Part 1 out of 4
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JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
YEI THEODORA OZAKI
Profusely Illustrated by Japanese Artists
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO YOU AND TO THE SWEET CHILD-FRIENDSHIP THAT
YOU GAVE ME IN THE DAYS SPENT WITH YOU BY THE SOUTHERN SEA, WHEN YOU
USED TO LISTEN WITH UNFEIGNED PLEASURE TO THESE FAIRY STORIES FROM
FAR JAPAN. MAY THEY NOW REMIND YOU OF MY CHANGELESS LOVE AND
Y. T. O.
This collection of Japanese fairy tales is the outcome of a
suggestion made to me indirectly through a friend by Mr. Andrew
Lang. They have been translated from the modern version written by
Sadanami Sanjin. These stories are not literal translations, and
though the Japanese story and all quaint Japanese expressions have
been faithfully preserved, they have been told more with the view to
interest young readers of the West than the technical student of
Grateful acknowledgment is due to Mr. Y. Yasuoka, Miss Fusa Okamoto,
my brother Nobumori Ozaki, Dr. Yoshihiro Takaki, and Miss Kameko
Yamao, who have helped me with translations.
The story which I have named "The Story of the Man who did not Wish
to Die" is taken from a little book written a hundred years ago by
one Shinsui Tamenaga. It is named Chosei Furo, or "Longevity." "The
Bamboo-cutter and the Moon-child" is taken from the classic
"Taketari Monogatari," and is NOT classed by the Japanese among
their fairy tales, though it really belongs to this class of
The pictures were drawn by Mr. Kakuzo Fujiyama, a Tokio artist.
In telling these stories in English I have followed my fancy in
adding such touches of local color or description as they seemed to
need or as pleased me, and in one or two instances I have gathered
in an incident from another version. At all times, among my friends,
both young and old, English or American, I have always found eager
listeners to the beautiful legends and fairy tales of Japan, and in
telling them I have also found that they were still unknown to the
vast majority, and this has encouraged me to write them for the
children of the West.
Y. T. O.
MY LORD BAG OF RICE
THE TONGUE-CUT SPARROW
THE STORY OF URASHIMA TARO, THE FISHER LAD
THE FARMER AND THE BADGER
THE "shinansha," OR THE SOUTH POINTING CARRIAGE
THE ADVENTURES OF KINTARO, THE GOLDEN BOY
THE STORY OF PRINCESS HASE
THE STORY OF THE MAN WHO DID NOT WISH TO DIE
THE BAMBOO-CUTTER AND THE MOON-CHILD
THE MIRROR OF MATSUYAMA
THE GOBLIN OF ADACHIGAHARA
THE SAGACIOUS MONKEY AND THE BOAR
THE HAPPY HUNTER AND THE SKILLFUL FISHER
THE STORY OF THE OLD MAN WHO MADE WITHERED TREES TO FLOWER
THE JELLY FISH AND THE MONKEY
THE QUARREL OF THE MONKEY AND THE CRAB
THE WHITE HARE AND THE CROCODILES
THE STORY OF PRINCE YAMATO TAKE
MOMOTARO, OR THE STORY OF THE SON OF A PEACH
THE OGRE OF RASHOMON
HOW AN OLD MAN LOST HIS WEN
THE STONES OF FIVE COLORS AND THE EMPRESS JOKWA
JAPANESE FAIRY TALES.
MY LORD BAG OF RICE.
Long, long ago there lived, in Japan a brave warrior known to all as
Tawara Toda, or "My Lord Bag of Rice." His true name was Fujiwara
Hidesato, and there is a very interesting story of how he came to
change his name.
One day he sallied forth in search of adventures, for he had the
nature of a warrior and could not bear to be idle. So he buckled on
his two swords, took his huge bow, much taller than himself, in his
hand, and slinging his quiver on his back started out. He had not
gone far when he came to the bridge of Seta-no-Karashi spanning one
end of the beautiful Lake Biwa. No sooner had he set foot on the
bridge than he saw lying right across his path a huge serpent-
dragon. Its body was so big that it looked like the trunk of a large
pine tree and it took up the whole width of the bridge. One of its
huge claws rested on the parapet of one side of the bridge, while
its tail lay right against the other. The monster seemed to be
asleep, and as it breathed, fire and smoke came out of its nostrils.
At first Hidesato could not help feeling alarmed at the sight of
this horrible reptile lying in his path, for he must either turn
back or walk right over its body. He was a brave man, however, and
putting aside all fear went forward dauntlessly. Crunch, crunch! he
stepped now on the dragon's body, now between its coils, and without
even one glance backward he went on his way.
He had only gone a few steps when he heard some one calling him from
behind. On turning back he was much surprised to see that the
monster dragon had entirely disappeared and in its place was a
strange-looking man, who was bowing most ceremoniously to the
ground. His red hair streamed over his shoulders and was surmounted
by a crown in the shape of a dragon's head, and his sea-green dress
was patterned with shells. Hidesato knew at once that this was no
ordinary mortal and he wondered much at the strange occurrence.
Where had the dragon gone in such a short space of time? Or had it
transformed itself into this man, and what did the whole thing mean?
While these thoughts passed through his mind he had come up to the
man on the bridge and now addressed him:
"Was it you that called me just now?"
"Yes, it was I," answered the man: "I have an earnest request to
make to you. Do you think you can grant it to me?"
"If it is in my power to do so I will," answered Hidesato, "but
first tell me who you are?"
"I am the Dragon King of the Lake, and my home is in these waters
just under this bridge."
"And what is it you have to ask of me!" said Hidesato.
"I want you to kill my mortal enemy the centipede, who lives on the
mountain beyond," and the Dragon King pointed to a high peak on the
opposite shore of the lake.
"I have lived now for many years in this lake and I have a large
family of children and grand-children. For some time past we have
lived in terror, for a monster centipede has discovered our home,
and night after night it comes and carries off one of my family. I
am powerless to save them. If it goes on much longer like this, not
only shall I lose all my children, but I myself must fall a victim
to the monster. I am, therefore, very unhappy, and in my extremity I
determined to ask the help of a human being. For many days with this
intention I have waited on the bridge in the shape of the horrible
serpent-dragon that you saw, in the hope that some strong brave man
would come along. But all who came this way, as soon as they saw me
were terrified and ran away as fast as they could. You are the first
man I have found able to look at me without fear, so I knew at once
that you were a man of great courage. I beg you to have pity upon
me. Will you not help me and kill my enemy the centipede?"
Hidesato felt very sorry for the Dragon King on hearing his story,
and readily promised to do what he could to help him. The warrior
asked where the centipede lived, so that he might attack the
creature at once. The Dragon King replied that its home was on the
mountain Mikami, but that as it came every night at a certain hour
to the palace of the lake, it would be better to wait till then. So
Hidesato was conducted to the palace of the Dragon King, under the
bridge. Strange to say, as he followed his host downwards the waters
parted to let them pass, and his clothes did not even feel damp as
he passed through the flood. Never had Hidesato seen anything so
beautiful as this palace built of white marble beneath the lake. He
had often heard of the Sea King's palace at the bottom of the sea,
where all the servants and retainers were salt-water fishes, but
here was a magnificent building in the heart of Lake Biwa. The
dainty goldfishes, red carp, and silvery trout, waited upon the
Dragon King and his guest.
Hidesato was astonished at the feast that was spread for him. The
dishes were crystallized lotus leaves and flowers, and the
chopsticks were of the rarest ebony. As soon as they sat down, the
sliding doors opened and ten lovely goldfish dancers came out, and
behind them followed ten red-carp musicians with the koto and the
samisen. Thus the hours flew by till midnight, and the beautiful
music and dancing had banished all thoughts of the centipede. The
Dragon King was about to pledge the warrior in a fresh cup of wine
when the palace was suddenly shaken by a tramp, tramp! as if a
mighty army had begun to march not far away.
Hidesato and his host both rose to their feet and rushed to the
balcony, and the warrior saw on the opposite mountain two great
balls of glowing fire coming nearer and nearer. The Dragon King
stood by the warrior's side trembling with fear.
"The centipede! The centipede! Those two balls of fire are its eyes.
It is coming for its prey! Now is the time to kill it."
Hidesato looked where his host pointed, and, in the dim light of the
starlit evening, behind the two balls of fire he saw the long body
of an enormous centipede winding round the mountains, and the light
in its hundred feet glowed like so many distant lanterns moving
slowly towards the shore.
Hidesato showed not the least sign of fear. He tried to calm the
"Don't be afraid. I shall surely kill the centipede. Just bring me
my bow and arrows."
The Dragon King did as he was bid, and the warrior noticed that he
had only three arrows left in his quiver. He took the bow, and
fitting an arrow to the notch, took careful aim and let fly.
The arrow hit the centipede right in the middle of its head, but
instead of penetrating, it glanced off harmless and fell to the
Nothing daunted, Hidesato took another arrow, fitted it to the notch
of the bow and let fly. Again the arrow hit the mark, it struck the
centipede right in the middle of its head, only to glance off and
fall to the ground. The centipede was invulnerable to weapons! When
the Dragon King saw that even this brave warrior's arrows were
powerless to kill the centipede, he lost heart and began to tremble
The warrior saw that he had now only one arrow left in his quiver,
and if this one failed he could not kill the centipede. He looked
across the waters. The huge reptile had wound its horrid body seven
times round the mountain and would soon come down to the lake.
