Karakalpak Folk Tales
Once upon a time there was an old woodcutter. He had neither a son nor a daughter. He lived only with his sick old wife. The old man used to take his axe and rope every morning and go to a river outside his town and cut one or two armfuls of wood from there, depending on his strength, and bring it to the town market where he would sell the wood for one silver coin or for three dimes an armful of wood to buy bread for himself and his wife. He would then return home in the evening.
After many years of poverty, his wife said to the old man: ?My old man, this kind of life will never do. Let us go to a holy shrine and spend a night there asking for a son and a daughter from God. If God grants us a son and a daughter, the son will help you and make your life easier in our old days. And the daughter will make my life easier when I grow too old.?
However, the old man did not like this idea. He said: ?My old lady, we are now almost eighty years old. I do not think that God will grant us any children at this age. I have heard that God grants the wishes of the young, but not the old. When we were young we asked neither a son nor a daughter from God. Now God will not give us them. We are now almost eighty-years-old. We will soon die even without seeing them grow up. God knows in what cemetery will we be lying by the time the children have grown up. And we will not even have time to enjoy the pleasures that our son and daughter might offer us. Come on, my old lady. Let us not ask for a son and a daughter from God. Let us rather ask God for food enough to sustain us till we die.?
From then on, every morning when the woodcutter went out to cut some wood, he came to the river and asked God for 1,000 gold coins.
He used to pray: ?If God gives me 999 gold coins, I will not take them, unless God gives me the full 1,000 gold coins.?
One day, after his morning prayer, he left for the riverside to cut some wood. He found a suitable bush and hacked at its root with his axe. The axe hit something metallic. The woodcutter immediately dug out and found out what was there; it turned out to be a jar full of gold coins. The woodcutter counted them. There were exactly 999 gold coins. The old woodcutter thought for a while and said: ?Oh God! what a mean God you are! He gives me 1,000 gold coins and yet it falls short of only one gold coin. Well, when I asked for 1,000 gold coins from you, I vowed I would not accept your gift if it falls short by even just one gold coin. If you want to give me something, please offer me exactly what I asked of you, otherwise I will not take anything from you.?
The old woodcutter put the money in its place and left for home. As he was leaving the riverside, he met two young people.
?"Hey, woodcutter elder brother, why are you so sad? Has anyone hurt you?? they asked the woodcutter.
The woodcutter gave the following answer: ?My sons, I asked God to grant me 1,000 gold coins, just enough for my wife and me to last to our last days. I vowed to him that I would refuse to take anything less than 1,000 gold coins. I have found the gold coins at a bush by the riverside today, but it was not 1,000 gold coins, it was 999 gold coins in a jar. So I had to keep my vow and put the money back it its place. That is the reason for my weeping.?
The young men looked at each other and said: ?God has not got His own wealth. He takes wealth from someone and gives it to someone else. Let us go and take the gold coins, take them to the town market, buy a good horse for each of us and a falcon for each of us to perch on our hands, build a house and live on the remaining coins for the rest of our days.?
So the young people came to the bush and dug out the jar. When they looked into the jar it was full of scorpions. The scorpions stung the young men's hands. The young men said: ?Since the old woodcutter deceived us, we must take revenge on him...