The Axe, the Drum, the Bowl, and the Diamond
Once upon a time there was a poor young man who went out into the world to seek his fortune. He went aboard a ship sailing across the ocean; and after they had sailed for a year and a day, suddenly a great storm arose. The rain descended, and the wind blew, and it blew so hard and so wild, that the ship went miles out of her course, and the skipper could not tell where they were. And then, in the middle of the night, a great crash came, and the ship was dashed upon a reef. The waves beat and battered it, and turned it topsy-turvy, and the end of it was that every soul was drowned except the poor young man.
The waves washed him ashore, more dead than alive, and on the shore he lay till next morning, when the sun warmed him and woke him up from his faint. He got up and looked about him, and wandered over the place, which he found was an island. It did not take him long to walk round it; and then he saw that it was a small island, and far as the eye could reach not another speck of land was to be seen. There were plenty of trees growing in the island, with fruit and flowers, bananas and cocoanuts, and springs of water; but on the trees were no birds, and no animals ran about on the ground. So he lived on the fruits and roots, and did the best he could.
One day, to his great surprise, he saw a black thing in the sky; and, still more surprising, the black thing had no wings. Yet it was flying, and flew nearer and nearer, until he saw that it was a large wild pig. How could a pig fly through the air? He rubbed his eyes and looked again; yes, a pig it was beyond all doubt; and it flew closer and closer until it came to the island. He hid behind a bush, and saw the pig sink slowly to the ground and lie down under a tree. Soon the pig was fast asleep and snoring. He went up close, and, to his amazement, by the pig’s side, was the most magnificent diamond he ever saw. It blazed and sparkled in the sun and looked like a ball of fire. He stepped gingerly up to the pig, and took hold of the diamond; the pig was very sleepy and snored away heartily. As he turned the diamond about in his hand and saw it flash, he suddenly thought to himself, “What if the pig should wake? He looks fierce, he has great sharp tusks, and I have nothing to defend myself with. If I were only up in that tree, now——” But what on earth had happened? As the thought came into his mind, he found himself perched in the tree-top.
For a little while he was quite dazed and dizzy. Then he began to wonder if it could be the diamond which had done this miracle. So just to try, he wished himself down again; and there he was, without knowing how! He began to understand that this was a magic diamond, and something which he must take great care of. Then he wished himself up in the tree again.
When he was in the tree once more, he picked off a nut that was growing on the tree, and dropped it upon the pig’s nose. The pig woke up, raised his head, and looked round for the diamond; he was a very intelligent pig, indeed he was really not a pig at all, but a great magician, who used to fly about in the shape of a pig because he was as wicked as could be, and preferred being a pig rather than a man. There are really a great many people like that, only we see them in the shape of men and do not know the difference.
Now when this pig saw that his diamond was gone, he fell in a fury; for all his power lay in the diamond, and without it he was nothing more than any other pig. So he glared and snorted, and looked all round, and down, and up—and then he saw the man who had dropped the nut upon his snout! Then his fury knew no bounds; he foamed at the mouth, and ran raging round and round the tree; but the man only laughed, and dropped more nuts on him. This made him mad indeed, for pigs cannot climb trees, and he saw that his diamond was lost, and with it all his magical power; so in his madness he charged straight at the tree, and ran his tusks right into the trunk. There they stuck, and tug as he would, he could not get them out.
The man wished himself down from the tree, and looked about for a large stone, with which he battered the pig’s skull till it was dead. Then he held the diamond over the pig, so that the sun’s rays shone down and were reflected through it; and so fine and strong was the diamond, that in a very short time a delicious smell of roast pork rose to his nostrils, and the whole pig was done to a turn, with rich crisp crackling. Then he took a sharp shell which he found lying on the beach, and carved off slices of the pork, which he ate. It was very nice indeed, and he had the best meal he had enjoyed since the ship had been wrecked on the reef, and he had been cast ashore on that island.
By-and-by, when he had finished his dinner, it occurred to him that as the pig had flown there through the air, so he might fly away. So holding his diamond in his hand, he wished to fly through the air to the nearest land. Then he felt himself rising, and he was carried swiftly through the air, and away, away over the sea; the island grew smaller, it became a black patch, it dwindled to a speck in the distance. The sun shone warm upon him, the waves sparkled underneath; porpoises gambolled about, playing leap-frog in the sea; flying-fish came out of the water in a flash of light, and dropped into the water again; still he went on, till, as the sun was setting, he came close to a sandy beach; and there before long he stood, wondering what he should do next.
