The Americans seemed bored.
“I will tell a story,” said Magnus, smiling across the fire. “In this village there once lived two brothers, each jealous of one another. The younger made a bargain with the devil. In exchange for his soul, Satan gave him a mill that would grind anything he desired. Satan showed him how to start the mill, and how to stop it.”
The woman was paying attention, at least.
“This brother soon was the richest man in the village, grinding out gold and silver. But he coveted his older brother’s wife. He traded the mill for her. He showed his brother how to start the mill, but not how to stop it.”
“What happened?” the woman asked.
“The brother went on a sea voyage. He used the mill to salt his porridge. The unstoppable torrent of salt sank the ship and filled the sea.”
There are many versions of this Norwegian folk tale that explain why the sea is salty, including a description of a milling machine that “worked with the order of a person” and filled the sea with salt because of a man’s greed. I suspect this variation is German, since it includes both a deal with the devil and a foolish error that causes catastrophe (both staples of Teutonic lore).