Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Saturday Junking

I don't get much opportunity to go to yard sales, but this past Saturday we took a little time to stop at a few sales along our way. Bounty! Here is what we found:

Nice wood chair painted white with covered cushion, $5
6 hand-embroidered placemats, $5
Made in England blue and white pitcher and honey jar, $1
Doilies, .25 ea
I Love America hand-embroidered wall-hanging, $1
Hand-blown decanter, .75
Serving dish and small amber dish, .10 ea
Two oblong baking pans, .10 ea
Birdhouse, basket and wrought metal hanger, free

A good day at the sales! And probably adds to my reputation with my sons as a junk collector, which is probably mostly true--I dream of one day starting a junk shop :-)

Which leads to this story that is found in many cultures, about a man who roams afar to find that treasure is actually in his own back yard. Many storytellers know the story of the Peddler of Swaffham, but this version is Middle Eastern.

How the Junkman Traveled to Find Treasure in His Own Yard

from Turkey

In a tower overlooking the sea there lived an old junkman who earned his living by gathering bits and pieces of iron and selling them to smiths.

He often thought about the hard luck of his life. "To think," he said, "that the metal I collect will probably be used to make a shoe for a donkey or a horse. Surely I might at least be permitted to ride the donkey. But no, I cannot even afford such a luxury."

Often this poor man dreamed of wealth and luxury. But each morning he faced again the reality of his life. His longing increased for the things he could not have.

One night he dreamed that a voice said, "Go to Egypt, and it shall be so."
All day he thought about this dream, and each night he dreamed it again. "Go to Egypt, and it shall be so."

One day his wife met him at the door and said, "Have you brought home any bread?" He replied, "No, I have not gone; I will go tomorrow. " He thought, you see, that she had asked him, " Have you gone to Egypt?"

The next day his troubles and poverty seemed unbearable, and he left his house, saying, "I go! I go to the land of wealth!" He boarded a boat for Alexandria, telling the captain, "I have been called to this city, and you must take me." The captain thought this was obviously a holy man or a crazed one, and allowed him passage on the boat.

In Alexandria, the only bread he had to eat was that which was given him by those who felt pity for him. His crusts of bread grew few and far between. Finally, weary of his suffering, the man wandered out to the pyramids seeking death.

"Great stones, fall upon me and end my miserable life," he cried.

It happened that a Turk heard this prayer, and said to him, "Why are you so miserable, father? Has your soul been so strangled that you prefer its being dashed out of your body?"

"Yes," the man replied. "In my home town, I was a junkman and managed to feed my wife and myself. But here in Egypt, I am a stranger, alone and starving. My wife for all I know may have already starved to death. And all this because of a dream!"

"How sad that a man of your age should be tempted to wander so far from home and friends because of a dream. Why, were I to obey my dreams, I would at this present moment be in your home town, digging for a treasure that lies buried under a tree. I can even describe where it is, although I have never been there. I see a wall that must have been built many years ago, and supporting this wall are towers with many corners, towers that are round, towers that are square, and others that have smaller towers within them. In one of these towers, a square one, there live an old man and woman, and close by the tower is a large tree, and every night when I dream of the place, the old man tells me to dig and disclose the treasure. But I am not such a fool as to leave my family because of this dream. It is simply a dream and nothing more. to Only look what has happened to you by coming so far."

"Yes," said the man, "it is a dream and nothing more. I will return to my home." He certainly had wandered far and long to learn that the treasure was in his own garden.

When he returned home he looked as as if he had not been changed at all by his long journey. In fact, he was the cinder and iron gatherer of old.

To all who asked where he had been and what he had been doing, he answered, "A dream sent me away, and a dream brought me back."

And the neighbors would say, "Truly he must be blessed."

But one night the man went to the tree, and after digging a short time a he struck a heavy case. In the case he found gold, silver, and precious jewels of great value. He buried the case again and returned to bed, saying nothing to his wife who was known to all to be unable to keep a secret.

But he wanted to tell her, and so he devised a test of her trustworthiness. The man placed an egg in his bed and the following morning he told his wife, "See here! I am not as other men, for evidently last night I laid this egg in my bed. Wife, if anyone hears of this, I will be in deep trouble indeed with the neighbors."