Nearer and nearer gleamed fireballs of eyes, and the light of its
hundred feet began to throw reflections in the still waters of the
Then suddenly the warrior remembered that he had heard that human
saliva was deadly to centipedes. But this was no ordinary centipede.
This was so monstrous that even to think of such a creature made one
creep with horror. Hidesato determined to try his last chance. So
taking his last arrow and first putting the end of it in his mouth,
he fitted the notch to his bow, took careful aim once more and let
This time the arrow again hit the centipede right in the middle of
its head, but instead of glancing off harmlessly as before, it
struck home to the creature's brain. Then with a convulsive shudder
the serpentine body stopped moving, and the fiery light of its great
eyes and hundred feet darkened to a dull glare like the sunset of a
stormy day, and then went out in blackness. A great darkness now
overspread the heavens, the thunder rolled and the lightning
flashed, and the wind roared in fury, and it seemed as if the world
were coming to an end. The Dragon King and his children and
retainers all crouched in different parts of the palace, frightened
to death, for the building was shaken to its foundation. At last the
dreadful night was over. Day dawned beautiful and clear. The
centipede was gone from the mountain.
Then Hidesato called to the Dragon King to come out with him on the
balcony, for the centipede was dead and he had nothing more to fear.
Then all the inhabitants of the palace came out with joy, and
Hidesato pointed to the lake. There lay the body of the dead
centipede floating on the water, which was dyed red with its blood.
The gratitude of the Dragon King knew no bounds. The whole family
came and bowed down before the warrior, calling him their preserver
and the bravest warrior in all Japan.
Another feast was prepared, more sumptuous than the first. All kinds
of fish, prepared in every imaginable way, raw, stewed, boiled and
roasted, served on coral trays and crystal dishes, were put before
him, and the wine was the best that Hidesato had ever tasted in his
life. To add to the beauty of everything the sun shone brightly, the
lake glittered like a liquid diamond, and the palace was a thousand
times more beautiful by day than by night.
His host tried to persuade the warrior to stay a few days, but
Hidesato insisted on going home, saying that he had now finished
what he had come to do, and must return. The Dragon King and his
family were all very sorry to have him leave so soon, but since he
would go they begged him to accept a few small presents (so they
said) in token of their gratitude to him for delivering them forever
from their horrible enemy the centipede.
As the warrior stood in the porch taking leave, a train of fish was
suddenly transformed into a retinue of men, all wearing ceremonial
robes and dragon's crowns on their heads to show that they were
servants of the great Dragon King. The presents that they carried
were as follows:
First, a large bronze bell.
Second, a bag of rice.
Third, a roll of silk.
Fourth, a cooking pot.
Fifth, a bell.
Hidesato did not want to accept all these presents, but as the
Dragon King insisted, he could not well refuse.
The Dragon King himself accompanied the warrior as far as the
bridge, and then took leave of him with many bows and good wishes,
leaving the procession of servants to accompany Hidesato to his
house with the presents.
The warrior's household and servants had been very much concerned
when they found that he did not return the night before, but they
finally concluded that he had been kept by the violent storm and had
taken shelter somewhere. When the servants on the watch for his
return caught sight of him they called to every one that he was
approaching, and the whole household turned out to meet him,
wondering much what the retinue of men, bearing presents and
banners, that followed him, could mean.
As soon as the Dragon King's retainers had put down the presents
they vanished, and Hidesato told all that had happened to him.
The presents which he had received from the grateful Dragon King
were found to be of magic power. The bell only was ordinary, and as
Hidesato had no use for it he presented it to the temple near by,
where it was hung up, to boom out the hour of day over the
The single bag of rice, however much was taken from it day after day
for the meals of the knight and his whole family, never grew less--
the supply in the bag was inexhaustible.
The roll of silk, too, never grew shorter, though time after time
long pieces were cut off to make the warrior a new suit of clothes
to go to Court in at the New Year.
The cooking pot was wonderful, too. No matter what was put into it,
it cooked deliciously whatever was wanted without any firing--truly
a very economical saucepan.
The fame of Hidesato's fortune spread far and wide, and as there was
no need for him to spend money on rice or silk or firing, he became
very rich and prosperous, and was henceforth known as My Lord Bag of
THE TONGUE-CUT SPARROW.
Long, long ago in Japan there lived an old man and his wife. The old
man was a good, kind-hearted, hard-working old fellow, but his wife
was a regular cross-patch, who spoiled the happiness of her home by
her scolding tongue. She was always grumbling about something from
morning to night. The old man had for a long time ceased to take any
notice of her crossness. He was out most of the day at work in the
fields, and as he had no child, for his amusement when he came home,
he kept a tame sparrow. He loved the little bird just as much as if
she had been his child.
When he came back at night after his hard day's work in the open air
it was his only pleasure to pet the sparrow, to talk to her and to
teach her little tricks, which she learned very quickly. The old man
would open her cage and let her fly about the room, and they would
play together. Then when supper-time came, he always saved some tit-
bits from his meal with which to feed his little bird.
Now one day the old man went out to chop wood in the forest, and the
old woman stopped at home to wash clothes. The day before, she had
made some starch, and now when she came to look for it, it was all
gone; the bowl which she had filled full yesterday was quite empty.
While she was wondering who could have used or stolen the starch,
down flew the pet sparrow, and bowing her little feathered head--a
trick which she had been taught by her master--the pretty bird
chirped and said:
"It is I who have taken the starch. I thought it was some food put
out for me in that basin, and I ate it all. If I have made a mistake
I beg you to forgive me! tweet, tweet, tweet!"
You see from this that the sparrow was a truthful bird, and the old
woman ought to have been willing to forgive her at once when she
asked her pardon so nicely. But not so.
The old woman had never loved the sparrow, and had often quarreled
with her husband for keeping what she called a dirty bird about the
house, saying that it only made extra work for her. Now she was only
too delighted to have some cause of complaint against the pet. She
scolded and even cursed the poor little bird for her bad behavior,
and not content with using these harsh, unfeeling words, in a fit of
rage she seized the sparrow--who all this time had spread out her
wings and bowed her head before the old woman, to show how sorry she
was--and fetched the scissors and cut off the poor little bird's
"I suppose you took my starch with that tongue! Now you may see what
it is like to go without it! "And with these dreadful words she
drove the bird away, not caring in the least what might happen to it
and without the smallest pity for its suffering, so unkind was she!
The old woman, after she had driven the sparrow away, made some more
rice-paste, grumbling all the time at the trouble, and after
starching all her clothes, spread the things on boards to dry in the
sun, instead of ironing them as they do in England.
In the evening the old man came home. As usual, on the way back he
looked forward to the time when he should reach his gate and see his
pet come flying and chirping to meet him, ruffling out her feathers
to show her joy, and at last coming to rest on his shoulder. But to-
night the old man was very disappointed, for not even the shadow of
his dear sparrow was to be seen.
He quickened his steps, hastily drew off his straw sandals, and
stepped on to the veranda. Still no sparrow was to be seen. He now
felt sure that his wife, in one of her cross tempers, had shut the
sparrow up in its cage. So he called her and said anxiously:
"Where is Suzume San (Miss Sparrow) today?"
The old woman pretended not to know at first, and answered:
"Your sparrow? I am sure I don't know. Now I come to think of it, I
haven't seen her all the afternoon. I shouldn't wonder if the un-
grateful bird had flown away and left you after all your petting!"
But at last, when the old man gave her no peace, but asked her again
and again, insisting that she must know what had happened to his
pet, she confessed all. She told him crossly how the sparrow had
eaten the rice-paste she had specially made for starching her
clothes, and how when the sparrow had confessed to what she had
done, in great anger she had taken her scissors and cut out her
tongue, and how finally she had driven the bird away and forbidden
her to return to the house again.
Then the old woman showed her husband the sparrow's tongue, saying:
"Here is the tongue I cut off! Horrid little bird, why did it eat
all my starch?"
"How could you be so cruel? Oh! how could you so cruel?" was all
that the old man could answer. He was too kind-hearted to punish his
be shrew of a wife, but he was terribly distressed at what had
happened to his poor little sparrow.
"What a dreadful misfortune for my poor Suzume San to lose her
tongue!" he said to himself. "She won't be able to chirp any more,
and surely the pain of the cutting of it out in that rough way must
have made her ill! Is there nothing to be done?"
The old man shed many tears after his cross wife had gone to sleep.
While he wiped away the tears with the sleeve of his cotton robe, a
bright thought comforted him: he would go and look for the sparrow
on the morrow. Having decided this he was able to go to sleep at
The next morning he rose early, as soon as ever the day broke, and
snatching a hasty breakfast, started out over the hills and through
the woods, stopping at every clump of bamboos to cry:
"Where, oh where does my tongue-cut sparrow stay? Where, oh where,
does my tongue-cut sparrow stay!"
