18 Jun The “sweetest” bread
The story that follows is Kefalonian variant of an old folk narrative. It belongs to the general type of narrative or secular tales, referred to people’s adventures without using supernatural elements. In particular, this tale is classified as didactic tales which, as D.Loukatos notices, “always have an internal disposition for teaching.”
Once upon a time it was a wealthy king, so wealthy that he had everything he wanted. He had everything and he was considered to be a happy man until he started suffering from a strange anorexia and had no appetite to put anything in his mouth.Gradually he was weakening, and became grumpy and weird. Many doctors went to see him but none of their remedies could make the king feel better. The king’s anorexia lasted for long, and he was becoming thinner and thinner day by day. He wanted nothing to eat at all.
One day, a poor white-haired old man passed by the palace accidentally, who was
wise and knew remedies. He was told about the king, and went to see him. “Did you get tired, my king?” he asked. “What do you say, my doctor, ‘the king says “All day lying on my throne I do nothing at all.” “Do you have worries and cares for your people?” “No, far from it. I live carefree, and I don’t care about anyone! ” ” Did you ever wish to have something and you couldn’t have it?” ” Nor even that! I am, a king and what I seek , I always have it…”
The elder thought for a while, and then turned towards the king and told him: “Listen, my King: As I see, you have nothing serious.What is to blame for and you have no appetite to eat is the bread they give you in the palace! Order your people to bring you the sweetest bread in the world! If you have this, you will be healed!”
On the same day the king gave orders to his palace bakers to knead and bake “the sweetest bread of the world!”. All bakers throughout the kingdom worked hard in order to make the sweetest bread! They kneaded with sugar and cream all sorts of bread and they bring them to the palace for the king to taste them. But none of those breads make the king eat. He thought they weren’t good enough or they smelt awful. So he didn’t want to eat any of them. Until one day, the king lost his temper and sent his men to find and bring the old man to the palace. So it happened.
“I’ll hang you since you tricked me!”, the king shouted at the wise man when he saw him.”Why, my king?” asked the old man. “Because the sweet bread, you said did nothing to me!”. “Nah?” The old man said. “It seems that the bread kneaded for you, was not as sweet as it should have been!” The king was again ready to get very angry, but he saw the old man that was thinking of something, and stayed calm.
“Listen, my king,” says the elder after a while. “If you want to try truly the bread that will heal you, you have to come with me for three days only and do what I tell you.If you do not get well, you are free to behead me ”
And the king, my son, willy-nilly, agreed to go along with the strange old man. He wore himself poor clothes and old shoes and took a stick in his hands and went secretly from the palace, away,and went to the plain, where the old man was sitting in a hut in a field studded.
At dawn, the old man gave the king a scythe and says: “Come to reap! ‘. And the king started reaping and it was boiling hot. We did about forty bales of ears. At night, as they were exhausted they slept deeply. The old man ate nothing , as you see.
The next day, early in the morning, the elder awakened King and says: “Get up now, get all these fagots, to thresh them in the thrashing!”.The king carried on his back more than the half fagots,and then all day,he thwacked them until they made a wheat pile and they put it in a poke. And throughout the day they were so pale, hungry, and both of them, just drank some water from the cistern, which was near the hut. At night as they were exhausted again they slept deeply.
On the third day, at dawn, the old man awakened his King: “Wake up,” he says, “Now we must go our wheat to the mill in order to grind it! Take it you on your back, because I can’t do it, and let’s go there on top of the mountain where the mill is.”What could the king do, since this was the agreement?He loaded the sack on his back, and tired as he was, he carried it to the top.Now he began feel hungry, but he still said nothing.
They ground their grain and they came back to the hut at noon, the king was loaded with the flour again.”Come to knead” the old man said. He divided the flour into ten pounds, threw it in the tub and made the king knead.Then he sent him to the forest in order to cut down wood, and late in the evening they prepared the oven to bake 3-4 loaves of bread. Now the king was really hungry and he was waiting until the loaves were ready. But when the smell started coming out of the oven the King was feeling more and more hungry.”I’m too hungry,” said the king. “Wait and you ‘ll eat!” answered the old man.
Soon the loaves were ready, steamed and browned. As a hungry wolf, the king grabbed the loaf, cut it with his hands and began to eat. But he swallowed even the first mouthful, his face turned red with joy and shouted:Yes! This is the sweetest bread of the world!Even if I didn’t put any spoon of sugar in the dough!” Then the old man smiled and said : “My King, you should know that sugar in this bread was your sweat to make it.Now you are free to go back to your palace.From now on you should work hard and you’ll see that you’ll never lose your apetite again.”
The king followed the old man’s advice, and when he returned to his palace, he worked every day for his people, he worked in his garden and since then he was healed from anorexia and ate well, so well that all of us would wish to eat like him!
A Greek folk-tale
(The translation is based on the Greek text)