What town was Tree-ear in when two robbers smashed the vases he was carrying?
Tree-ear is attacked by the robbers when he reaches the city Puyo. Thinking the boy's basket may contain food, the robbers take it from him. Angry and disappointed, they smash the expensive pottery. Tree-ear is unwilling to let that disaster be the end to his mentor's dreams of being awarded a royal commission. He selects a large piece of pottery that shows Min's skill and craftsmanship and sets out to finish his journey to see Kim, the king's emissary.
Until the encounter with thieves in Puyo, Tree-ear rested and took time to eat. Once the pottery was shattered, he took off in haste as getting to Kim became more important than before. With a show of self-confidence, Tree-ear manages to meet with Kim, explain what happened, and show him the shard of pottery. Kim was impressed and gave Min the commission.
The incident at Puyo strikes me as an important element of the journey metaphor for Tree-ear's life. Craneman had told him that each journey takes "one day, one village at a time." Up until he arrived at Puyo, others were in charge of his fate and he sometimes resented Min's barking orders at him.
Confronted with possible defeat, Tree-ear grew more bold and determined as a result of the encounter with robbers at Puyo. From that point forward, his dedication to Min led toward the fulfillment of his dream -- to learn from the master potter how to make pottery.
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