Yei Theodora Ozaki.

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keeper said :

" This is Urashima Taro, from the country of Japan. I



The Story of Urashima Taro, the Fisher Lad. 33

have had the honour of bringing him as a visitor to this
kingdom. Please show him the way."

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.

lt 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 all was 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

F.B. I)



34 Japanese Fairy Book.

took him by the hand and led him to a beautiful hall, and to
the seat of honour 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 it
you like you shall live here for ever 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 for ever 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 bride-
groom. The bridal was celebrated with dazzling splendour,
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



The Story of Urashima Taro, the Fisher Lad. 35

himself with all his heart. Never in his whole life had he sat
down to such a marvellous feast.

When the feast was over the Princess asked the bride-
groom 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 ol
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 fulness
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

D 2



36 Japanese Fairy Book.

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:

" 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-bye. I must go back to my old parents."

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



The Story of Urashima Taro, the Fisher Lad. 37

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 favours 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 whatever happened.

Then bidding good-bye 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



38 Japanese Fairy Book.

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 before him.

o

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 King's realm.

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 well before.

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 calls out :

"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 ? "



The Story of Urashima Taro, the Fisher Lad. 39

" 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, for 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 re-visit 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



4<D Japanese Fairy Book.

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





- *-'' '

L' /*'.' .' A-'

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A beautiful little Purple Cloud rose out of the Box.

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



The Story of Urashima Taro, the Fisher Lad. 41

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.

11 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 some-
thing 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 look in ! '

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 his promise.

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 loth to go, and
then it floated away like vapour 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.



42 Japanese Fairy Book.

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.



( 43 )



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 neighbour 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



44



Japanese Fairy Book.



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The Farmer's Wife pounding Barley.



The Farmer and the Badger. 45

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 while ! "

11 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 anyone. Much less did she think that the



46 Japanese Fairy Book.

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 labour 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 ot
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 his mind.

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 verandah 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 dreamt that it was not his wife but the badger who was



The Farmer and the Badger. 47

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 neighbour. 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 distress.



48 Japanese Fairy Book.

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 neighbourhood 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



i <



The Farmer and the Badger.



49




Set the Bundle of Grass on Fire.



F.B.



50 Japanese Fairy Book.

' 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 burnt out and all the
hair had been burnt 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



The Farmer and the Badger. 51

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 his recovery.

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 agreed.

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


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Online LibraryYei Theodora OzakiThe Japanese fairy book → online text (page 3 of 17)