He never stopped to rest for his noonday meal, and it was far on in
the afternoon when he found himself near a large bamboo wood. Bamboo
groves are the favorite haunts of sparrows, and there sure enough at
the edge of the wood he saw his own dear sparrow waiting to welcome
him. He could hardly believe his eyes for joy, and ran forward
quickly to greet her. She bowed her little head and went through a
number of the tricks her master had taught her, to show her pleasure
at seeing her old friend again, and, wonderful to relate, she could
talk as of old. The old man told her how sorry he was for all that
had happened, and inquired after her tongue, wondering how she could
speak so well without it. Then the sparrow opened her beak and
showed him that a new tongue had grown in place of the old one, and
begged him not to think any more about the past, for she was quite
well now. Then the old man knew that his sparrow was a fairy, and no
common bird. It would be difficult to exaggerate the old man's
rejoicing now. He forgot all his troubles, he forgot even how tired
he was, for he had found his lost sparrow, and instead of being ill
and without a tongue as he had feared and expected to find her, she
was well and happy and with a new tongue, and without a sign of the
ill-treatment she had received from his wife. And above all she was
The sparrow asked him to follow her, and flying before him she led
him to a beautiful house in the heart of the bamboo grove. The old
man was utterly astonished when he entered the house to find what a
beautiful place it was. It was built of the whitest wood, the soft
cream-colored mats which took the place of carpets were the finest
he had ever seen, and the cushions that the sparrow brought out for
him to sit on were made of the finest silk and crape. Beautiful
vases and lacquer boxes adorned the tokonoma [Footnote: An alcove
where precious objects are displayed.] of every room.
The sparrow led the old man to the place of honor, and then, taking
her place at a humble distance, she thanked him with many polite
bows for all the kindness he had shown her for many long years.
Then the Lady Sparrow, as we will now call her, introduced all her
family to the old man. This done, her daughters, robed in dainty
crape gowns, brought in on beautiful old-fashioned trays a feast of
all kinds of delicious foods, till the old man began to think he
must be dreaming. In the middle of the dinner some of the sparrow's
daughters performed a wonderful dance, called the "suzume-odori" or
the "Sparrow's dance," to amuse the guest.
Never had the old man enjoyed himself so much. The hours flew by too
quickly in this lovely spot, with all these fairy sparrows to wait
upon him and to feast him and to dance before him.
But the night came on and the darkness reminded him that he had a
long way to go and must think about taking his leave and return
home. He thanked his kind hostess for her splendid entertainment,
and begged her for his sake to forget all she had suffered at the
hands of his cross old wife. He told the Lady Sparrow that it was a
great comfort and happiness to him to find her in such a beautiful
home and to know that she wanted for nothing. It was his anxiety to
know how she fared and what had really happened to her that had led
him to seek her. Now he knew that all was well he could return home
with a light heart. If ever she wanted him for anything she had only
to send for him and he would come at once.
The Lady Sparrow begged him to stay and rest several days and enjoy
the change, but the old man said he must return to his old wife--who
would probably be cross at his not coming home at the usual time--
and to his work, and there-fore, much as he wished to do so, he
could not accept her kind invitation. But now that he knew where the
Lady Sparrow lived he would come to see her whenever he had the
When the Lady Sparrow saw that she could not persuade the old man to
stay longer, she gave an order to some of her servants, and they at
once brought in two boxes, one large and the other small. These were
placed before the old man, and the Lady Sparrow asked him to choose
whichever he liked for a present, which she wished to give him.
The old man could not refuse this kind proposal, and he chose the
smaller box, saying:
"I am now too old and feeble to carry the big and heavy box. As you
are so kind as to say that I may take whichever I like, I will
choose the small one, which will be easier for me to carry."
Then the sparrows all helped him put it on his back and went to the
gate to see him off, bidding him good-by with many bows and
entreating him to come again whenever he had the time. Thus the old
man and his pet sparrow separated quite happily, the sparrow showing
not the least ill-will for all the unkindness she had suffered at
the hands of the old wife. Indeed, she only felt sorrow for the old
man who had to put up with it all his life.
When the old man reached home he found his wife even crosser than
usual, for it was late on in the night and she had been waiting up
for him for a long time
"Where have you been all this time?" she asked in a big voice. "Why
do you come back so late?"
The old man tried to pacify her by showing her the box of presents
he had brought back with him, and then he told her of all that had
happened to him, and how wonderfully he had been entertained at the
"Now let us see what is in the box," said the old man, not giving
her time to grumble again. "You must help me open it." And they both
sat down before the box and opened it.
To their utter astonishment they found the box filled to the brim
with gold and silver coins and many other precious things. The mats
of their little cottage fairly glittered as they took out the things
one by one and put them down and handled them over and over again.
The old man was overjoyed at the sight of the riches that were now
his. Beyond his brightest expectations was the sparrow's gift, which
would enable him to give up work and live in ease and comfort the
rest of his days.
He said: "Thanks to my good little sparrow! Thanks to my good little
sparrow!" many times.
But the old woman, after the first moments of surprise and
satisfaction at the sight of the gold and silver were over, could
not suppress the greed of her wicked nature. She now began to
reproach the old man for not having brought home the big box of
presents, for in the innocence of his heart he had told her how he
had refused the large box of presents which the sparrows had offered
him, preferring the smaller one because it was light and easy to
"You silly old man," said she, "Why did you not bring the large box?
Just think what we have lost. We might have had twice as much silver
and gold as this. You are certainly an old fool!" she screamed, and
then went to bed as angry as she could be.
The old man now wished that he had said nothing about the big box,
but it was too late; the greedy old woman, not contented with the
good luck which had so unexpectedly befallen them and which she so
little deserved, made up her mind, if possible, to get more.
Early the next morning she got up and made the old man describe the
way to the sparrow's house. When he saw what was in her mind he
tried to keep her from going, but it was useless. She would not
listen to one word he said. It is strange that the old woman did not
feel ashamed of going to see the sparrow after the cruel way she had
treated her in cutting off her tongue in a fit of rage. But her
greed to get the big box made her forget everything else. It did not
even enter her thoughts that the sparrows might be angry with her--
as, indeed, they were--and might punish her for what she had done.
Ever since the Lady Sparrow had returned home in the sad plight in
which they had first found her, weeping and bleeding from the mouth,
her whole family and relations had done little else but speak of the
cruelty of the old woman. "How could she," they asked each other,
"inflict such a heavy punishment for such a trifling offense as that
of eating some rice-paste by mistake?" They all loved the old man
who was so kind and good and patient under all his troubles, but the
old woman they hated, and they determined, if ever they had the
chance, to punish her as she deserved. They had not long to wait.
After walking for some hours the old woman had at last found the
bamboo grove which she had made her husband carefully describe, and
now she stood before it crying out:
"Where is the tongue-cut sparrow's house? Where is the tongue-cut
At last she saw the eaves of the house peeping out from amongst the
bamboo foliage. She hastened to the door and knocked loudly.
When the servants told the Lady Sparrow that her old mistress was at
the door asking to see her, she was somewhat surprised at the
unexpected visit, after all that had taken place, and she wondered
not a little at the boldness of the old woman in venturing to come
to the house. The Lady Sparrow, however, was a polite bird, and so
she went out to greet the old woman, remembering that she had once
been her mistress.
The old woman intended, however, to waste no time in words, she went
right to the point, without the least shame, and said:
"You need not trouble to entertain me as you did my old man. I have
come myself to get the box which he so stupidly left behind. I shall
soon take my leave if you will give me the big box--that is all I
The Lady Sparrow at once consented, and told her servants to bring
out the big box. The old woman eagerly seized it and hoisted it on
her back, and without even stopping to thank the Lady Sparrow began
to hurry homewards.
The box was so heavy that she could not walk fast, much less run, as
she would have liked to do, so anxious was she to get home and see
what was inside the box, but she had often to sit down and rest
herself by the way.
While she was staggering along under the heavy load, her desire to
open the box became too great to be resisted. She could wait no
longer, for she supposed this big box to be full of gold and silver
and precious jewels like the small one her husband had received.
At last this greedy and selfish old woman put down the box by the
wayside and opened it carefully, expecting to gloat her eyes on a
mine of wealth. What she saw, however, so terrified her that she
nearly lost her senses. As soon as she lifted the lid, a number of
horrible and frightful looking demons bounced out of the box and
surrounded her as if they intended to kill her. Not even in
nightmares had she ever seen such horrible creatures as her much-
coveted box contained. A demon with one huge eye right in the middle
of its forehead came and glared at her, monsters with gaping mouths
looked as if they would devour her, a huge snake coiled and hissed
about her, and a big frog hopped and croaked towards her.
The old woman had never been so frightened in her life, and ran from
the spot as fast as her quaking legs would carry her, glad to escape
alive. When she reached home she fell to the floor and told her
husband with tears all that had happened to her, and how she had
been nearly killed by the demons in the box.
Then she began to blame the sparrow, but the old man stopped her at
"Don't blame the sparrow, it is your wickedness which has at last
met with its reward. I only hope this may be a lesson to you in the
The old woman said nothing more, and from that day she repented of
her cross, unkind ways, and by degrees became a good old woman, so
that her husband hardly knew her to be the same person, and they
spent their last days together happily, free from want or care,
spending carefully the treasure the old man had received from his
pet, the tongue-cut sparrow.
THE STORY OF URASHIMA TARO, THE FISHER LAD.
Long, long ago in the province of Tango there lived on the shore of
Japan in the little fishing village of Mizu-no-ye a young fisherman
named Urashima Taro. His father had been a fisherman before him, and
his skill had more than doubly descended to his son, for Urashima
was the most skillful fisher in all that country side, and could
catch more Bonito and Tai in a day than his comrades could in a
But in the little fishing village, more than for being a clever
fisher of the sea was he known for his kind heart. In his whole life
he had never hurt anything, either great or small, and when a boy,
his companions had always laughed at him, for he would never join
with them in teasing animals, but always tried to keep them from
this cruel sport.
