The Water Mother

The Water Mother

The Water Mother is a Chinese fairy tale collected by Wolfram Eberhard in "Folktales of China". [Wolfram Eberhard, "Folktales of China" p 112 The University of Chicago Press Chicago, 1956] It does not exist in early text, although the cult of the Water Mother existed from the time of the Sung dynasty.

It is Aarne-Thompson type 565. [Wolfram Eberhard, "Folktales of China" p 225 The University of Chicago Press Chicago, 1956] Other tales of this type are "Sweet Porridge" and "Why the Sea Is Salt" -- "Why the Sea Is Salt" also using it as an explantory legend.


A woman lived with her mother-in-law and daughter; though she was dutiful, her mother-in-law hated her. One day, she decreed that they could not buy water from water-carriers, but her daughter-in-law would have to carry it from the well. The work was too hard for her, but she was beaten when she failed. One day, she thought of drowning herself in the well. An old woman told her not to, and gave her a stick to strike the pail with. She was to tell no one and to never strike twice.

For a time, she was happy, but her mother-in-law spied on her, stole the stick, and struck the pail twice. This caused a flood that drowned many houses and her daughter-in-law. The pail had become a spring. Afterward, a temple was raised for the daughter-in-law, and they called her the Water Mother.


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