The Pumpkin in the Jar
Illustrated By: Sarah Frank
ONE DAY IN A LONG TIME AGO, King Adoveneis went out into the plains to hunt for deer, and he accidentally became separated from his companions.
Wandering about, the king saw a hut that was surrounded by a garden. Tending the garden was a beautiful young maiden.
The king spoke to the maiden and said, "Tell me, lass, what plants are you growing here?"
She replied, "I am raising pumpkins and melons."
Now, the king happened to be thirsty, and so he asked the maiden for a drink. "We were hunting in the heat of the day," he said, "and I felt a terrible thirst come over me."
The maiden replied, "O illustrious king! We have water to be sure, but only an old, crude jar in which to serve it. Surely it is not right or worthy that your Majesty should drink from such a crude jar! Now if we had a jar of pure gold, in which we could pour water from a crystal clear fountain, then that would be a proper offering for your Majesty."
The king replied to the girl, "Never mind the jar: I'm terribly thirsty! I care not if the jar is old, provided that the water is cool."
The maiden went into the house, fetched the jar, and filled it with clear cool water. Presently the king drank his fill.
After he had finished, the king handed her back the jar. Then, suddenly, the maiden struck the jar against the staircase. It was shattered to bits.
The king wondered at this strange act, and in his heart he thought that the maiden had no manners at all.
He cried, "You see that I am a noble king, and you know that I hold the crown. For what possible reason did you shatter that jar, received from my hands?"
The maiden replied, "The reason I broke the jar, which has been kept for many years by my mother, O king! is that I should not like to have it used by anyone else after you, your majesty, has touched it."
Upon hearing that, the king made no reply. In his heart, he marveled at the actions of the woman and determined that she was a good, virtuous maiden after all. As he returned toward the city, a thought began to grow on him. He wondered whether the maiden was as clever as she was virtuous.
After some time, the king one day ordered a soldier to carry to the maiden a new jar, one with an opening at the top not much more than one inch across. The soldier's orders were to tell the maiden that the jar was from the king, and that she was to put an entire pumpkin inside the jar. The soldier was also to tell the maiden that she should not break the jar under any circumstance. Both the jar with the small opening at the top and the pumpkin must remain whole.
The maiden returned a message to the king that she was certain she could do what his majesty ordered, but that such a task might take some time. Indeed, it was several months before the maiden arrived at the palace. In her hands she held the same jar, and sure enough, an entire pumpkin sat inside of it.
When the king closely examined the jar, he confirmed that the jar was the same one that he had delivered. What's more, he saw that both the jar and the pumpkin were completely undamaged. He asked the maiden to marry him on the spot, as she was as clever as she was virtuous, and she gladly accepted.
Later, in their royal chambers, when his new wife revealed her secret, the king laughed long and hard.
She had placed a pumpkin bud, one that was still attached to a vine in the ground, inside the jar through its small opening. Over time the pumpkin bud grew into a full-sized pumpkin. When the pumpkin filled the jar, she simply cut off the stem and delivered the jar with the pumpkin to the palace.
"The Pumpkin in the Jar" is based on a story called "The Life of a Shepherdess Born in a Town, who Became the Wife of a King Because of a Pumpkin," from Filipino Popular Tales by Dean S. Fansler, Ph.D. (American Folk-Lore Society: G. E. Stechert & Co: New York, 1921), pp. 57-58.
Adapted by Elaine Lindy. ©1998. All rights reserved.
This Philippine story is traced to Manila, 1908 and is associated with the Tagalog tribe.
A related version of this story is found in India (Indian Nights Entertainment by Swynnerton, p.315). The daughter of a smith, whom a Prince wanted to marry, in order to show her cleverness made some large earthenware jars, and without baking them she painted and enameled them, and introduced a small watermelon into each. When the melons had grown so as to fill the jars, she sent two of them to the palace, with a request that the melons should be taken out without breaking the jars or the melons. No one being able to do it, she obtained permission to visit the palace, wrapped a wet cloth around each jar until it became soft, expanded the mouths, extracted the melons, and remade the jars as before.