He looked round, and not far off, behind a clump of bushes, rose a thin column of smoke. He put the diamond in his pocket, and walked towards the smoke. Soon he saw a queer little hut, and at the door, upon the ground, sat a man without any legs. Whether a shark had bitten off his legs, or whether he never had any, I cannot tell you, for he never told me; but there he sat, like a chessman. He had a fur cap, and a fur coat; he did not need any trousers, for he had no legs to put them on, as I have told you. In front of him was a fire, and over the fire was a spit, and on the spit was a young kid roasting.
“Good evening, sir,” said the young man.
“Good evening,” said the other.
“Can you give me a night’s shelter?” the young man asked.
“Whatever I have, you may share,” said the old man with no legs.
So they sat down, and ate a good meal; but the young man was rather frightened to see that the other man ate skin, and bones, and everything. And he did not like the way the old man eyed him. In fact I must tell you, that this old man was another magician, and a friend of the magician who looked like a pig; and when any travellers came that way, he used to eat them. He did not eat this traveller, because the kid was ready roasted; but he meant to do it as soon as he should be hungry again.
“How did you get here?” asked the old man.
“I flew over the sea,” said the young man.
“Indeed!” said the old man. “And how did you manage that?”
Then the traveller showed his diamond, and told the old man what a wonderful stone it was, and how it gave any one power to fly through the air.
“If you will give me your diamond,” said the old man, “I will give you my axe. You see I have no legs, so you may wonder how I live. This is the way I live. If I slap this axe on the handle, and say, Wood and fire! away it flies, and cuts wood and kindles a fire. If I slap the steel, and say, Heads! away it flies, and chops off the head of a goat or any animal I want; and then it brings me meat for my dinner. Now I have lived here for a thousand years by the help of my axe, and I am rather tired of being in one place. I should like to see the world before I die, and that is why I want your diamond.”
“All right,” said the young man, “it’s a bargain.” They exchanged the axe and the diamond; the old man turned it over in his hand, chuckling greedily. As soon as the young man got grip of the axe, he smacked the steel, and says he, “Heads!” In a jiffy the axe sliced through the old man’s neck like a turnip, and he had no more head than legs.
Then the traveller picked up the diamond, and put it in his pocket. So now he had two magic things instead of one. He blessed his luck, and fell asleep very happily inside the old magician’s hut.
Next morning, with the diamond in his pocket and the axe on his shoulder, the young man set out on his travels. All day long he walked through the forest, until at evening time he saw before him another hut, like the first, where lived the old man with no legs. Before this hut, too, there was a fire burning, and beside the fire sat an old man without any arms. Whether a tiger had bitten off his arms or whether he never had any, I cannot say, because he never told me; but there he sat like a pair of compasses. He had the stump of a tree to sit on, and before him was another stump, and on this stump was a large bowl of milk, out of which he was drinking. When he saw our friend, he tipped over this bowl with his chin; instantly a deep roaring river surrounded him and his hut, and he sat in the middle, laughing at the young man’s surprise. But he did not laugh long, for the young man instantly wished himself over the river, and there he was. Now it was his turn to laugh.
“How on earth did you do that?” asked the old man. He was much too astonished to think of saying good-day.
“Oh, that’s nothing,” said the young man, and showed him his diamond.
The old man’s eyes glistened. He thought how nice it would be to have that diamond.
“What do you say to selling me that diamond?” said he.
“What will you give me for it?” asked the young man.
“I will give you this bowl. It is a wishing bowl. Whenever you are hungry all you have to do is to wish for something in it, and there it is; milk, or soup, or wine; anything that can go in a bowl. And if you turn it over, as you saw me do just now, a rushing, roaring river pours out, and surrounds you, or, if you like, it will flood a whole country and drown every living thing.”
“Dear me!” said the young man, “that is a wonderful bowl. Well, I agree; I’ll give you my diamond for it.” So they exchanged the bowl and the diamond. The old man took the diamond in his hand and watched it sparkle; but he did not watch long, for the young man slapped his hatchet and cried, “Heads!” In a jiffy the steel sliced through the old man’s neck like a cucumber, and he had no more head than arms. Then the young man picked up his diamond and put it away in his pocket. So now he had three wonderful things instead of two. He blessed his good luck, wished for some delicious wine in his bowl, drank it, and went to sleep happily, in the old man’s hut.