One soft summer twilight he was going home at the end of a day's
fishing when he came upon a group of children. They were all
screaming and talking at the tops of their voices, and seemed to be
in a state of great excitement about something, and on his going up
to them to see what was the matter he saw that they were tormenting
a tortoise. First one boy pulled it this way, then another boy
pulled it that way, while a third child beat it with a stick, and
the fourth hammered its shell with a stone.
Now Urashima felt very sorry for the poor tortoise and made up his
mind to rescue it. He spoke to the boys:
"Look here, boys, you are treating that poor tortoise so badly that
it will soon die!"
The boys, who were all of an age when children seem to delight in
being cruel to animals, took no notice of Urashima's gentle reproof,
but went on teasing it as before. One of the older boys answered:
"Who cares whether it lives or dies? We do not. Here, boys, go on,
And they began to treat the poor tortoise more cruelly than ever.
Urashima waited a moment, turning over in his mind what would be the
best way to deal with the boys. He would try to persuade them to
give the tortoise up to him, so he smiled at them and said:
"I am sure you are all good, kind boys! Now won't you give me the
tortoise? I should like to have it so much!"
"No, we won't give you the tortoise," said one of the boys. "Why
should we? We caught it ourselves."
"What you say is true," said Urashima, "but I do not ask you to give
it to me for nothing. I will give you some money for it--in other
words, the Ojisan (Uncle) will buy it of you. Won't that do for you,
my boys?" He held up the money to them, strung on a piece of string
through a hole in the center of each coin. "Look, boys, you can buy
anything you like with this money. You can do much more with this
money than you can with that poor tortoise. See what good boys you
are to listen to me"
The boys were not bad boys at all, they were only mischievous, and
as Urashima spoke they were won by his kind smile and gentle words
and began "to be of his spirit," as they say in Japan. Gradually
they all came up to him, the ringleader of the little band holding
out the tortoise to him.
"Very well, Ojisan, we will give you the tortoise if you will give
us the money!" And Urashima took the tortoise and gave the money to
the boys, who, calling to each other, scampered away and were soon
out of sight.
Then Urashima stroked the tortoise's back, saying as he did so:
"Oh, you poor thing! Poor thing!--there, there! you are safe now!
They say that a stork lives for a thousand years, but the tortoise
for ten thousand years. You have the longest life of any creature in
this world, and you were in great danger of having that precious
life cut short by those cruel boys. Luckily I was passing by and
saved you, and so life is still yours. Now I am going to take you
back to your home, the sea, at once. Do not let yourself be caught
again, for there might be no one to save you next time!"
All the time that the kind fisherman was speaking he was walking
quickly to the shore and out upon the rocks; then putting the
tortoise into the water he watched the animal disappear, and turned
homewards himself, for he was tired and the sun had set.
The next morning Urashima went out as usual in his boat. The weather
was fine and the sea and sky were both blue and soft in the tender
haze of the summer morning. Urashima got into his boat and dreamily
pushed out to sea, throwing his line as he did so. He soon passed
the other fishing boats and left them behind him till they were lost
to sight in the distance, and his boat drifted further and further
out upon the blue waters. Somehow, he knew not why, he felt
unusually happy that morning; and he could not help wishing that,
like the tortoise he set free the day before, he had thousands of
years to live instead of his own short span of human life.
He was suddenly startled from his reverie by hearing his own name
Clear as a bell and soft as the summer wind the name floated over
He stood up and looked in every direction, thinking that one of the
other boats had overtaken him, but gaze as he might over the wide
expanse of water, near or far there was no sign of a boat, so the
voice could not have come from any human being.
Startled, and wondering who or what it was that had called him so
clearly, he looked in all directions round about him and saw that
without his knowing it a tortoise had come to the side of the boat.
Urashima saw with surprise that it was the very tortoise he had
rescued the day before.
"Well, Mr. Tortoise," said Urashima, "was it you who called my name
The tortoise nodded its head several times and said:
"Yes, it was I. Yesterday in your honorable shadow (o kage sama de)
my life was saved, and I have come to offer you my thanks and to
tell you how grateful I am for your kindness to me."
"Indeed," said Urashima, "that is very polite of you. Come up into
the boat. I would offer you a smoke, but as you are a tortoise
doubtless you do not smoke," and the fisherman laughed at the joke.
"He-he-he-he!" laughed the tortoise; "sake (rice wine) is my
favorite refreshment, but I do not care for tobacco."
"Indeed," said Urashima, "I regret very much that I have no "sake"
in my boat to offer you, but come up and dry your back in the sun--
tortoises always love to do that."
So the tortoise climbed into the boat, the fisherman helping him,
and after an exchange of complimentary speeches the tortoise said:
"Have you ever seen Rin Gin, the Palace of the Dragon King of the
The fisherman shook his head and replied; "No; year after year the
sea has been my home, but though I have often heard of the Dragon
King's realm under the sea I have never yet set eyes on that
wonderful place. It must be very far away, if it exists at all!"
"Is that really so? You have never seen the Sea King's Palace? Then
you have missed seeing one of the most wonderful sights in the whole
universe. It is far away at the bottom of the sea, but if I take you
there we shall soon reach the place. If you would like to see the
Sea King's land I will be your guide."
"I should like to go there, certainly, and you are very kind to
think of taking me, but you must remember that I am only a poor
mortal and have not the power of swimming like a sea creature such
as you are--"
Before the fisherman could say more the tortoise stopped him,
"What? You need not swim yourself. If you will ride on my back I
will take you without any trouble on your part."
"But," said Urashima, "how is it possible for me to ride on your
"It may seem absurd to you. but I assure you that you can do so. Try
at once! Just come and get on my back, and see if it is as
impossible as you think!"
As the tortoise finished speaking, Urashima looked at its shell, and
strange to say be saw that the creature had suddenly grown so big
that a man could easily sit on its back.
"This is strange indeed!" said Urashima; "then. Mr. Tortoise, with
your kind permission I will get on your back. Dokoisho!" [Footnote:
"All right" (only used by lower classes).] he exclaimed as he jumped
The tortoise, with an unmoved face, as if this strange proceeding
were quite an ordinary event, said:
"Now we will set out at our leisure," and with these words he leapt
into the sea with Urashima on his back. Down through the water the
tortoise dived. For a long time these two strange companions rode
through the sea. Urashima never grew tired, nor his clothes moist
with the water. At last, far away in the distance a magnificent gate
appeared, and behind the gate, the long, sloping roofs of a palace
on the horizon.
"Ya." exclaimed Urashima. "that looks like the gate of some large
palace just appearing! Mr. Tortoise, can you tell what that place is
we can now see?"
"That is the great gate of the Rin Gin Palace, the large roof that
you see behind the gate is the Sea King's Palace itself."
"Then we have at last come to the realm of the Sea King and to his
Palace," said Urashima.
"Yes, indeed," answered the tortoise, "and don't you think we have
come very quickly?" And while he was speaking the tortoise reached
the side of the gate. "And here we are, and you must please walk
The tortoise now went in front, and speaking to the gatekeeper,
"This is Urashima Taro, from the country of Japan. I have had the
honor of bringing him as a visitor to this kingdom. Please show him
Then the gatekeeper, who was a fish, at once led the way through the
gate before them.
The red bream, the flounder, the sole, the cuttlefish, and all the
chief vassals of the Dragon King of the Sea now came out with
courtly bows to welcome the stranger.
"Urashima Sama, Urashima Sama! welcome to the Sea Palace, the home
of the Dragon King of the Sea. Thrice welcome are you, having come
from such a distant country. And you, Mr. Tortoise, we are greatly
indebted to you for all your trouble in bringing Urashima here."
Then, turning again to Urashima, they said, "Please follow us this
way," and from here the whole band of fishes became his guides.
Urashima, being only a poor fisher lad, did not know how to behave
in a palace; but, strange though it was all to him, he did not feel
ashamed or embarrassed, but followed his kind guides quite calmly
where they led to the inner palace. When he reached the portals a
beautiful Princess with her attendant maidens came out to welcome
him. She was more beautiful than any human being, and was robed in
flowing garments of red and soft green like the under side of a
wave, and golden threads glimmered through the folds of her gown.
Her lovely black hair streamed over her shoulders in the fashion of
a king's daughter many hundreds of years ago, and when she spoke her
voice sounded like music over the water. Urashima was lost in wonder
while he looked upon her, and he could not speak. Then he remembered
that he ought to bow, but before he could make a low obeisance the
Princess took him by the hand and led him to a beautiful hall, and
to the seat of honor at the upper end, and bade him be seated.
"Urashima Taro, it gives me the highest pleasure to welcome you to
my father's kingdom," said the Princess. "Yesterday you set free a
tortoise, and I have sent for you to thank you for saving my life,
for I was that tortoise. Now if you like you shall live here forever
in the land of eternal youth, where summer never dies and where
sorrow never comes, and I will be your bride if you will, and we
will live together happily forever afterwards!"
And as Urashima listened to her sweet words and gazed upon her
lovely face his heart was filled with a great wonder and joy, and he
answered her, wondering if it was not all a dream:
"Thank you a thousand times for your kind speech. There is nothing I
could wish for more than to be permitted to stay here with you in
this beautiful land, of which I have often heard, but have never
seen to this day. Beyond all words, this is the most wonderful place
I have ever seen."
