Sweet Porridge

sweet porridgeIn this folktale (also known as “The Magic Porridge Pot”), a poor but good little girl looking for something to eat is given a magic pot by a kind old woman. When someone said some special words, the pot cooked sweet porridge. The only problem was that special words were also needed to make the pot stop cooking. There are a number of other folktales with similar themes, as well as a poem which inspired a short piece of orchestral music that has since become famous thanks to a 1940 Disney movie.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The name of the story is Sweet Porridge. The word here means good to eat because it has a nice taste.

The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Beginner Level 400 word list are: , , , , and .

General Comments on the Story

One of the interesting things about folktales is that their history can often be traced back over hundreds and in some cases thousands of years. In the introduction to the 1940 Disney version of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, the conductor says that the story upon which the music is based goes back almost 2,000 years. The music by French composer Paul Dukas was inspired by a poem of the same name written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1797. The oldest known variation of this type of story is said to be “The Egyptian Miracle Worker”, found in “Philopseudes” (Lover of Lies), written by Lucian around AD 150. This appears to be the source for the Goethe poem and could well be the source for most other “Sweet Porridge” themed folktales.

household talesOur source for the story was a book called Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm from British writer and translator Margaret Hunt. The book, which was first published in 1884, contains translations of all 200 Grimm folktales plus 10 legends. It can be downloaded in various e-book forms from Project Gutenberg here.


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sweet(adj: sweet, sweeter, sweetest) 1. Containing a lot of sugar; not sour, salty or bitter. Children eat too many sweet foods. 2. Having a very pleasant smell, sound, or appearance. 3. Very gentle, kind, or friendly. She's a sweet girl. The child has a sweet nature. 2000

cook(v: cook, cooks, cooked, cooking) To prepare (food) for eating by using heat. 1000

floor(n: floor pl floors) The part of a room on which you stand or walk. 1000

forest(n: forest pl forests) A thick growth of trees and bushes that covers a large area. 2000

porridge(n: porridge, noncount) A soft food made by boiling rolled oats in water or milk. 6000

pot(n: pot pl pots) A deep, round container that is used in cooking, for holding food, liquids etc, or for growing plants. 2000

Disney’s original version of ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ (10 minutes). This was the third and most famous segment of the 1940 film ‘Fantasia’, and the only segment from the original film to also feature in the sequel, ‘Fantasia 2000’. To watch online, click here. To download the mp4, click here.

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