And without another word he left with a sack on his shoulder to gather the cast-off shoes of horses and oxen. When he returned home in the evening, he heard rumors, ominous rumors, that a man who had been considered a holy man had done something that was unknown in the history of man, even in the history of hens: he had laid a dozen eggs.

Needless to say, he did not tell his wife of the buried treasure, but continued to gather iron and cinders. And somehow, although he never said how, he managed to find each day a gold piece, or a silver piece and now and then a precious stone. And so the junkman lived the rest of his days in comfort and eventually even bought a donkey to ride on his daily rounds.

Revised from the story in the book by Cyrus Adler and Allan Ramsay, Told in the Coffee House: Turkish Tales (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1898), pp. 35-42. Found online at www.pitt.edu/~dash/type1645.html


Rowan said...

Nice haul from your yard saling - I go with my friend on Saturday mornings when I'm staying in NH. It was intriguing to follow the link to the Pedlar of Swaffham, I wish I'd known this tale before, I stayed in Swaffham when I went to my uncle Vic's funeral in Norfolk in 2007 and missed this completely. I shall look out for the pedlar and his church next time I go - I suppose I had other things on my mind last time.

Susan at Stony River said...

Great finds! $5 and 'free', those are my kind of prices LOL. Wonderful story too--it sounds familiar but if I've heard it before it's been too long ago. I'll pass it on to my kids tonight.

Granny Sue said...

Many storytellers tell the Pedlar of Swaffham, Rowan, so I was intrigued to find these variations. And the ending, where he tests his wife's trustworthiness is very similar to a story from Norway that I sometimes tell called Pancake Trees. I am always intrigued by the way stories crop up in various cultures, changed a bit to fit the place, but the same basic theme. Which is why the Stith-Thompson Index exists. It lists tales by type, and this particular type (dream of riches and finds in our backyard) has an actual type number assigned to it, indicating that sotires with this central theme have been found in several cultures.

Granny Sue said...

I would bet you have heard or read it somewhere, Susan. It's quite a popular story. I didn't know until writing the post that there were actual statues and a church, or even that the pedlar had a name. Very cool.

You and I are alike in our price range! Many of the things I found will end up somewhere besides my house--to friends or family, or in a silent auction somewhere. But some--like the chair and the placemats--will stay at my house for sure.

Janet, said...

Loved your finds, Susanne. If we went to yard sales together we'd be reaching for the same things. One bad thing about having yard sales is that you can't go to them, and I hear there were lots on Saturday I missed. I also liked your story.

Laura said...

Wish I could go looking for "junk" with you. I am most enviouse of the blue and white pitcher and honey jar.

Granny Sue said...

You're right, Janet! How funny would that be. I never have sales because I'm too far from the main roads and don't have time to get things ready. So I usually give away my stuff to Goodwill or Salvation Army-or to family and friends.

Laura, I called it a honey jar, but it might be a sugar bowl (although it doesn't match the pitcher) or a jam pot. It has a place for a spoon or honey dipper to fit, so I suppose it could be used for any of those purposes.

Country Whispers said...

Looks like you found some great finds this weekend. I still haven't made it to not one yard sale this year but it's on my to-do list. :)

Granny Sue said...

These were my first this year. I can't get to very many usually so this was fun.

Mimi/Irma said...

My favorite thing to buy at yard sales are small stuffed animals, about Beanie Baby size. My big springer spaniel loves them as "toys" to shake, roll, and chew on. He usually chews the nose off, first. But I don't dare buy one stuffed with those little white plastic roll-y beads! Mimi

PriscillaHowe said...

Thanks for this version of the story, and for the source--I didn't know about that book. Many years ago, I tweaked The Peddlar of Swaffham to place it in Bulgaria, to places I know. It's comforting to know that there might even be a real Bulgarian version of it, as the Turks were there for 500 years.

Granny Sue said...

You're right, Priscilla. I am sure the Pedlar visited many places on his travels :-) I like this version because it's different, and I really like the humorous ending. I will be telling this one. After thinking about it, though, I want to go back to the original source (mine is my edited version) and use the names, etc, in that version.

You know it's a good story when it pops up in so many cultures.

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