Robinson Crusoe Written Anew for Children  by James Baldwin

I Become a Potter

WHEN it came to making bread, I found that I needed several vessels. In fact, I needed them in many ways.

It would be hard to make wooden vessels. Of course it was out of the question to make vessels of iron or any other metal. But why might I not make some earthen vessels?

If I could find some good clay, I felt quite sure that I could make pots strong enough to be of use.

After much trouble I found the clay. The next thing was to shape it into pots or jars.

You would have laughed to see the first things I tried to make. How ugly they were!

Some of them fell in pieces of their own weight. Some of them fell in pieces when I tried to lift them.

They were of all shapes and sizes.

After I had worked two months I had only two large jars that were fit to look at. These I used for holding my rice and barley meal.

Then I tried some smaller things, and did quite well.

I made some plates, a pitcher, and some little jars that would hold about a pint.

All these I baked in the hot sun. They kept their shape, and seemed quite hard. But of course they would not hold water or bear the heat of the fire.

One day when I was cooking my meat for dinner, I made a very hot fire. When I was done with it, I raked down the coals and poured water on it to put it out.

It so happened that one of my little earthenware jars had fallen into the fire and been broken. I had not taken it out, but had left it in the hot flames.

Now, as I was raking out the coals, I found some pieces of it and was surprised at the sight of them, for they were burned as hard as stones and as red as tiles.

"If broken pieces will burn so," said I, "why cannot a whole jar be made as hard and as red as these?"

I had never seen potters at work. I did not know how to build a kiln for firing the pots. I had never heard how earthenware is glazed.

But I made up my mind to see what could be done.

I put several pots and small jars in a pile, one upon another. I laid dry wood all over and about them, and then set it on fire.

As fast as the wood burned up, I heaped other pieces upon the fire. The hot flames roared all round the jars and pots. The red coals burned beneath them.


I kept the fire going all day. I could see the pots become red-hot through and through. The sand on the side of a little jar began to melt and run.

After that I let the fire go down, little by little. I watched it all night, for I did not wish the pots and jars to cool too quickly.

In the morning I found that I had three very good earthen pots. They were not at all pretty, but they were as hard as rocks and would hold water.

I had two fine jars also, and one of them was well glazed with the melted sand.

After this I made all the pots and jars and plates and pans that I needed. They were of all shapes and sizes.

You would have laughed to see them.

Of course I was awkward at this work. I was like a child making mud pies.

But how glad I was when I found that I had a vessel that would bear the fire! I could hardly wait to put some water in it and boil me some meat.

That night I had turtle soup and barley broth for supper.