Why the Sea Is Salty
Hundreds of years ago there was a king who had a very unusual stone hand mill. It looked like any other stone hand mill but it had special powers. All one had to do was say what one wanted and turn it and out would come what had been requested. If gold was requested, gold would come out. If rice was requested, rice would come out. Whatever was requested, the small hand mill would produce it.
A thief made up his mind to steal the hand mill because once he had heard of it he couldn't get it out of his mind. For days and days he thought about how to steal it but he could not come up with a plan.
Then one day he dressed like a scholar and visited a court official who had access to the royal palace. They chatted about this and that and finally the thief said, "I heard that the King buried his strange hand mill in the ground because he doesn't trust his ministers."
"What's that? The King doesn't trust his ministers? Where did you hear such talk?"
"That's what they say in the countryside," said the thief, happy he had sparked the man's interest. "They say the King dug a deep hole and buried the hand mill because he is so afraid that someone will steal it."
"That's nonsense!" said the official. "The King's hand mill is beside the lotus pond in the inner court."
"Oh, is that so?" said the thief, trying to control his excitement.
"No one would dare try to steal the King's hand mill," said tht official. "Who would even think of trying when the thing is lying right beside the lotus pond where there is always lots of people coming and going."
The thief was so excited that all he could say was "Yes" and "That's right" until he was able to leave.
For many days the thief studied the situation. Then one very dark night, he climbed the palace wall and stole the hand mill from beside the lotus pond.
He was brimming with pride and confidence as he made his way back to the wall. But once outside the palace, he was overcome with fear of being discovered. His heart skipped a beat every time he met someone on the street. He decided to steal a boat and go to his hometown to hide because he knew that once the theft was discovered, everyone in the city and on the roads would be questioned.
Once at sea the thief lay back against the bow of the boat and laughed. Then he began to sing and dance as he thought about how rich he was going to be. Then he thought about what to request from the hand mill. He did not want to ask for something common and easy to obtain.
"Salt! Salt!" he suddenly shouted. "I'll ask for salt! Everyone needs salt. I can sell it and become a rich man. I'll be tht richest man in the country."
He fell down on his knees and began turning the hand mill, singing as he did, Salt! Salt! Make some salt! Then he began dancing and singing about being a rich man.
And the hand mill kept turning and turning. Salt spilled over the sides of the small boat but the thief just kept dancing and singing and laughing, all the time thinking about the big house he was going to have and the numerous servants who would serve him lavish meals.
Finally the boat was so full of salt that it sank to the bottom of the sea. And, since no one has ever told the hand mill to stop, it is still turning and making salt, which is why the sea is salty.
Suzanne Crowder Han, 1991, Korean Folk & Fairy Tales