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Created On 15 April 2001
Last Updated On 15 April 2001
Copyright © 2001 Simon E. Phipp

Eurmal and the Hot Water Test [1]

Once, before the Storms came and the Sun died, Eurmal was sitting in his hut wondering what to do. Suddenly he jumped up and remembered that it was harvest time and he had no crops in the fields and nothing to eat, so he went to Heler's stead and asked if he could help harvest Heler's crops. Well, Heler was surprised that Eurmal had offered to help because Eurmal was lazy and never helped anyone, but he thanked Eurmal as he was grateful for any help. In those days, as now, when there is a harvest all the neighbours help out so that all the crops can be quickly gathered in [2], so with Heler was Eurmal, Barntar, Yinkin, Elmal and many of the others from the Storm Tribe, and everyone agreed to get up early in the morning and help Heler harvest his crops. However, cunning Eurmal was up before anyone else and dug a hole in the ground at the edge of Heler's fields, lining  the hole with clay and covering it with grass. When everyone arrived they were surprised that Eurmal was up early and eager to start.

Eurmal toiled long and hard, but for every grain that he put into his basket he put another into his hole. Soon the others noticed that although he seemed to be working hard, he was not collecting much grain at all. "Look at Eurmal pretending to work hard to get a free meal" they said and left it at that. Soon, all the crops had been harvested and they returned to Heler's hut for a harvest meal. [3] Later that night, Eurmal uncovered the hole and moved all the grain into a sack in his hut and then fell fast asleep. In the morning, Yinkin was out of the prowl and came across the hole in the ground. He followed the tracks to Eurmal's hut and peeked in, seeing the sack of grain. At once he ran to Heler and told him what he had seen. Heler and his friends came to Eurmal and confronted him with the evidence of his theft, but Eurmal claimed he was innocent and the grains could have been put there by anyone and he accused all those who had helped with the harvest. Heler was in a rage and demanded that Eurmal face a Trial of Proof as was his right, but Eurmal said that because the others were at fault, they should take the test as well and Heler agreed. He demanded the Hot Water Test [4] as was his right as a member of the Water Tribe and they all agreed.

Everyone gathered in the moot place and Heler lined up Barntar, Yinkin, Elmal and Eurmal and prepared a kettle of boiling hot water. Eurmal said that because he was being falsely accused, the others should take the Hot Water Test first and Heler agreed. He handed the kettle to Barntar who poured a small amount into a cup and swallowed it, yelping with pain as it went down. Yinkin was next and also drank a small amount, yowling in pain [5]. Elmal was of the Fire Tribe but still groaned when he drank a small amount of Hot Water. Finally, the kettle was passed to Eurmal and he poured a large bowl of water and prepared to drink it. However, he went to Heler and said that he was not afraid of the Hot Water Test for he had poured the biggest bowl and he showed the bowl to Heler. Then he went to Ernalda and did the same, then to Orlanth, then to Vinga and to Voria, each time showing them the bowl full of Hot Water and telling them, at great length, how brave he was and how he was not afraid to take the Hot Water Test. At last, even Orlanth grew tired of this boasting and roared that Eurmal should drink the Hot Water. Obviously cowed, Eurmal walked slowly back to his place and drank down the water in one huge gulp, but not one cry escaped his lips for the Hot Water had cooled down during his movements [6]. Heler was astonished and Orlanth ruled that Eurmal could keep the grain and that Barntar, Yinkin and Elmal should give to Eurmal a sack of grain of the same size. Eurmal went back to his hut and lay down on his mat, well pleased with his work.

Even now, there is a saying in Tarsh that when Eurmal is accusing everyone he must really be in trouble.


1. This is taken from a folk tale Tortoise and the Hot-Water Test of the Yoruba people of West Africa, taken from African Myths and Legends published by Brockhampton Press.

2. Communal harvest is common amongst the more traditional Orlanthi farmers of Tarsh and Sartar.

3. After the communal harvest, the owner of the fields gives all those who helped a free meal to thank them and also to give thanks for the bountiful harvest.

4. The Hot Water Test is a Trial by Ordeal that is known in some parts of Dragon Pass, mainly in Tarsh, Sartar and the Holy Country. It was introduced by Heler after an encounter with Lodril in Caladraland and involves the participants drinking boiling hot water from a kettle, with the guilty parties crying in pain. It is normally invoked when both parties could be at fault as it is probable that both parties would be hurt and could all save face.

5. Eurmali say that this is why cats do not drink tea, but Orlanthi and the followers of Yinkin dismiss this as folly and say that cats do not like tea, preferring to drink milk.

6. The Eurmali of Tarsh have a HeroQuest that they can perform that enables them to get around the Hot Water Test in this way. Even though people know the legend, Eurmali performing this Quest are believed to pass the Test.