On a recent trip to Estonia I came across this Russian children’s book in a second hand shop. I instantly fell for the style, colours and character illustrations. Once home I discovered the book is called ‘Why the sea is salty’, a Karelian folk tale.
The story features two brothers, one poor the other rich. The poorer brother asks his richer brother for food, he is sent into the woods to give a goblin a gift. Woodcutters tell him to not take any riches from the goblin only a millstone. Happy with his gift the goblin offers gold and precious jewels but the brother only takes a millstone. The goblin tells him to grind the magic millstone until he has enough. The poor brother becomes prosperous and stops grinding the millstone. The richer brother asks how he became so well off, he borrows the millstone and disappeared before he found out how to stop the stone from grinding. He decides to sell salt to the fishermen for their fresh fish, takes his boat out to sea and asks the millstone to grind salt. But he doesn’t know how to make the millstone stop, the boat becomes full and sinks, killing the man because of his greed. This is why the sea is salty. The moral of the story: be thankful for what you have.
If anyone can tell me the name of the illustrator it would be much appreciated.
Update: Thanks to Tom who translated the text and discovered ‘Painter – M. Maiofis’ and discovered Mikhail Maiofis was a Russian children’s illustrator. Mikhail Maiofis work can also be found on the Bibliodyssey website.