Japanese Fairy Tales
Tsuru no On-gaeshi (A Repaying Crane)
Once upon a time, there was a poor hunter. One day, he came across a trapped crane. He took pity on the crane and released it. A few days later, a lovely woman visited his house, and asked him to shelter for the night. She didn't go next day, then the two got married.
The bride was good disposed as well as beautiful, so they lived happily. But the hunter couldn't afford to support his new wife. One day, she said that she would weave cloth so that he would sell it to make money (weaving was common for a woman's side job those days). But she told him never to see her weaving.
She kept in a weaving hut during three days. When the weaving sound stopped, she came out with a beautiful fabric. He brought the fabric to a town, where Merchants was surprised and paid gold for it. The fabric was very rare one called Tsuru-no-senba-ori (thousand feathers of crane).
Since then, the wife weaved the valuable fabric several times. The hunter came to live in comfort. However, his wife got thinner little by little.
One day, she said that she could weave the fabric no longer. She was so consumed. Though, her husband had learned greed, and asked her to weave once more. At last she was persuaded and started to weave again.
That time, she didn't came out on the third day. And more three days passed. He got worried, and finally broke their promise, peeping her weaving. To his surprise, it was not a woman but a crane that was weaving.
On the next morning, his wife came out from the weaving hut, with the last fabric in her hands. She said "you have seen my true form, so I can stay with you any no longer." And then, she turned into a crane and flew away, leaving the hunter's crying.
Kaguya Hime (Princess Kaguya)
Once upon a time, there was an old bamboo crafter. One day he found a glimmering bamboo in a mountain. When he cut the bamboo, a small girl baby came out. He brought the baby, named Kaguya and brought up with his wife.
Kaguya grew at a surprising speed, and became a beautiful girl of 4 feet tall in several months. Her beauty attracted many noble princes. Five princes proposed marriage to her. But she requested each of the candidate to bring an legendary treasure, such as an orb of dragon, skin of fire-mouse, etc., in return for marriage with her. One lost his life in his quest. One faked the treasure, but was exposed soon. Others simply failed. So no one could marry with her.
After that, the emperor proposed marriage. But she rejected, to. Several years past. The bamboo smith noticed that Kaguya seemed melancholy when she saw the moon. He asked about it to her. At first she rejected to answer, but at last told him, "I'm a child of the lunar, and they will came here to bring me back to the moon soon on the next full moon night." He was surprised, and decided to keep her from the lunar. The emperor send an army to guard her house. On the full moon night, a carriage descended from the moon to her house. The army tried to shoot it down but in vein. The soldiers were incapacitated by strange forces. The lunar came to Kaguya, and told to ride the carriage to go back to the moon. Then she cried, saying thanks and good-bye to the bamboo crafter and his wife, then returned to the moon.
Shitakiri Suzume (A tongue-cut spallow)
Once upon a time, there were an old man and his wife. One day he came across a wounded sparrow. He brought the sparrow to his house and treated. So the sparrow was tamed by him.
But when he was out, the sparrow ate starch made by his wife. She got angry and cut the tongue of the sparrow. The sparrow wounded again, and fly away.
When he came back, he found that sparrow was lost. He sought the sparrow throughout the mountains, and finally found the hidden kingdom of sparrow. Sparrows gave a warm reception to him. When he returned to his home, sparrows proposed him a present. They show two boxed, small and large, and told him to choose one. He chose small one, because he was old and couldn't carry much. After he came back, he found the box full of gold.
He was pleased, but his wife got angry, rebuked him saying why he had not chosen the bigger box. So she pump the location of the kingdom from him, and went there to get more gold. Though the sparrows tried to give a warm reception to her, she rejected, and wanted only the last present. Bigger one, of course.
The bigger box was very heavy. She got tired on the way home, so took a rest, and opened the box. In the box was not gold, but a pride of grotesque monsters assaulting her.
Hanasaka Jisan (An old man made blossoms)
Once upon a time, there were two old men. One was very honest, and the other was a liar.
The honest man had a dog, named pochi. One day, pochi barked in the middle of field. So the honest man dug there. From beneath the soil appeared an amount of gold.
The liar envied him. He took pochi out, and ordered to search gold for him. Pochi reluctantly barked in his field. When he dug the field, only ugly serpents and toads emerged from the earth. He got angry, and killed pochi.
The honest old man was sorrowful. He buried pochi's body and planted a tree as its tomb. The tree grew rapidly. So he cut the tree and made a mortar out of the wood. When he made rice cake with the mortar, gold coins poured out from the mortar. So he got more rich.
The liar old man envied him again. He borrowed the mortar from the honest man, and used it to made rice cake. Again, he got only worms, frogs and snakes. He got angry, and burned the wooden mortar.
The honest old man was sorrowful again. He brought the ashes of the mortar back, and strew it. The ashes were carried by wind to dead trees, and to his surprise, the dead tree revived and blossomed. The lord of the region saw it, and very amazed. So he was rewarded much.
The liar old man envied him three times. He stole the remained ashes, and went to the lord's castle. He said he could make dead trees blossomed, and demonstrated in front of the lord. However, he was betrayed three times. The tree didn't revive. And the ashes flew into the eyes of the lord, making the lord very angry. So the old man liar was executed at last.
Copyright © 1998-2006 Phillip Riley
Last Updated Sat Aug 11, 2007