Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Magic Pomegranate

Once there were three brothers who loved adventure. One day they decided to go on a journey, each one to a different country, and to meet again on a certain day ten years later. Each brother was to bring back with him an unusual gift.

The oldest brother decided to go to the East. When he arrived in a certain Eastern town, he was fascinated by what he saw there: magicians, dancing girls, jugglers, and acrobats were everywhere. As the brother was watching the entertainments, he saw one magician hold up a magic glass through which he could see to the distant corners of the kingdom.

“Ah!” thought the oldest brother, “I would like to have that glass, for that would certainly be an unusual object to share with my brothers.” He asked the magician, “Tell me, how much is that glass? I should like to buy it from you.” At first, the magician would not part with his magic glass, but after much pleading by the older brother, and some bargaining, they agreed upon a price and the magician sold the glass to the oldest brother.

The second brother traveled to a country in the West. Wherever he went, he kept his eyes open, and his mind as well. He was always on the lookout for the most unusual gift he could bring back to his brothers.

One day, he was attracted by the cries of an old carpet seller, who called out, “Carpets for sale! Beautiful! Wonderful! Carpets here!” The brother approached the carpet seller and began to examine his carpets, when suddenly he saw the carpet at the bottom of the pile begin to move. It seemed to be moving by itself! “What kind of carpet is this one?” he asked, pointing to the bottom one, which was quite visible by then.

The old merchant motioned for him to bend down and whispered in his ear, “This is a magic carpet. Buy it, and it will take you anywhere you want to go—and quickly too!” The second brother and the carpet seller finally settled upon a price, and the brother took the magic carpet with him, satisfied that he had a most unusual gift.

The youngest brother went South, and when he arrived in a certain country, he traveled far and wide to see what he could find to bring back to his brothers.

Now, this was a country noted for its many forests. One day the youngest brother was walking in a grove of trees when he noticed something strange—a tree that was of a different shape from the hundreds of other trees around it. It was covered with orange-red blossoms, and it was so beautiful!

As the younger brother came closer, he saw that there was only one red pomegranate on the tree.

“This is strange indeed,” thought the young man. “A pomegranate tree with only one pomegranate.” He approached the tree slowly, laughing to himself and thinking of the story he would tell his brothers about the pomegranate tree full of blossoms with only one fruit on it. As he reached for the pomegranate, it fell into his hand even he could pluck it from the branch. As soon as that happened, another pomegranate burst from one of the blossoms. When the brother saw this, he looked at the pomegranate in his hand and said to himself, “This must be a magic pomegranate. It was the only one on the tree, and yet as soon as it fell into my hands when I was about to reach for it, a new pomegranate appeared suddenly. But what kind of magic does it perform, I wonder?”

The youngest brother examined the pomegranate, marveling at its beauty. “The shape is so perfect,” he thought, “crowned with the crown of King Solomon.” He walked away from the tree looking at his mysterious new treasure. When he looked back to see the pomegranate tree once more, it was no longer there. It had disappeared. “Now I know this is a magic pomegranate, and so this is what I will bring to my brothers.”

Ten years passed, and when the three brothers met as they had planned, they embraced with delight. They eagerly showed each other the unusual objects they had brought back from their journeys.

The oldest brother said, “Let me look through my glass and see what I can see.” When he held up the glass, he saw, in a far-off kingdom, a young princess lying ill in bed, near death.

“Quickly, dear brothers, get on my magic carpet and we’ll fly there!” said the second brother. In what seemed like seconds, the three brothers arrived at the far-off kingdom.

In the royal palace of this kingdom, the King, whose daughter lay ill, was grief-stricken. He had sent for every doctor in the country to cure the princess; but they had all failed and there was no hope left for the princess. Finally, the King had sent a messenger throughout the country saying, “Whoever can save my daughter, the princess, will have her hand in marriage, and half the kingdom!”

As if in a dream, the youngest brother heard a voice whisper inside him, “The pomegranate!” The youngest brother approached the King and asked, “May I try to cure the princess?” The King agreed and led the young man to the princess’ chambers.

When the young man saw the princess, he approached quietly and sat by her side. Then he took the pomegranate from his pocket, cut it open with gentle care, carefully cut each kernel from its place, and then fed the juicy red kernels to the princess. In a few moments, the princess felt stronger, and the color returned to her cheeks. Soon, she sat up in her bed, fully restored to health.

The King was overjoyed. He hugged his daughter and, turning to the three young men, he announced, “The man who saved my daughter will many her.”

The three brothers began to quarrel, each one claiming to be the one who should marry the princess.

The oldest brother said, “If it were not for my magic glass, we would never have known the princess was ill in the first place. So, since I discovered this first, I deserve to marry the princess.”

“But, brothers, It was because of my magic carpet that we could arrive so quickly,” argued the second brother. “Otherwise, the princess would have died. I deserve to marry the princess.”

Then the youngest brother said, “It was my magic pomegranate that actually healed the princess. I deserve to marry her.”

Since the three brothers could not decide which one should marry the princess, the King tried to decide. He looked at the three clever young men, but he could not decide who deserved to many his daughter.

The King finally turned to the princess and asked, “Who do you think deserves to marry you, my daughter?”

The princess answered simply, “I will ask each of them a question.” She turned to the oldest brother and asked, “Has your magic glass changed in any way since you arrived in this Kingdom?”

“No,” replied the oldest brother. “My glass is the same as always, and I can look through it and see to every corner of this kingdom.”

The princess then asked the second brother, “Has your magic carpet changed in any way since you arrived in this kingdom?” And the second brother answered, “No, my carpet is the same, and I can fly anywhere on it, as always.”

Turning to the youngest brother, the princess asked, “Has your magic pomegranate changed in any way since you arrived in this Kingdom?” And the youngest brother answered, “Yes, princess, my pomegranate is no longer whole, for I gave you a portion of it”

The princess turned to the three young men and said, “I will marry the youngest brother because he performed the greatest good deed—because he gave up something of his own.

The brothers and the King all understood the wisdom of the Princess. A lavish wedding was arranged for the prin-cess and the youngest brother.

And the King appointed the princess and all three brothers to become his royal advisers.

“The Magic Pomegranate.” Schram, Peninnah. Jewish Stories One Generation Tells Another. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., ©1987. p. 180-181.

Pomegranate Ginger Muffins

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 16 minutes

2 cups all-purpose flour
About 2/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1-1/4 cups pomegranate seeds
1 cup milk
1 large egg
About 1/4 cup (1/8 pound) butter or margarine, melted and cooled

In a bowl, mix flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in crystallized ginger, lemon peel, and pomegranate seeds. Make a well in the center.

In a measuring cup, blend milk, egg, and 1/4 cup butter. Pour liquid all at once into well. Stir just until batter is moistened; it will be lumpy.

Spoon batter into 12 (2-1/2-inch-wide) or 24 (1-3/4-inch-wide) buttered muffin cups, filling each almost to the rim. Sprinkle with 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar.

Bake in a 425-degree F oven until lightly browned, about 16 minutes for large muffins, 13 minutes for small. Remove muffins from pan at once. Serve hot or set on a rack and serve warm or cool.