Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Oil sold to iguana (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Once again, there is no O in the Motif Index (probably because it looks too much like a zero). So I just searched for random terms that begin with O in the Motif Index, and came up with this gem:

J1852.1.2 Oil sold to iguana

This is a folktale from the Shan people in Southeast Asia, titled The Poor Man.

The tale tells about a poor man who wants to make some money. He hears about a city where there is a shortage of oil, so he borrows money from his friends, buys two gourds of oil, and sets out to sell it. On the way to the city he sees an iguana; the iguana sees him too and runs. The man chases the iguana, hoping to catch it for dinner, but the lizard disappears in a hole in the ground. The man starts digging - and lo and behold, finds three pots full of gold, and three pots full of silver. He tosses the gourds of oil away, takes the six pots, and sets out to the city.
When he gets to the marketplace, he wants to walk around, but the pots are very heavy. He goes to a house, and asks the people who live there to watch his pots, saying "there is only a little oil in them." He spends the day strolling around the market, enjoying the thought of being rich... and by the evening, he completely forgets which house he left the pots in. So he goes from door to door, asking for his pots of oil, but everyone denies having them.
Disappointed and tired, the poor man goes back to the hole of the iguana, hoping to find more gold. What he does find, however, is a day's wages in coin, and a written note: "The owner of the gold and silver thanks you for carrying his pots to the city."
The poor man goes home and remains poor.

(Read the story here.)

I have so many questions. Who was the owner of the pots? Was it the guy the poor men left the pots with? Was it someone else? Was it the iguana?!?!


  1. Wow, that is a mindbender of a story.

    So, does this iguana lure travelers to its lair so that they can carry pots into the city for it? And then it leaves them wages? Where does it get the money from? Why is it distributing potfuls of money to the city? Is the iguana a banker?

    Oh no...now I've fallen into an endless whirlpool of questions...

  2. Poor, poor man - such a happy day for him thinking that he's rich, only to find out that nothing has changed. A bit like when we delay checking a lottery ticket just to live with the thought that we might have won.

    Pamela @ Highlands Days of Fun

  3. Poor guy - but then he did nick the iguana's gold and silver.
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - Dragon Diaries

  4. I feel like there's a moral here somewhere I'm missing. Something about an honest day's work, or being happy with what you have? This is the second time today I've ready about people eating iguanas today (was reading Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos earlier today).

    O - The October Crisis

  5. I like to imagine it was the iguana. I mean, of *course* an iguana would need someone to carry the pots. They don't have thumbs or anything... :P

    A to Z 2017: Magical and Medicinal Herbs

  6. Well that's certainly a tale that requires one to fill in a lot of blanks. I think the moral I've derived is iguanas are likely tricksters and greed is not a good thing. :-)

  7. Who might be the owner... mysterious, isn't it? Now this question will linger long as every answer will have its own logic advocating it... and hence the story will last longer in the memory!
    Anagha From Team MocktailMommies
    Collage Of Life

  8. Okay, who in the world would find gold and silver and then leave them with a stranger just to stroll around a city for fun? That's my question.

    O is for Owl Worship

  9. Thanks for the creepy iguana video. I'll stick with the GEICO gecko.

  10. It was probably the iguana's - who was a princess cursed by some crabby wizened old man wizard she'd refused to marry (I'm thinking of yesterdays old man king lusting after 22 year olds) and if she could get two gourds of oil in exchange of the six pots of metal she'd be changed back to her original self and claim her kingdom and get the power to fly invisible across the skies, which was her dream since she was two years old. Yes, that's the story, I think, or at least my version of it. :)

  11. I love iguanas! My guess is that the iguana did it.

  12. this is the most normal one of them all so far. amazing.

  13. Pretty straightforward - don't leave pots of gold and silver in random houses! But I wonder what the symbolism of the iguana is.

  14. Some household not only got a bunch of free gold and silver but also some heavy duty pots. Guess their mom didn't teach them not to open doors to strangers. Good thing!

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador

  15. Lol I, too, have many questions! And I think that poor man should have just paid someone to carry the pots for him (or just gone home instead of going to the market) hehe.

    Here's my "O" post :) http://nataliewestgate.com/2017/04/oversight-secret-diary-of-a-serial-killer