The Miser, the Girl, the Jar and the Fool

Originally Published in 1915

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Once upon a time there was an old miser who had a beautiful jar. Now this jar was so very beautiful that everyone who saw it wanted to buy it, but the old miser thought no one offered enough for it.

One day when the old man came home from his work in the milpa, his daughter, who was grinding corn, said, “Three people, a gentleman, a man and a priest, came to see the jar this morning.” “And what didst thou tell them?” asked the old man. “I told them to come back this afternoon,” replied the girl. “Thou art a wise girl and thou hast made good use of thy wisdom,” declared the old man, “and when these three return, as they surely will,” he continued, “thou must say to each that thou hast decided to sell the jar for five hundred pesos without my knowledge. Tell the gentleman to come for it at eight o’clock tonight, the man to come at half-past eight and the priest to come at nine.” The girl did as she was told and at eight o’clock the gentleman arrived, but just as the girl had finished counting the money he brought, there was a noise at the door of the hut, and throwing the money into one corner, she cried, “Go up in the loft, gentleman, for my father comes and if he finds you here he will kill you.” So the gentleman hurried up to the loft and the man came in, but before he could get off with the jar there was again a noise at the door and the girl with the same words sent the man after the gentleman. The priest arrived at nine and was in a great hurry. He actually had the coveted jar in his arms when the voice of the miser was heard outside and the girl, seeing that the priest trembled with fear, said, “Put down the jar and go up in the loft.” When the miser entered he asked, “Where is the gentleman’s money?”

“There in the corner,” answered the girl.

“And the man’s money?”

“There in the corner.”

“And the priest’s money?”

“There in the corner.”

After a pause the old man asked, “And the gentleman, where is he?”

“Up in the loft,” answered the girl.

“And the man?”

“Up in the loft.”

“And the priest?”

“Up in the loft,”

“Thou art indeed a wise girl,” said the old man, and putting the bag he carried on his back in the middle of the floor he set fire to it and soon the people in the loft died of suffocation, for the bag was full of dry pods of the red pepper plant.

“Well, well,” chuckled the old man, “we still have the jar and three times five hundred pesos as well.” “But we also have a dead gentleman, a dead man and a dead priest up in the loft,” said the girl. “The Fool will dispose of them for us,” chuckled the old man. “To-morrow morning early,” he continued, “I shall go in search of him and tell him that thou halt sent me to ask him to eat breakfast with us.”

Now the girl knew that the Fool loved her so much that he would do whatever she asked, so when they had eaten she told him that she and her father were sore troubled because a priest who had come to sup with them the night before had choked to death on a bit of tortilla and that, being frightened lest it should be found out, they had put him in the loft where he still lay, as they dared not take him out for burial.” “Don’t worry over a dead priest,” said the Fool, “for I’ll dispose of him if you solemnly promise to marry me when he is out of the way.” The girl agreed to the Fool’s proposal, but no sooner had he set out with the dead priest on his back than she sewed a cassock and put it on the gentleman. When the Fool returned and claimed his reward, the girl laughed and said, “Now don’t think to deceive me, for full well I know that while I went to the brook to fetch water you sneaked in and lay the priest again in the loft.” When the Fool saw the gentleman in the cassock, he scratched his head and said, “I buried you once and I’ll bury you again.” When the Fool had set out with the gentleman on his back the girl sewed another cassock and put it on the man. And when the Fool came back and said, “He’ll lie where I put him this time, for I piled great stones on his grave,” the girl frowned and said petulantly, “Why do you try to deceive me, for I know that while I was out gathering brushwood to bake the tortillas, you crept back and put the priest upstairs.” All the Fool said when he saw the man in the cassock was, “Well, I’ll wager he doesn’t come back after I bury him the third time.” As soon as the Fool set off with the man on his back the girl called her father who was hiding near by. He came in and strapped the jar now full of money on his back. She strapped the grinding stone on her back and they set fire to the hut and walked towards the east. But they had not gone far when the old man caught his foot in a root, and stumbling, fell into a dark pool that lay alongside the road. The girl plunged in to try to save him, but with the weight of the grinding stone she sank too, and that was the end of them. The Fool, coming back and not finding the hut, followed the tracks of the miser and the girl to the edge of the pool, where he sat down and wept.

The Duende came along and taking pity on him changed him into the donde bird. And to this day the donde bird may be seen haunting the margins of pools crying, “donde, donde,” “where, where.”

Cite This Article

"The Miser, the Girl, the Jar and the Fool." The Museum Journal VI, no. 3 (September, 1915): 134-136. Accessed February 21, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/journal/429/


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