While he was speaking a train of fishes appeared, all dressed in
ceremonial, trailing garments. One by one, silently and with stately
steps, they entered the hall, bearing on coral trays delicacies of
fish and seaweed, such as no one can dream of, and this wondrous
feast was set before the bride and bridegroom. The bridal was
celebrated with dazzling splendor, and in the Sea King's realm there
was great rejoicing. As soon as the young pair had pledged
themselves in the wedding cup of wine, three times three, music was
played, and songs were sung, and fishes with silver scales and
golden tails stepped in from the waves and danced. Urashima enjoyed
himself with all his heart. Never in his whole life had he sat down
to such a marvelous feast.
When the feast was over the Princes asked the bridegroom if he would
like to walk through the palace and see all there was to be seen.
Then the happy fisherman, following his bride, the Sea King's
daughter, was shown all the wonders of that enchanted land where
youth and joy go hand in hand and neither time nor age can touch
them. The palace was built of coral and adorned with pearls, and the
beauties and wonders of the place were so great that the tongue
fails to describe them.
But, to Urashima, more wonderful than the palace was the garden that
surrounded it. Here was to be seen at one time the scenery of the
four different seasons; the beauties of summer and winter, spring
and autumn, were displayed to the wondering visitor at once.
First, when he looked to the east, the plum and cherry trees were
seen in full bloom, the nightingales sang in the pink avenues, and
butterflies flitted from flower to flower.
Looking to the south all the trees were green in the fullness of
summer, and the day cicala and the night cricket chirruped loudly.
Looking to the west the autumn maples were ablaze like a sunset sky,
and the chrysanthemums were in perfection.
Looking to the north the change made Urashima start, for the ground
was silver white with snow, and trees and bamboos were also covered
with snow and the pond was thick with ice.
And each day there were new joys and new wonders for Urashima, and
so great was his happiness that he forgot everything, even the home
he had left behind and his parents and his own country, and three
days passed without his even thinking of all he had left behind.
Then his mind came back to him and he remembered who he was, and
that he did not belong to this wonderful land or the Sea King's
palace, and he said to himself:
"O dear! I must not stay on here, for I have an old father and
mother at home. What can have happened to them all this time? How
anxious they must have been these days when I did not return as
usual. I must go back at once without letting one more day pass."
And he began to prepare for the journey in great haste.
Then he went to his beautiful wife, the Princess, and bowing low
before her he said:
"Indeed, I have been very happy with you for a long time, Otohime
Sama" (for that was her name), "and you have been kinder to me than
any words can tell. But now I must say good-by. I must go back to my
Then Otohime Sama began to weep, and said softly and sadly:
"Is it not well with you here, Urashima, that you wish to leave me
so soon? Where is the haste? Stay with me yet another day only!"
But Urashima had remembered his old parents, and in Japan the duty
to parents is stronger than everything else, stronger even than
pleasure or love, and he would not be persuaded, but answered:
"Indeed, I must go. Do not think that I wish to leave you. It is not
that. I must go and see my old parents. Let me go for one day and I
will come back to you."
"Then," said the Princess sorrowfully, "there is nothing to be done.
I will send you back to-day to your father and mother, and instead
of trying to keep you with me one more day, I shall give you this as
a token of our love--please take it back with you;" and she brought
him a beautiful lacquer box tied about with a silken cord and
tassels of red silk.
Urashima had received so much from the Princess already that he felt
some compunction in taking the gift, and said:
"It does not seem right for me to take yet another gift from you
after all the many favors I have received at your hands, but because
it is your wish I will do so," and then he added:
"Tell me what is this box?"
"That," answered the Princess "is the tamate-bako (Box of the Jewel
Hand), and it contains something very precious. You must not open
this box, whatever happens! If you open it something dreadful will
happen to you! Now promise me that you will never open this box!"
And Urashima promised that he would never, never open the box
Then bidding good-by to Otohime Sama he went down to the seashore,
the Princess and her attendants following him, and there he found a
large tortoise waiting for him.
He quickly mounted the creature's back and was carried away over the
shining sea into the East. He looked back to wave his hand to
Otohime Sama till at last he could see her no more, and the land of
the Sea King and the roofs of the wonderful palace were lost in the
far, far distance. Then, with his face turned eagerly towards his
own land, he looked for the rising of the blue hills on the horizon
At last the tortoise carried him into the bay he knew so well, and
to the shore from whence he had set out. He stepped on to the shore
and looked about him while the tortoise rode away back to the Sea
But what is the strange fear that seizes Urashima as he stands and
looks about him? Why does he gaze so fixedly at the people that pass
him by, and why do they in turn stand and look at him? The shore is
the same and the hills are the same, but the people that he sees
walking past him have very different faces to those he had known so
Wondering what it can mean he walks quickly towards his old home.
Even that looks different, but a house stands on the spot, and he
"Father, I have just returned!" and he was about to enter, when he
saw a strange man coming out.
"Perhaps my parents have moved while I have been away, and have gone
somewhere else," was the fisherman's thought. Somehow he began to
feel strangely anxious, he could not tell why.
"Excuse me," said he to the man who was staring at him, "but till
within the last few days I have lived in this house. My name is
Urashima Taro. Where have my parents gone whom I left here?"
A very bewildered expression came over the face of the man, and,
still gazing intently on Urashima's face, he said:
"What? Are you Urashima Taro?"
"Yes," said the fisherman, "I am Urashima Taro!"
"Ha, ha!" laughed the man, "you must not make such jokes. It is true
that once upon a time a man called Urashima Taro did live in this
village, but that is a story three hundred years old. He could not
possibly be alive now!"
When Urashima heard these strange words he was frightened, and said:
"Please, please, you must not joke with me, I am greatly perplexed.
I am really Urashima Taro, and I certainly have not lived three
hundred years. Till four or five days ago I lived on this spot. Tell
me what I want to know without more joking, please."
But the man's face grew more and more grave, and he answered:
"You may or may not be Urashima Taro, I don't know. But the Urashima
Taro of whom I have heard is a man who lived three hundred years
ago. Perhaps you are his spirit come to revisit your old home?"
"Why do you mock me?" said Urashima. "I am no spirit! I am a living
man--do you not see my feet;" and "don-don," he stamped on the
ground, first with one foot and then with the other to show the man.
(Japanese ghosts have no feet.)
"But Urashima Taro lived three hundred years ago, that is all I
know; it is written in the village chronicles, "persisted the man,
who could not believe what the fisherman said.
Urashima was lost in bewilderment and trouble. He stood looking all
around him, terribly puzzled, and, indeed, something in the
appearance of everything was different to what he remembered before
he went away, and the awful feeling came over him that what the man
said was perhaps true. He seemed to be in a strange dream. The few
days he had spent in the Sea King's palace beyond the sea had not
been days at all: they had been hundreds of years, and in that time
his parents had died and all the people he had ever known, and the
village had written down his story. There was no use in staying here
any longer. He must get back to his beautiful wife beyond the sea.
He made his way back to the beach, carrying in his hand the box
which the Princess had given him. But which was the way? He could
not find it alone! Suddenly he remembered the box, the tamate-bako.
"The Princess told me when she gave me the box never to open it--
that it contained a very precious thing. But now that I have no
home, now that I have lost everything that was dear to me here, and
my heart grows thin with sadness, at such a time, if I open the box,
surely I shall find something that will help me, something that will
show me the way back to my beautiful Princess over the sea. There is
nothing else for me to do now. Yes, yes, I will open the box and
And so his heart consented to this act of disobedience, and he tried
to persuade himself that he was doing the right thing in breaking
Slowly, very slowly, he untied the red silk cord, slowly and
wonderingly he lifted the lid of the precious box. And what did he
find? Strange to say only a beautiful little purple cloud rose out
of the box in three soft wisps. For an instant it covered his face
and wavered over him as if loath to go, and then it floated away
like vapor over the sea.
Urashima, who had been till that moment like a strong and handsome
youth of twenty-four, suddenly became very, very old. His back
doubled up with age, his hair turned snowy white, his face wrinkled
and he fell down dead on the beach.
Poor Urashima! because of his disobedience he could never return to
the Sea King's realm or the lovely Princess beyond the sea.
Little children, never be disobedient to those who are wiser than
you for disobedience was the beginning of all the miseries and
sorrows of life.
THE FARMER AND THE BADGER
Long, long ago, there lived an old farmer and his wife who had made
their home in the mountains, far from any town. Their only neighbor
was a bad and malicious badger. This badger used to come out every
night and run across to the farmer's field and spoil the vegetables
and the rice which the farmer spent his time in carefully
cultivating. The badger at last grew so ruthless in his mischievous
work, and did so much harm everywhere on the farm, that the good-
natured farmer could not stand it any longer, and determined to put
a stop to it. So he lay in wait day after day and night after night,
with a big club, hoping to catch the badger, but all in vain. Then
he laid traps for the wicked animal.
The farmer's trouble and patience was rewarded, for one fine day on
going his rounds he found the badger caught in a hole he had dug for
that purpose. The farmer was delighted at having caught his enemy,
and carried him home securely bound with rope. When he reached the
house the farmer said to his wife:
"I have at last caught the bad badger. You must keep an eye on him
while I am out at work and not let him escape, because I want to
make him into soup to-night."
