The Salt Mill: A Norwegian Legend
The Legend of the Salt Mill, sometimes known as The Magic Mill or Magical Mill, is a Norwegian tale with many parallels found in Japanese and Chinese traditions, as well as many variants in European folklore.
There are two main versions of the story that tell the reason why the sea is salty.
Below are the two versions of the story.
The Ambitious Captain And The Salt Mill
A long time ago in Northern Europe, there lived a good-hearted but rather ambitious sailor. This captain paid his men well and always had a new project in mind.
One day, they landed in a small port in Norway. The captain of the ship noticed an old man with a long white beard and a thick wool cap pulled down over his ears. He used to sell huge blocks of salt in the market.
He decided to buy them all. ‘They will give me a lot of money for salt in other places’ – he thought. He had to ask his crew for help to move the heavy blocks into the ship’s hold. The problem was, he thought afterwards, to divide them into small blocks… Still, they left the next day.
The captain was pleased with his new merchandise. The day was fantastic and the sea was calm, but after many hours, a storm arose, and the ship, buffeted violently, ended up on the shores of a strange islet.
The captain landed there along with a few boys. They entered a forest, stealthy, and stopped when they heard a strange sound.
They approached secretly and suddenly they saw a magician, who used a strange contraption to split stones without touching anything. It was a mill. The magician threw the stones and only said:
– Shake and grind, shake and grind…
And the stones that came out of the mill turned into fine powder.
– That pot must be mine – said the captain of the ship to himself – With it, you can transform the blocks of salt I bought into grain, and I can sell it in small quantities, in bags.
So they waited patiently for the wizard to leave. And as soon as the mill was left alone, they took it to the ship and set out again for the high seas.
How happy was the captain! Already in the cellar, the next day he decided to start the salt mill. The captain put an enormous block of salt into that strange machine and pronounced aloud the words he had heard the magician say:
– Shake and grind, shake and grind…
The grinder began to work and sure enough, the block of salt began to crush. The salt came out finer than the sand on the beach.
– So many bags of salt that I can sell! I’ll get rich! – exclaimed the euphoric captain.
However, the mill did not stop grinding and he did not know how to stop it. The salt began to flood the cellar and he had to get out of there. Soon it began to flood the entire deck, and both crew members and the captain himself had to jump overboard.
They managed to swim to a shore not far away, and from there they watched the ship sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
It is said that since then, the sea began to be salty, because the mill, sunk in the depths of the ocean, never stopped grinding salt.
The Giant and The Magic Mill
The second version of this legend tells that a giant existed long ago in Norway who owned a magical mill capable of grinding salt. All you had to do was say the magic words:
– Grind and crush, grind and crush.
But one day, the giant decided to give his magic windmill to a widow, who had no job and had to support her daughter.
The women, who were humble and kind, used the mill just enough to make salt and sell it every day in the market. In this way, they earned enough to eat.
But a very jealous goblin found out how those women got the salt. He watched them day and night, and full of envy, he took advantage one day when the women were leaving for the market to enter their house and take the salt mill.
And because he did not want them to ever find the salt mill again, he forcefully threw it into the sea. The mill began to grind salt non-stop at the bottom of the ocean. And that’s why, they say, the sea is salty.