Why The Gulf Is Oil.

The Norse have a fairy tale called Why The Sea Is Salt which is about a magic mill that can grind out anything its master desires. (The Koreans have a similar legend.) In the Norse tale, the mill switches from master to master, grinding out chaos as much as it grinds out riches. Sort of like a Norwegian version of a shriveled, cursed monkey paw. Above is an old etching from the fairy tale. It depicts the deal that the original owner of the mill made with the devil in exchange for the mill, which is behind the door. I think the dude trades a ham for it. Anyway, here’s what happens - straight from the mouths of Peter C. Asbjornsen and Jorgen E. Moe, Andrew Lang Collection. (There are some umlauts in there, but I don’t know how to do umlauts. I don’t even know how to spell it. Umluats, that is. Not it. It, I have dialed.)

After a long, long time there came a skipper who wished to see the mill. He asked if it could make salt. “Yes, it can make salt,” said he who owned it, and when the skipper heard that, he wished with all his might and main to have the mill, no matter what it cost. He thought that if he had it he would not have to sail far away over the perilous sea for his cargo of salt. At first, the owner would not hear of parting with the mill, but the skipper begged and prayed, and at last the man sold it to him for many, many thousands. When the skipper had the mill he did not stay long, for he was afraid the man would change his mind, and he had no time to ask how he was to stop it grinding, but went on board his ship as fast as he could.

When he had gone a little way out to sea he took the mill on deck. “Grind salt, and grind both quickly and well,” said the skipper.

So the mill began to grind salt, till it spouted out like water, and when the skipper had the ship filled he wanted to stop the mill, but whichsoever way he turned it, and howsoever he tried, it went on grinding, and the heap of salt grew higher and higher, until at last the ship sank.

There lies the mill at the bottom of the sea, and still, day by day, it grinds on: and that is why the sea is salt.

Or the gulf is oil. That's what happens when you make a deal with the devil. Just sayin.


  1. This reminds me of the children's book Stregnona
    In the book she has a magic pot that makes spaghetti and one day a servant decides to use the pot, only he doesn't know the magic words to make it stop.

    I wish somebody would come up with the magic words soon to get the oil under control in the gulf.

  2. Hello Denise! Thank you for the link. This is a fantastic story in all of its incarnations, isn't it? I love what it says about greed, and about being careful what you wish for. By the way, I wish someone would come up with some magic words to control the Gulf spill, too. That is, besides the less "family friendly" ones that tend to get tossed around! Here are some of the magic words I think might be worth a try: "unicycles," "flubber," "unobtainium," and "goat-powered."

  3. I was checking out one of my favorite blogs Redheaded Blackbelt today and saw her post on your blog...which after looking at it, is going to make me a regular reader!

    Very nice layout and subjects and photography and..and good job!

    I noticed that you have my blog - As It Stands - on your blogroll. I'm going to return the favor and put a link to yours on my blog.
    I really enjoy finding interesting people with things to say in cyberspace.

  4. Dear Jen,

    Appreciate your tale. I hope we swiftly identify and manifest many benevolent magic mills to capture the toxins and remediate our gulf!

    Kym's post me your way and for that I have thanks.

    Publishing at MendoCoastCurrent, http://bit.ly/cqKQLb Hope you'll check it out.

    Wishing all best in Jendocino,


  5. Hello Dave and L! Thank you both so much for the warm welcome and kind words. Dave, I visit your blog regularly, and your work both impresses and inspires me. I'm so glad to hear that you like what I'm doing over here, too. L, you are new to me, but your passion and writing definitely make me want to learn more about you. Something to look forward to! And I too am very grateful to Kym for forging the links between us. Looking forward to conversations with you both!