Saying this, he hung the badger up to the rafters of his storehouse
and went out to his work in the fields. The badger was in great
distress, for he did not at all like the idea of being made into
soup that night, and he thought and thought for a long time, trying
to hit upon some plan by which he might escape. It was hard to think
clearly in his uncomfortable position, for he had been hung upside
down. Very near him, at the entrance to the storehouse, looking out
towards the green fields and the trees and the pleasant sunshine,
stood the farmer's old wife pounding barley. She looked tired and
old. Her face was seamed with many wrinkles, and was as brown as
leather, and every now and then she stopped to wipe the perspiration
which rolled down her face.
"Dear lady," said the wily badger, "you must be very weary doing
such heavy work in your old age. Won't you let me do that for you?
My arms are very strong, and I could relieve you for a little
"Thank you for your kindness," said the old woman, "but I cannot let
you do this work for me because I must not untie you, for you might
escape if I did, and my husband would be very angry if he came home
and found you gone."
Now, the badger is one of the most cunning of animals, and he said
again in a very sad, gentle, voice:
"You are very unkind. You might untie me, for I promise not to try
to escape. If you are afraid of your husband, I will let you bind me
again before his return when I have finished pounding the barley. I
am so tired and sore tied up like this. If you would only let me
down for a few minutes I would indeed be thankful!"
The old woman had a good and simple nature, and could not think
badly of any one. Much less did she think that the badger was only
deceiving her in order to get away. She felt sorry, too, for the
animal as she turned to look at him. He looked in such a sad plight
hanging downwards from the ceiling by his legs, which were all tied
together so tightly that the rope and the knots were cutting into
the skin. So in the kindness of her heart, and believing the
creature's promise that he would not run away, she untied the cord
and let him down.
The old woman then gave him the wooden pestle and told him to do the
work for a short time while she rested. He took the pestle, but
instead of doing the work as he was told, the badger at once sprang
upon the old woman and knocked her down with the heavy piece of
wood. He then killed her and cut her up and made soup of her, and
waited for the return of the old farmer. The old man worked hard in
his fields all day, and as he worked he thought with pleasure that
no more now would his labor be spoiled by the destructive badger.
Towards sunset he left his work and turned to go home. He was very
tired, but the thought of the nice supper of hot badger soup
awaiting his return cheered him. The thought that the badger might
get free and take revenge on the poor old woman never once came into
The badger meanwhile assumed the old woman's form, and as soon as he
saw the old farmer approaching came out to greet him on the veranda
of the little house, saying:
"So you have come back at last. I have made the badger soup and have
been waiting for you for a long time."
The old farmer quickly took off his straw sandals and sat down
before his tiny dinner-tray. The innocent man never even dreamed
that it was not his wife but the badger who was waiting upon him,
and asked at once for the soup. Then the badger suddenly transformed
himself back to his natural form and cried out:
"You wife-eating old man! Look out for the bones in the kitchen!"
Laughing loudly and derisively he escaped out of the house and ran
away to his den in the hills. The old man was left behind alone. He
could hardly believe what he had seen and heard. Then when he
understood the whole truth he was so scared and horrified that he
fainted right away. After a while he came round and burst into
tears. He cried loudly and bitterly. He rocked himself to and fro in
his hopeless grief. It seemed too terrible to be real that his
faithful old wife had been killed and cooked by the badger while he
was working quietly in the fields, knowing nothing of what was going
on at home, and congratulating himself on having once for all got
rid of the wicked animal who had so often spoiled his fields. And
oh! the horrible thought; he had very nearly drunk the soup which
the creature had made of his poor old woman. "Oh dear, oh dear, oh
dear!" he wailed aloud. Now, not far away there lived in the same
mountain a kind, good-natured old rabbit. He heard the old man
crying and sobbing and at once set out to see what was the matter,
and if there was anything he could do to help his neighbor. The old
man told him all that had happened. When the rabbit heard the story
he was very angry at the wicked and deceitful badger, and told the
old man to leave everything to him and he would avenge his wife's
death. The farmer was at last comforted, and, wiping away his tears,
thanked the rabbit for his goodness in coming to him in his
The rabbit, seeing that the farmer was growing calmer, went back to
his home to lay his plans for the punishment of the badger.
The next day the weather was fine, and the rabbit went out to find
the badger. He was not to be seen in the woods or on the hillside or
in the fields anywhere, so the rabbit went to his den and found the
badger hiding there, for the animal had been afraid to show himself
ever since he had escaped from the farmer's house, for fear of the
old man's wrath.
The rabbit called out:
"Why are you not out on such a beautiful day? Come out with me, and
we will go and cut grass on the hills together."
The badger, never doubting but that the rabbit was his friend,
willingly consented to go out with him, only too glad to get away
from the neighborhood of the farmer and the fear of meeting him. The
rabbit led the way miles away from their homes, out on the hills
where the grass grew tall and thick and sweet. They both set to work
to cut down as much as they could carry home, to store it up for
their winter's food. When they had each cut down all they wanted
they tied it in bundles and then started homewards, each carrying
his bundle of grass on his back. This time the rabbit made the
badger go first.
When they had gone a little way the rabbit took out a flint and
steel, and, striking it over the badger's back as he stepped along
in front, set his bundle of grass on fire. The badger heard the
flint striking, and asked:
"What is that noise. 'Crack, crack'?"
"Oh, that is nothing." replied the rabbit; "I only said 'Crack,
crack' because this mountain is called Crackling Mountain."
The fire soon spread in the bundle of dry grass on the badger's
back. The badger, hearing the crackle of the burning grass, asked,
"What is that?"
"Now we have come to the 'Burning Mountain,'" answered the rabbit.
By this time the bundle was nearly burned out and all the hair had
been burned off the badger's back. He now knew what had happened by
the smell of the smoke of the burning grass. Screaming with pain the
badger ran as fast as he could to his hole. The rabbit followed and
found him lying on his bed groaning with pain.
"What an unlucky fellow you are!" said the rabbit. "I can't imagine
how this happened! I will bring you some medicine which will heal
your back quickly!"
The rabbit went away glad and smiling to think that the punishment
upon the badger had already begun. He hoped that the badger would
die of his burns, for he felt that nothing could be too bad for the
animal, who was guilty of murdering a poor helpless old woman who
had trusted him. He went home and made an ointment by mixing some
sauce and red pepper together.
He carried this to the badger, but before putting it on he told him
that it would cause him great pain, but that he must bear it
patiently, because it was a very wonderful medicine for burns and
scalds and such wounds. The badger thanked him and begged him to
apply it at once. But no language can describe the agony of the
badger as soon as the red pepper had been pasted all over his sore
back. He rolled over and over and howled loudly. The rabbit, looking
on, felt that the farmer's wife was beginning to be avenged.
The badger was in bed for about a month; but at last, in spite of
the red pepper application, his burns healed and he got well. When
the rabbit saw that the badger was getting well, he thought of
another plan by which he could compass the creature's death. So he
went one day to pay the badger a visit and to congratulate him on
During the conversation the rabbit mentioned that he was going
fishing, and described how pleasant fishing was when the weather was
fine and the sea smooth.
The badger listened with pleasure to the rabbit's account of the way
he passed his time now, and forgot all his pains and his month's
illness, and thought what fun it would be if he could go fishing
too; so he asked the rabbit if he would take him the next time he
went out to fish. This was just what the rabbit wanted, so he
Then he went home and built two boats, one of wood and the other of
clay. At last they were both finished, and as the rabbit stood and
looked at his work he felt that all his trouble would be well
rewarded if his plan succeeded, and he could manage to kill the
wicked badger now.
The day came when the rabbit had arranged to take the badger
fishing. He kept the wooden boat himself and gave the badger the
clay boat. The badger, who knew nothing about boats, was delighted
with his new boat and thought how kind it was of the rabbit to give
it to him. They both got into their boats and set out. After going
some distance from the shore the rabbit proposed that they should
try their boats and see which one could go the quickest. The badger
fell in with the proposal, and they both set to work to row as fast
as they could for some time. In the middle of the race the badger
found his boat going to pieces, for the water now began to soften
the clay. He cried out in great fear to the rabbit to help him. But
the rabbit answered that he was avenging the old woman's murder, and
that this had been his intention all along, and that he was happy to
think that the badger had at last met his deserts for all his evil
crimes, and was to drown with no one to help him. Then he raised his
oar and struck at the badger with all his strength till he fell with
the sinking clay boat and was seen no more.
Thus at last he kept his promise to the old farmer. The rabbit now
turned and rowed shorewards, and having landed and pulled his boat
upon the beach, hurried back to tell the old farmer everything, and
how the badger, his enemy, had been killed.
The old farmer thanked him with tears in his eyes. He said that till
now he could never sleep at night or be at peace in the daytime,
thinking of how his wife's death was unavenged, but from this time
he would be able to sleep and eat as of old. He begged the rabbit to
stay with him and share his home, so from this day the rabbit went
to stay with the old farmer and they both lived together as good
friends to the end of their days.
THE shinansha, OR THE SOUTH POINTING CARRIAGE.
The compass, with its needle always pointing to the North, is quite
a common thing, and no one thinks that it is remarkable now, though
when it was first invented it must have been a wonder.
Now long ago in China, there was a still more wonderful invention
called the shinansha. This was a kind of chariot with the figure of
a man on it always pointing to the South. No matter how the chariot
was placed the figure always wheeled about and pointed to the South.
This curious instrument was invented by Kotei, one of the three
Chinese Emperors of the Mythological age. Kotei was the son of the
Emperor Yuhi. Before he was born his mother had a vision which
foretold that her son would be a great man.
