really are, instead of putting so much stock in appearances. And he lived to be a very wise old Emperor indeed, with lots of gray hair on his head.

~The End

The Emporer, his golden pitcher and other fools can be found on Know Fooling.

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@ Your Library

Look for more folktales from Mongolia at your library. Check the 398 section if your library uses the Dewey Decimal System.

About this Story

The Golden Pitcher is a story from Mongolia. This version was written by Dennis Goza.

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