The magical lake
Tale from Chile.
Once upon a time there was a very powerful king who had only one son. The boy would one day inherit the entire kingdom, but he was so sickly and weak that the king wondered if that would ever happen. The king prayed to his gods for help and in response a bottle of gold appeared before him. He heard a voice saying, "Fill this bottle with water from the magic lake at the end of the world and let the prince drink from it, and he will be healthy and strong.
"But how do you find a lake at the end of the world? First, the king sent out the bravest and strongest warriors to find the lake and its magical waters. But when they all returned empty-handed, the king announced to the common people that he would richly rewarding whoever could get hold of the magical water.
In a valley far from the king's palace lived a poor farmer and his wife. They lived by growing corn and potatoes and raising llamas. They had three children, two older sons and a young daughter. At last the rumor of the king's distress reached their ears as well. The sons were sure that they could find the lake and be rewarded by the king, and after much nagging, their parents let them go in search of the magic water. For a whole year they traveled far and wide and saw many lakes, but they never reached the end of the world.
Finally one of the brothers said, "Surely we can take water from any lake and give it to the king? Surely he would be happy if someone appeared with water for him:" His brother thought it was a good idea, so they filled a leather sack of water and went to the royal palace. The king received them with great joy and began to pour the water from the leather sack into the golden bottle. But the water would not flow into the bottle no matter how hard the king tried. Then he understood that the brothers had tried to deceive him and instead of being rewarded, they were now thrown into the palace's deepest dungeon.
When the farmer and his wife heard what had happened to their sons, they were very sad, but they were also ashamed of how the boys had tried to deceive the king himself. Their daughter Sumac saw how sad they were and asked if she too could try to find the lake. "The king has promised to richly reward whoever can fetch the magic water," she said. "If I succeed in that, I will ask him to release my brothers." The farmer and his wife didn't want to lose their last child, of course, but Sumac was a stubborn little girl and finally they gave in. From his mother, Sumac was given a bag of roasted corn seeds as travel food. Her father selected a strong and hardy llama for Sumac to ride. So she set off to find the lake with the magical water.
When evening fell, Sumac had not made it that far. She stopped by some large rocks and slept with her llama beside her. She put the sack with the corn seeds on a stump. It was a restless night, for a cougar crept very close by, and Sumac could hear it roaring sometimes. As soon as the sun rose, she sent the llama home because she didn't want it to become puma food the next night. Then she lay down to try to get some sleep.
She awoke a moment later to the chirping of a bunch of sparrows who had found her corn seeds, and were now feasting on them. One of the sparrows hopped up to her and said, "We want to thank you for sharing your breakfast with us." Sumac told her about her mission and wondered if the birds could somehow help her with it. Then all the sparrows plucked off a wing-feather each and gave them to her. "Make a fan out of these and hold it up, and you'll be protected and able to travel wherever you want."
Sumac thanked the birds and tied the feathers together with a hair band. So she held up her homemade fan and said aloud, "I wish I were by the magic lake at the end of the world!" Suddenly she was swept up by a powerful whirlwind and carried high into the air. After a swift and breathtaking journey, she landed on the soft sand by the magical lake. At first Sumac was overjoyed that she had made it there. But then she remembered that she had no bottle with her to take the water in. "How stupid I was," sobbed Sumac. "I really wish I had something to take the water in." She had barely had time to say those words before a bottle steamed into the sand beside her. It was actually the golden bottle that the king received from the gods. She took the bottle and ran down to the water, but before she could get the cork off, she heard a strange noise behind her.
It was a giant black crab that came crawling. "What are you doing by my lake?" wondered the crab. "Get off before I snap your head off with my claws!"
Sumac was terrified, but remembered what the sparrows said about the fan and picked it up. When she held the fan up in front of her and the crab looked at it, the beast immediately fell into a deep sleep. Now Sumac could go down to the lake and fill the bottle with water. But before she was done, a very bubbling sound was heard out in the lake and a giant alligator appeared. "What are you doing here by my lake?" wondered the beast. "Get off before I swallow you whole!" Sumac held up the fan in front of the alligator and as soon as the monster saw it his eyelids drooped and he sank snoring into the depths of the lake.
Now Sumac had the magic water and put the cork on the bottle. Just then she heard a loud hissing in the air. It was a huge flying snake that came running. Its eyes flashed and it breathed flames from its gape. "What are you doing at my lake" hissed the snake. "Now I'm going to roast you with my fire and then eat you!" "Now I don't have time for more monsters," said Sumac, holding up his fan. Immediately the snake fell asleep and steamed down to the ground.
Now Sumac didn't want to wait for more monsters to appear, so she held her fan up in front of her face and wished herself to the king's place. Immediately the whirlwind came and lifted her from the lake all the way to the palace gate. At first the guards got mad at her and thought she just wanted to play. They tried to drive her away, but after their adventure Sumac wasn't very easily startled anymore. She showed the golden bottle and demanded to see the king immediately. The guards recognized the bottle and understood that the girl was out on an important errand, so they finally opened the large gate and let her in.
The king sat beside his son's bed and watched over him. The prince looked weaker than ever and Sumac immediately rushed forward and held the bottle to his lips. At the very first sip of water, the prince's appearance changed. His gaze became clearer and the pale cheeks regained their rosiness. Now he could sit up in bed and drink the contents of the bottle himself. "I never thought you could feel so good!" exclaimed the prince, jumping out of bed.
The overjoyed king, of course, wanted to know how little Sumac got hold of the magic water, so she sat on his lap and told the whole strange story. When she was done, the king immediately wanted to reward her for her courage and promised to give her exactly what she wanted. "I really have three wishes," Sumac said. "Is it too much?" But the king certainly did not think so. So Sumac declared that she first wanted her brothers to be set free, and the king at once gave orders that this should be done. Then she wanted help in returning the feathers to the sparrows, because she thought they would probably have more use for them now. She had barely uttered her wish before the whirlwind appeared and swept the fan out the window with it. "Thank you, sparrows!" Sumac called after the wind. Then Sumac wished her parents would have a bigger farm, so they didn't have to be so poor anymore. The king also promised to take care of this, and little Sumac could finally go home, happy but tired.
And everything turned out as she wished. Her brothers were there when she got home and the very next day the king's men started building a new, bigger farm. A fairy tale can end so happily if you are brave, kind and faithful!
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