One summer evening she went out to walk in the meadows to seek the
cool breezes which blow at the end of the day and to gaze with
pleasure at the star-lit heavens above her. As she looked at the
North Star, strange to relate, it shot forth vivid flashes of
lightning in every direction. Soon after this her son Kotei came
into the world.
Kotei in time grew to manhood and succeeded his father the Emperor
Yuhi. His early reign was greatly troubled by the rebel Shiyu. This
rebel wanted to make himself King, and many were the battles which
he fought to this end. Shiyu was a wicked magician, his head was
made of iron, and there was no man that could conquer him.
At last Kotei declared war against the rebel and led his army to
battle, and the two armies met on a plain called Takuroku. The
Emperor boldly attacked the enemy, but the magician brought down a
dense fog upon the battlefield, and while the royal army were
wandering about in confusion, trying to find their way, Shiyu
retreated with his troops, laughing at having fooled the royal army.
No matter however strong and brave the Emperor's soldiers were, the
rebel with his magic could always escape in the end.
Kotei returned to his Palace, and thought and pondered deeply as to
how he should conquer the magician, for he was determined not to
give up yet. After a long time he invented the shinansha with the
figure of a man always pointing South, for there were no compasses
in those days. With this instrument to show him the way he need not
fear the dense fogs raised up by the magician to confound his men.
Kotei again declared war against Shiyu. He placed the shinansha in
front of his army and led the way to the battlefield.
The battle began in earnest. The rebel was being driven backward by
the royal troops when he again resorted to magic, and upon his
saying some strange words in a loud voice, immediately a dense fog
came down upon the battlefield.
But this time no soldier minded the fog, not one was confused. Kotei
by pointing to the shinansha could find his way and directed the
army without a single mistake. He closely pursued the rebel army and
drove them backward till they came to a big river. This river Kotei
and his men found was swollen by the floods and impossible to cross.
Shiyu by using his magic art quickly passed over with his army and
shut himself up in a fortress on the opposite bank.
When Kotei found his march checked he was wild with disappointment,
for he had very nearly overtaken the rebel when the river stopped
He could do nothing, for there were no boats in those days, so the
Emperor ordered his tent to be pitched in the pleasantest spot that
the place afforded.
One day he stepped forth from his tent and after walking about for a
short time he came to a pond. Here he sat down on the bank and was
lost in thought.
It was autumn. The trees growing along the edge of the water were
shedding their leaves, which floated hither and thither on the
surface of the pond. By and by, Kotei's attention was attracted to a
spider on the brink of the water. The little insect was trying to
get on to one of the floating leaves near by. It did so at last, and
was soon floating over the water to the other side of the pond.
This little incident made the clever Emperor think that he might try
to make something that could carry himself and his men over the
river in the same way that the leaf had carried over the spider. He
set to work and persevered till he invented the first boat. When he
found that it was a success he set all his men to make more, and in
time there were enough boats for the whole army.
Kotei now took his army across the river, and attacked Shiyu's
headquarters. He gained a complete victory, and so put an end to the
war which had troubled his country for so long.
This wise and good Emperor did not rest till he had secured peace
and prosperity throughout his whole land. He was beloved by his
subjects, who now enjoyed their happiness of peace for many long
years under him. He spent a great deal of time in making inventions
which would benefit his people, and he succeeded in many besides the
boat and the South Pointing shinansha.
He had reigned about a hundred years when one day, as Kotei was
looking upwards, the sky became suddenly red, and something came
glittering like gold towards the earth. As it came nearer Kotei saw
that it was a great Dragon. The Dragon approached and bowed down its
head before the Emperor. The Empress and the courtiers were so
frightened that they ran away screaming.
But the Emperor only smiled and called to them to stop, and said:
"Do not be afraid. This is a messenger from Heaven. My time here is
finished!" He then mounted the Dragon, which began to ascend towards
When the Empress and the courtiers saw this they all cried out
"Wait a moment! We wish to come too." And they all ran and caught
hold of the Dragon's beard and tried to mount him.
But it was impossible for so many people to ride on the Dragon.
Several of them hung on to the creature's beard so that when it
tried to mount the hair was pulled out and they fell to the ground.
Meanwhile the Empress and a few of the courtiers were safely seated
on the Dragon's back. The Dragon flew up so high in the heavens that
in a short time the inmates of the Palace, who had been left behind
disappointed, could see them no more.
After some time a bow and an arrow dropped to the earth in the
courtyard of the Palace. They were recognized as having belonged to
the Emperor Kotei. The courtiers took them up carefully and
preserved them as sacred relics in the Palace.
THE ADVENTURES OF KINTARO, THE GOLDEN BOY.
Long, long ago there lived in Kyoto a brave soldier named Kintoki.
Now he fell in love with a beautiful lady and married her. Not long
after this, through the malice of some of his friends, he fell into
disgrace at Court and was dismissed. This misfortune so preyed upon
his mind that he did not long survive his dismissal--he died,
leaving behind him his beautiful young wife to face the world alone.
Fearing her husband's enemies, she fled to the Ashigara Mountains as
soon as her husband was dead, and there in the lonely forests where
no one ever came except woodcutters, a little boy was born to her.
She called him Kintaro or the Golden Boy. Now the remarkable thing
about this child was his great strength, and as he grew older he
grew stronger and stronger, so that by the time he was eight years
of age he was able to cut down trees as quickly as the woodcutters.
Then his mother gave him a large ax, and he used to go out in the
forest and help the woodcutters, who called him "Wonder-child," and
his mother the "Old Nurse of the Mountains," for they did not know
her high rank. Another favorite pastime of Kintaro's was to smash up
rocks and stones. You can imagine how strong he was!
Quite unlike other boys, Kintaro, grew up all alone in the mountain
wilds, and as he had no companions he made friends with all the
animals and learned to understand them and to speak their strange
talk. By degrees they all grew quite tame and looked upon Kintaro as
their master, and he used them as his servants and messengers. But
his special retainers were the bear, the deer, the monkey and the
The bear often brought her cubs for Kintaro to romp with, and when
she came to take them home Kintaro would get on her back and have a
ride to her cave. He was very fond of the deer too, and would often
put his arms round the creature's neck to show that its long horns
did not frighten him. Great was the fun they all had together.
One day, as usual, Kintaro went up into the mountains, followed by
the bear, the deer, the monkey, and the hare. After walking for some
time up hill and down dale and over rough roads, they suddenly came
out upon a wide and grassy plain covered with pretty wild flowers.
Here, indeed, was a nice place where they could all have a good romp
together. The deer rubbed his horns against a tree for pleasure, the
monkey scratched his back, the hare smoothed his long ears, and the
bear gave a grunt of satisfaction.
Kintaro said, "Here is a place for a good game. What do you all say
to a wrestling match?"
The bear being the biggest and the oldest, answered for the others:
"That will be great fun," said she. "I am the strongest animal, so I
will make the platform for the wrestlers;" and she set to work with
a will to dig up the earth and to pat it into shape.
"All right," said Kintaro, "I will look on while you all wrestle
with each other. I shall give a prize to the one who wins in each
"What fun! we shall all try to get the prize," said the bear.
The deer, the monkey and the hare set to work to help the bear raise
the platform on which they were all to wrestle. When this was
finished, Kintaro cried out:
"Now begin! the monkey and the hare shall open the sports and the
deer shall be umpire. Now, Mr. Deer, you are to be umpire!"
"He, he!" answered the deer. "I will be umpire. Now, Mr. Monkey and
Mr. Hare, if you are both ready, please walk out and take your
places on the platform."
Then the monkey and the hare both hopped out, quickly and nimbly, to
the wrestling platform. The deer, as umpire, stood between the two
and called out:
"Red-back! Red-back!" (this to the monkey, who has a red back in
Japan). "Are you ready?"
Then he turned to the hare:
"Long-ears! Long-ears! are you ready?"
Both the little wrestlers faced each other while the deer raised a
leaf on high as signal. When he dropped the leaf the monkey and the
hare rushed upon each other, crying "Yoisho, yoisho!"
While the monkey and the hare wrestled, the deer called out
encouragingly or shouted warnings to each of them as the hare or the
monkey pushed each other near the edge of the platform and were in
danger of falling over.
"Red-back! Red-back! stand your ground!" called out the deer.
"Long-ears! Long-ears! be strong, be strong--don't let the monkey
beat you!" grunted the bear.
So the monkey and the hare, encouraged by their friends, tried their
very hardest to beat each other. The hare at last gained on the
monkey. The monkey seemed to trip up, and the hare giving him a good
push sent him flying off the platform with a bound.
The poor monkey sat up rubbing his back, and his face was very long
as he screamed angrily. "Oh, oh! how my back hurts--my back hurts
Seeing the monkey in this plight on the ground, the deer holding his
leaf on high said:
"This round is finished--the hare has won."
Kintaro then opened his luncheon box and taking out a rice-dumpling,
gave it to the hare saying:
"Here is your prize, and you have earned, it well!"
Now the monkey got up looking very cross, and as they say in Japan
"his stomach stood up," for he felt that he had not been fairly
beaten. So he said to Kintaro and the others who were standing by:
"I have not been fairly beaten. My foot slipped and I tumbled.
