The story of the Magic Pot begins in a small village long ago, in a valley deep in the mountains of Italy. The folks living in this valley make a living by farming and trading. It is the only way to earn a salary. The bottom line is — you got no crops, you got no cash.
One family has no crops. They have no farmers. It is a major rule in this village that men do the farming; women the cooking and children the housework. Well, this particular family consists of Fiona, the mother, and her two children — beautiful little Vanna and tiny baby Phonsi. Fiona must take care of Vanna and Phonsi all by her lonesome — last month her husband Slyvester died of terrible cholera. When will they ever cure that sucker?
Fiona is faced with a serious problem: she cannot farm. Even if she is able to, she isn’t allowed to. A woman in those days did not have the same rights as a man. “What shall I do?” Fiona thinks. “We will not be able to make money enough to keep us from starvation.”
Little Vanna, now eight years old, constantly hears her mother talk about making money. She’s worried that the family will all die of starvation. Now, one day, in the early afternoon, she is walking home from the school house. Out of no where, a bent old lady pops out in front of her. To Vanna, the old woman looks like a witch. “Do not hurt me!” Vanna cries.
The old woman cackles and waves her crooked fingers. “Now, now,” she says, “do not be frightened. I have something here to give you.” She twirls her hands and — like magic — a white pot appears in Vanna’s hands. “Do take it home to your mother and brother,” the woman says.
Vanna is confused. “How do you know I have a brother?” she asks, feeling the smooth pot in her hands.
“I know everything,” the old woman replies. “And I also know that you and your family cannot farm and that you have little food.”
Vanna nods her head yes.
“Take the pot home, put it on the stove,” the witch-like woman instructs. “Then tell it to cook whatever you want it to cook.”
“Oh, really?!” cries the little girl in excitement.
The older lady nods. “But the pot will only cook if you tell it to in the right way. And it will only stop if you tell it to stop in the right way. Do not forget the lines.”
“What are they?”
The woman leans close to the girl. “You must chant, ‘cook pot cook! Cook me a pot of…’ then say what you want it to cook. To stop it you chant what you said in the beginning backwards. So remember it real good!”
Vanna nods, thanks the old woman, then runs happily home. She tells her mother everything, and Fiona is delighted. They would never starve again. That night, they had a nice, warm supper of cabbage soup.
The next day, Vanna is off playing with friends when Fiona invites her friends over to show them the pot. “It is remarkable,” she brags. When it is time to eat, she faces the pot and chants, “cook pot, cook! Cook me a pot of stew!”
Fiona’s friends watch, amazed, as fresh stew boils in the pot. Fiona serves them. She is about to sit down and eat when baby Phonsi cries, “Pot! Pot!” Fiona looks at the pot and sees that it is overflowing with stew.
“Stop cooking! Stop!” she exclaims, nothing happening. She forgot what Vanna had said would stop the pot from cooking! The stew boils and bubbles rapidly; eventually it floods the house and then the entire village. People are floating on it in boats and swimming in it.
Vanna is horrified when she sees the river of thick stew. “Stew of pot a me cook! Cook pot, cook!” she chants in one breath.
The stew suddenly stops boiling. Everyone cheers. That night, the villagers grabbed whatever bowls, pots, pans, forks and spoons they could find and they all feast on the stew. It is delicious.
And from now on, Fiona, Vanna and Phonsi live happily ever after, as long as Vanna will be in charge of directing the little pot. The End.
Image credits, in order: “Italian Farmhouse” by *mountainlegend; The old Woman by ~Unfinished-Dragon; Cauldron by ~radina