Sweet Porridge

Written by Katharine Pyle.

There was once a poor widow who had only one daughter, a child who was so good and gentle that everyone who knew her, loved her.
One day the child went into the forest to gather firewood, and she was very sad because there was nothing left in the house to eat, and because she and her mother were so often made to go hungry.
She had already gathered a bundle of sticks, and was about to go home, when she saw a poor old woman who had also come to the forest for wood. The woman was so bent and stiff that it was sad to see her. The child felt sorry for her and wished to help her.

“Good morning,” she said, “let me gather the wood for you; it must be hard for you to bend.”
She put down her own load, and gathered for the old woman as much as she was able to carry. “I would take it home for you,” said the little girl, “but my mother is waiting for me, and I must go quickly, for I am already late.”
“Child,” said the old woman, “you have a good heart, and you deserve to be rewarded.” She then drew out from under her cloak a little iron pot. “Take this,” she said. “It is a magic pot. Whenever you are hungry you have only to say—
“‘Boil little pot
Till the porridge is hot,’
and it will begin to boil and fill up with sweet porridge. When you have had enough say—
“‘Cease little pot,
The porridge is hot,’
and it will stop boiling.”
She made the child repeat the words after her several times, and she then gave her the pot and hobbled away through the forest.

The child was filled with joy at the thought that now she and her mother need never be hungry again. She ran home as fast as she could, carrying the pot with both hands.
When she came in her mother asked her where the wood was.
“I have brought home something better than wood,” cried the child. “The wood only warms us, but here is something that will feed us as well.” She set the pot upon the table and said:
“Boil little pot
Till the porridge is hot.”
The pot at once began to bubble and boil, and soon it was full and brimming over with sweet porridge. The widow picked up a spoon and spooned some of the porridge out into a bowl, but the more she dipped out the more there was in it. When all the bowls in the house were full, the child said:
“Cease little pot,
The porridge is hot,”
and at once the pot stopped boiling.
The widow was overjoyed at the treasure the little girl had brought home. “Come,” she cried, “let us sit down and eat.”
“Yes, dear mother,” said the child, “but first I will carry some of the porridge to the neighbors who were so kind to us when we had nothing.”

The little girl filled a large kettle with porridge and started out with it, but no sooner had she gone than the widow began to wonder whether they had kept enough for themselves. She did not feel satisfied, so she said to the pot:
“Boil little pot
Till the porridge is hot.”
Immediately the pot began to bubble and boil. Soon it was full and the porridge began to run over. The widow wished to stop it, but she had forgotten what to say. “Enough!” she cried. “Stop! Stop!” but the porridge still boiled up and over the edge of the pot. The widow picked up the spoon and again began spooning out the porridge; she dipped as fast as she could. Soon all the pots and pans in the house were full and still the pot continued to boil out porridge. In despair the widow grabbed the pot and threw it outside the door, but the porridge flowed out from it in a stream, and ran down the road.

The little girl was coming home when she met the stream of porridge, and at once she guessed what had happened. She ran as fast as she could and when she came to the place where the pot lay she cried:
“Cease little pot,
The porridge is hot.”
At once the pot stopped boiling, but already enough porridge had been wasted to have fed the whole countryside.
After that the widow never again dared to tell the pot to boil. When they wished for porridge it was the child who spoke to it. But from then on she and her mother never lacked for anything, for the porridge was so delicious that people came from far and near to buy it from them.

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