Please give me another chance and let the hare wrestle with me for
Then Kintaro consenting, the hare and the monkey began to wrestle
again. Now, as every one knows, the monkey is a cunning animal by
nature, and he made up his mind to get the best of the hare this
time if it were possible. To do this, he thought that the best and
surest way would be to get hold of the hare's long ear. This he soon
managed to do. The hare was quite thrown off his guard by the pain
of having his long ear pulled so hard, and the monkey seizing his
opportunity at last, caught hold of one of the hare's legs and sent
him sprawling in the middle of the dais. The monkey was now the
victor and received, a rice-dumpling from Kintaro, which pleased him
so much that he quite forgot his sore back.
The deer now came up and asked the hare if he felt ready for another
round, and if so whether be would try a round with him, and the hare
consenting, they both stood up to wrestle. The bear came forward as
The deer with long horns and the hare with long ears, it must have
been an amusing sight to those who watched this queer match.
Suddenly the deer went down on one of his knees, and the bear with
the leaf on high declared him beaten. In this way, sometimes the
one, sometimes the other, conquering, the little party amused
themselves till they were tired.
At last Kintaro got up and said:
"This is enough for to-day. What a nice place we have found for
wrestling; let us come again to-morrow. Now, we will all go home.
Come along!" So saying, Kintaro led the way while the animals
After walking some little distance they came out on the banks of a
river flowing through a valley. Kintaro and his four furry friends
stood and looked about for some means of crossing. Bridge there was
none. The river rushed "don, don" on its way. All the animals looked
serious, wondering how they could cross the stream and get home that
Kintaro, however, said:
"Wait a moment. I will make a good bridge for you all in a few
The bear, the deer, the monkey and the hare looked at him to see
what he would do now.
Kintaro went from one tree to another that grew along the river
bank. At last he stopped in front of a very large tree that was
growing at the water's edge. He took hold of the trunk and pulled it
with all his might, once, twice, thrice! At the third pull, so great
was Kintaro's strength that the roots gave way, and "meri, meri"
(crash, crash), over fell the tree, forming an excellent bridge
across the stream.
"There," said Kintaro, "what do you think of my bridge? It is quite
safe, so follow me," and he stepped across first. The four animals
followed. Never had they seen any one so strong before, and they all
"How strong he is! how strong he is!"
While all this was going on by the river a woodcutter, who happened
to be standing on a rock overlooking the stream, had seen all that
passed beneath him. He watched with great surprise Kintaro and his
animal companions. He rubbed his eyes to be sure that he was not
dreaming when he saw this boy pull over a tree by the roots and
throw it across the stream to form a bridge.
The woodcutter, for such he seemed to be by his dress, marveled at
all he saw, and said to himself:
"This is no ordinary child. Whose son can he be? I will find out
before this day is done."
He hastened after the strange party and crossed the bridge behind
them. Kintaro knew nothing of all this, and little guessed that he
was being followed. On reaching the other side of the river he and
the animals separated, they to their lairs in the woods and he to
his mother, who was waiting for him.
As soon as he entered the cottage, which stood like a matchbox in
the heart of the pine-woods, he went to greet his mother, saying:
"Okkasan (mother), here I am!"
"O, Kimbo!" said his mother with a bright smile, glad to see her boy
home safe after the long day. "How late you are to-day. I feared
that something had happened to you. Where have you been all the
"I took my four friends, the bear, the deer, the monkey, and the
hare, up into the hills, and there I made them try a wrestling
match, to see which was the strongest. We all enjoyed the sport, and
are going to the same place to-morrow to have another match."
"Now tell me who is the strongest of all?" asked his mother,
pretending not to know.
"Oh, mother," said Kintaro, "don't you know that I am the strongest?
There was no need for me to wrestle with any of them."
"But next to you then, who is the strongest?"
"The bear comes next to me in strength," answered Kintaro.
"And after the bear?" asked his mother again.
"Next to the bear it is not easy to say which is the strongest, for
the deer, the monkey, and the hare all seem to be as strong as each
other," said Kintaro.
Suddenly Kintaro and his mother were startled by a voice from
"Listen to me, little boy! Next time you go, take this old man with
you to the wrestling match. He would like to join the sport too!"
It was the old woodcutter who had followed Kintaro from the river.
He slipped off his clogs and entered the cottage. Yama-uba and her
son were both taken by surprise. They looked at the intruder
wonderingly and saw that he was some one they had never seen before.
"Who are you?" they both exclaimed.
Then the woodcutter laughed and said:
"It does not matter who I am yet, but let us see who has the
strongest arm--this boy or myself?"
Then Kintaro, who had lived all his life in the forest, answered the
old man without any ceremony, saying:
"We will have a try if you wish it, but you must not be angry
whoever is beaten."
Then Kintaro and the woodcutter both put out their right arms and
grasped each other's hands. For a long time Kintaro and the old man
wrestled together in this way, each trying to bend the other's arm,
but the old man was very strong, and the strange pair were evenly
matched. At last the old man desisted, declaring it a drawn game.
"You are, indeed, a very strong child. There are few men who can
boast of the strength of my right arm!" said the woodcutter. "I saw
you first on the hanks of the river a few hours ago, when you pulled
up that large tree to make a bridge across the torrent. Hardly able
to believe what I saw I followed you home. Your strength of arm,
which I have just tried, proves what I saw this afternoon. When you
are full-grown you will surely be the strongest man in all Japan. It
is a pity that you are hidden away in these wild mountains."
Then he turned to Kintaro's mother:
"And you, mother, have you no thought of taking your child to the
Capital, and of teaching him to carry a sword as befits a samurai (a
"You are very kind to take so much interest in my son." replied the
mother; "but he is as you see, wild and uneducated, and I fear it
would be very difficult to do as you say. Because of his great
strength as an infant I hid him away in this unknown part of the
country, for he hurt every one that came near him. I have often
wished that I could, one day, see my boy a knight wearing two
swords, but as we have no influential friend to introduce us at the
Capital, I fear my hope will never come true."
"You need not trouble yourself about that. To tell you the truth I
am no woodcutter! I am one of the great generals of Japan. My name
is Sadamitsu, and I am a vassal of the powerful Lord Minamoto-no-
Raiko. He ordered me to go round the country and look for boys who
give promise of remarkable strength, so that they may be trained as
soldiers for his army. I thought that I could best do this by
assuming the disguise of a woodcutter. By good fortune, I have thus
unexpectedly come across your son. Now if you really wish him to be
a SAMURAI (a knight), I will take him and present him to the Lord
Raiko as a candidate for his service. What do you say to this?"
As the kind general gradually unfolded his plan the mother's heart
was filled with a great joy. She saw that here was a wonderful
chance of the one wish of her life being fulfilled--that of seeing
Kintaro a SAMURAI before she died.
Bowing her head to the ground, she replied:
"I will then intrust my son to you if you really mean what you say."
Kintaro had all this time been sitting by his mother's side
listening to what they said. When his mother finished speaking, he
"Oh, joy! joy! I am to go with the general and one day I shall be a
Thus Kintaro's fate was settled, and the general decided to start
for the Capital at once, taking Kintaro with him. It need hardly be
said that Yama-uba was sad at parting with her boy, for he was all
that was left to her. But she hid her grief with a strong face, as
they say in Japan. She knew that it was for her boy's good that he
should leave her now, and she must not discourage him just as he was
setting out. Kintaro promised never to forget her, and said that as
soon as he was a knight wearing two swords he would build her a home
and take care of her in her old age.
All the animals, those he had tamed to serve him, the bear, the
deer, the monkey, and the hare, as soon as they found out that he
was going away, came to ask if they might attend him as usual. When
they learned that he was going away for good they followed him to
the foot of the mountain to see him off.
"Kimbo," said his mother, "mind and be a good boy."
"Mr. Kintaro," said the faithful animals, "we wish you good health
on your travels."
Then they all climbed a tree to see the last of him, and from that
height they watched him and his shadow gradually grow smaller and
smaller, till he was lost to sight.
The general Sadamitsu went on his way rejoicing at having so
unexpectedly found such a prodigy as Kintaro.
Having arrived at their destination the general took Kintaro at once
to his Lord, Minamoto-no-Raiko, and told him all about Kintaro and
how he had found the child. Lord Raiko was delighted with the story,
and having commanded Kintaro to be brought to him, made him one of
his vassals at once.
Lord Raiko's army was famous for its band called "The Four Braves."
These warriors were chosen by himself from amongst the bravest and
strongest of his soldiers, and the small and well-picked band was
distinguished throughout the whole of Japan for the dauntless
courage of its men.
When Kintaro grew up to be a man his master made him the Chief of
the Four Braves. He was by far the strongest of them all. Soon after
this event, news was brought to the city that a cannibal monster had
taken up his abode not far away and that people were stricken with
fear. Lord Raiko ordered Kintaro to the rescue. He immediately
started off, delighted at the prospect of trying his sword.
Surprising the monster in its den, he made short work of cutting off
its great head, which he carried back in triumph to his master.
Kintaro now rose to be the greatest hero of his country, and great
was the power and honor and wealth that came to him. He now kept his
promise and built a comfortable home for his old mother, who lived
happily with him in the Capital to the end of her days.
Is not this the story of a great hero?
THE STORY OF PRINCESS HASE.
A STORY OF OLD JAPAN.
Many, many years ago there lived in Nara, the ancient Capital of
Japan, a wise State minister, by name Prince Toyonari Fujiwara. His
wife was a noble, good, and beautiful woman called Princess Murasaki
(Violet). They had been married by their respective families
according to Japanese custom when very young, and had lived together
happily ever since. They had, however, one cause for great sorrow,
for as the years went by no child was born to them. This made them