Next morning the young man was up betimes; and after taking a meal out of his wishing-bowl, he set out once more to walk through the forest. After he had walked for some hours, he heard, far in the distance, a loud rub-a-dub-dub, rub-a-dub-dub, boom, boom, boom. He felt as if he could hardly help running away; still, with a great effort, he began to walk towards the sound, which got louder and louder every minute, till at last it made a tremendous din. Then, suddenly, just as he came upon a little open glade in the forest, he heard a rustle, bustle, jostle, and out of the trees came a great herd of elephants, lions, tigers, wolves, and all sorts of wild animals, their hair bristling with fright, and every one of them tearing along at full speed. They were far too much terrified to notice him, and, scurrying across the glade, they vanished among the trees.
By this time the noise had ceased, but it was not long before he came upon another little glade, and at the end of the glade was a hut, and in front of that hut sat a big black giant with a drum.
“Good day to you!” roared the giant, in a great voice.
“Good day!” said the young man, rather frightened.
“Come and have something to eat!” roared the giant.
“Thank you,” said the young man.
They sat down, and the giant offered him some food. But the young man thought it was safer not to take any of the giant’s food, so he pulled out his bowl, and wished for some soup, and sipped it.
“What is that?” asked the giant.
The young man told him it was a wishing bowl, that gave any food he wanted. The giant was very much delighted with the wishing bowl, and thought that if he could get that bowl, he would be able to eat without the trouble of getting things.
“I’ll buy that bowl!” he roared.
“What will you give me for it?” asked the young man.
“I will give you this drum,” said the giant. “If you beat on one side, everybody that hears it will run away.”
“Ah, that was why the lions and tigers were running away just now!” said the young man.
“Yes,” said the giant. “And if you beat on the other side, a splendid army of soldiers and horses will spring up out of the ground and defend you.”
“All right, here you are,” said the young man, and gave him the bowl.
The giant took the bowl in great glee, and horrid to tell, wished out loud for a bowlful of blood! He began to drink it, but he did not finish; for as he buried his nose in the bowl, the young man slapped his axe, and said—“Heads!” Down came the axe with a crash on the giant’s head, and cut it clean in two!
If the young man was glad when he saw the giant’s head cleft in two, he was gladder when he went inside the giant’s hut. For there, all round the wall, were the bodies of travellers who had passed that way; and they were tied to the uprights of the wall, and their bodies were dry as dust, and shrivelled like a medlar. For this giant used to catch all travellers and tie them up in his house, and then he sucked their blood till they were dry. So when our traveller saw what a narrow escape he had had, he determined no longer to remain in that dreadful place. Picking up the bowl and the drum, and feeling to see that his axe and diamond were safe, he wished himself at the gate of the nearest city.
Now the king of this city was a very cruel king. He used to rob and murder even his own subjects; and as for strangers, he had short shrift and no mercy for them. So when the king heard that there was a stranger outside the gates, he made up his mind to have some sport; and sent out a company of soldiers to fetch him in. The young man beat his drum, and they all took to their heels! You may imagine how angry the king was to hear this; he had all their heads chopped off on the spot, and sent a regiment. The same thing happened to the regiment. But this only made the king angrier than ever. He ordered all his army to be marshalled before the gates, and himself riding at their head, led them forward to capture this audacious stranger. Then the young man tipped over his wishing bowl. Out poured a roaring torrent of water that flooded the plain, and drowned every soldier in the army, all except the king, who had galloped back to the city, and got up on the wall. Then the young man slapped his axe, and cried, “Heads! I want the king’s head!” Off flew the axe through the air like a boomerang, and sliced off the king’s head, and brought it back to its master. The people inside the city began to cheer with joy, when they saw the king with his head off. And when the axe came back, the young man beat upon the other side of his drum; and lo and behold! the earth began to tremble, it seemed full of holes, and from every hole sprouted a warrior fully armed. Surrounded by his army, he marched into the city, where he became king, and lived happily ever after. And I hope that we may be half as happy as he was.