The Magic Mortar
by Yushiko Uchida
created by Linda Shaffer

Narrator 1 --- Older brother --- Old Man --- Dwarf 1 --- Dwarf 2

Narrator 2 --- Younger brother --- Wife --- Dwarf 3

Tatami - mat that covers the wood floors

Narrator 1 - Long, long ago, in a small village nestled beside the sea of Japan, there lived two brothers. The older brother was very wealthy and owned many things, but the younger brother was poor and had nothing. The New Year was approaching and the younger brother had no rice to fee his family.

Younger brother - We have no rice for New Year's breakfast. Will you lend me just a little? I shall return it as soon as I can.

Older brother - (greedily) No, I haven't any to spare.

Narrator 2 - The younger brother walked slowly down the narrow dirt road that led back to his house. What would he say to his wife, coming home empty-handed? What would they eat on New year's Day? As he walked along, he saw an old man with a long white beard working in the fields beside the road.

Old man - Say there, young man! Why are you walking with your head down, looking so sad?

Younger brother - You would be sad too, I am cold and hungry and my own brother will not even lend me rice for the New year. The world is a sad and selfish place.

Old man - Come now, all the world is not so bad.

Narrator 1 - Then he handed the young man a small cake.

Old man - Here, take this wheat cake and go to the shrine in the woods beyond. Behind the shrine you will see a big hole, and nearby will be many dwarfs. They will ask you for your wheat cake, but don't give it to them on any account, unless they agree to give you their stone mortar in exchange.

Narrator 2 - The young man thanked the farmer, and carrying the wheat cake carefully, he set off for the shrine in the woods. Just as the old man had said, behind the shrine was a big hole, and nearby were many dwarfs.

Dwarf 1- Get out of my way, I'm trying to get this log inside.

Dwarf 2 - This log is so heavy.

Dwarf 3 - We'll never get it through that hole.

Young brother - Here, let me help you.

Dwarf 1 - Help! Murderer!

Narrator 2 - The young man looked down and saw a tiny dwarf caught under his wooden clogs. He quickly picked him up, and as he did so, the tiny dwarf saw the wheat cake.

Dwarf 1 -What delicious thing is this? It smells like all the good things I've ever eaten all rolled into one!

Young brother - Why, this is just a wheat cake given to me by an old farmer.

Dwarf 1 -Please, let me have that wheat cake. It will make a lovely dinner.

Young brother - No, no, I can never let you have this wheat cake. IT is very precious to me.

Dwarf 2 -Give us your wheat cake!

Narrator 1 - But the young man remembered what the farmer said and would not give the dwarfs the wheat cake. Soon the dwarfs brought out big bags of gold.

Dwarf 3 - Here, we will give you all this gold if you will just let us have that wheat cake.

Young brother - No, no, I'll not trade this wheat cake for all the gold in the world.

Dwarf 1 - Not for all the gold in the world? Why, this must be a ver y special and most wonderful wheat cake. What do you want for it, if you will not take gold?

Young brother - Well, let me see. I will give you my wheat cake if you will give me that stone mortar.

Dwarf 2 - All right, although it is a very special mortar, we will let you have it in exchange for your wheat cake.

Dwarf 3 - This is a magic mortar, you know. It will give you anything you ask for if you turn it to the right. Then, when you've had enough, turn it to the left and it will stop.

Narrator 2 - The young man thanked the dwarfs for the mortar and gave them his wheat cake. Before he could even turn around, they had gathered about the cake and were making a great commotion that sounded like a thousand mosquitoes buzzing in the air.

Wife - What were you doing for so long? I have been waiting and waiting for you to bring home the rice!
Young brother - But I have brought home something even better than a bag of rice.

Narrator 1 - He told his wife about the farmer, the dwarfs, and the mortar.

Wife - Hurry then, let's see if the mortar really works.

Narrator 1 - They spread a clean mat on the tatami and placed the mortar in the center.

Young brother - Now, what would you like first?

Wife - Oh, I would like some rice, so I can make rice cakes for New Year's Day.

Narrator 2 - The young man slowly turned the mortar to the right.

Young brother - Mortar, mortar, make some rice.

Narrator 2 -Soon he had enough rice for the New Year. Next he decided he would like some wine.

Younger brother - Mortar, mortar make some wine.

Narrator 1 - One after the other he produced wonderful things from the mortar.

Young man - What an amazing thing the dwarfs gave me.

Narrator 1 - The next morning he decided to ask for a bigger house, for he now had so many wonderful things his little house could not hold them all.

Young man - Mortar, mortar, please give us a bigger house.

Narrator 2 - Suddenly, there was a blinding flash. The young man and his wife blinked their eyes, and when they opened them again, they found themselves sitting inside a beautiful big mansion. The young man and his wife looked wonderingly at their new home, and decided they would invite all their friends to visit this beautiful estate.

Young man and wife - Make rice! Make wine! Make fish and chicken and lotus root!

Narrator 1 - Everyone came dressed in their best kimonos, and looked with curious eyes at the house and all the good things to eat.

Older brother - How strange it is. How can it be, when only yesterday they didn't even have rice for the New Year? Tell me how it happened.

Younger brother - I was very lucky, that's all.

Narrator 2 - When the guests were about to leave, the younger brother thought he would like to give each of them some sweet cakes to take home. he opened the cupboard, took out the magic mortar and told it to make some cakes. Just as he was doing this, the older brother passed by and saw what he was doing.

Older brother - So, that is how my poor brother suddenly got so much money and food!

Narrator 1 - That night the older brother asked his younger brother if he could stay the night. As soon as the older brother saw that everyone was asleep he tiptoes to the cupboard, stole the magic mortar, and slipped out into the dark night. He ran with the mortar under his arm until he came to the edge of the sea.

Older brother - Oh a boat! Just what I need to help me get away. Ah, I shall live a good life.

Narrator 2 - After rowing for a time he got hungry, but all he had to eat were some unsalted rice cakes.

Older brother - Now is the time to test it. Mortar, mortar, make some salt!

Narrator 1 - Slowly the mortar started to fell with salt, and soon it overflowed into the boat.

Older brother - That's enough! Stop! Help! The boat will sink!

Narrator 2 - But there was no one to hear him. The waves lapped higher and higher and soon swallowed the little boat, taking the mortar and the brother down to the bottom of the sea.

Narrator 1 - On the top of the water, only a mass of white bubbles gleamed in the moonlight, but down at the bottom of the sea, the mortar continued to make salt. Because no one ever went down to turn it to the left and tell it to stop, salt still flows from the mortar. And that is why, they say, the sea is salty even today.