Tell your secret to the water?
November 21, 2012 7:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm sure I once read a myth about someone telling a secret to a pool of water--and even this strategy backfiring. The moral of the story being, if you want to keep something secret, never utter a word, not even to the water or the wind. I've tried googling with no success. Can anyone flesh out this memory for me?
posted by uans to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it perhaps the story of King Midas getting cursed with donkey ears?

Midas was mortified at this mishap. He attempted to hide his misfortune under an ample turban or headdress, but his barber of course knew the secret, so was told not to mention it. However, the barber could not keep the secret; he went out into the meadow, dug a hole in the ground, whispered the story into it, then covered the hole up. A thick bed of reeds later sprang up in the meadow, and began whispering the story, saying "King Midas has an ass's ears"
posted by cali59 at 7:14 AM on November 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

This is completely useless, but I remember a folktalk like that as well. I think mine involved whispering it in a cave, though.
posted by katrielalex at 8:08 AM on November 21, 2012

Not directly on point, but perhaps one or more of the myths of Echo.
posted by jph at 8:11 AM on November 21, 2012

I could have sworn I read my version (whispering it to a stone, it gets carried off by the wind, etc) - in a book of Turkish fairy tales, but I'm not finding it in the collections I'm finding online...
posted by you must supply a verb at 8:23 AM on November 21, 2012

There are a number of fairly tales that involve whispering secrets to a stove, with someone hiding in the stove to listen.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:40 AM on November 21, 2012

In the subcontinent, we have the tale of Babban Hajjam, who is called in to shave the head of the nawab sahib's son, at his birth. The child has donkey ears, and Babban, who is a stereotypically garrulous barber, struggles with his oath of secrecy. He whispers into a hollow tree "Nawab Sahib ke gadhe ke kaan (Nawab Sahib has donkey's ears)" As far as he is concerned, that is that. Many years later, the tree is cut down, and the wood is used to make musical instruments. The instruments, of course, belong to the musicians of the new Nawab's, now a grown man, who has hidden his donkey ears successfully till now. At a court concert, the new instruments reveal all to the audience, to the consternation of both nawab and barber. I don't remember what happens to poor Babban, but it can't have been good.

The great thing about the story was that the instruments tell the tale in words that fit the sounds that they would naturally make. So one (can't remember which) says "nawab sahib ke gadhe ke kaan," so the sarangi asks, "Kis ne kaha? (Says who?)" and finally the tabla replies "Babban hajjam, Babban hajjam." Set me off into fits of giggles every time my father told the story.
posted by bardophile at 10:46 AM on November 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

I remember that myth as well, but it was a wishing well or something like that... very similar to King Midas, but not quite. I think it was Turkish.
posted by patheral at 10:47 AM on November 21, 2012

I used to have a cassette of children's stories with a tale called "The King of Togo Togo." It seems to be an adaptation of the stories mentioned above; a king with an embarrassing disfigurement and a barber who tries to keep the secret. If you scroll down on this page, you can find a transcript of the story. "Each piece of grass whispered to the other: the King of Togo Togo has two horns..."
posted by Rora at 4:43 PM on November 21, 2012

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