Indian Folktale: The Sage’s Daughter

It is another interesting story / tale from the Hitopadesha album. Once upon a time, there lived a Sage on the banks of a river. The sage and his wife didn’t bear any children. They were unhappy about this fact of their life. One day, when the sage was engaged in penance, a kite dropped a she-mouse and it happened to fall in the lap of the Sage. The Sage thought that the God might have sent this mouse to him. He thought that if he would take the mouse to his home, people would laugh at him. So he decided to change the mouse into a girl. 

The Sage brought the girl to his home. On seeing the Girl, the Sage’s wife asked, “Who is she? From where did you bring this girl?” The Sage narrated to her the whole story and said, “I would bring her back to her original form”. The Sage’s wife stopped him instantly and said, “I beg of you. Please don’t change her into a mouse. You have given her life so you have become her father. Since you are her father, I am her mother. God must have sent her to us because we don’t bear any children”.

The Sage accepted the request of his wife. They started bringing up the Girl child as their own daughter. Soon the Girl grew into a beautiful maiden. By the age of sixteen, the Sage’s wife decided to get her daughter married. She asked her husband to find a suitable match for their daughter. The Sage liked the idea and suggested that the Sun God would make the best match for their daughter. The wife agreed upon this and the Sage prayed to the Sun God to appear. When the Sun God appeared, the Sage asked him to marry his daughter. 

But the Girl refused the idea and said, “Sorry! I can’t marry the Sun God as he is burning hot. I will be reduced to ashes in his warmth and light”. The Sage got disappointed to hear this from the Girl. He asked the Sun God if he could suggest a groom for his daughter. The Sun God said, “The Lord of Clouds could make a good match for her, as he is the only one, who can easily stop the rays of the Sun”. 

The Sage then prayed to the Lord of Clouds to appear and asked him to marry his daughter. But the Girl once again rejected the proposal and said, “I don’t want to marry a dark person like him. Besides this, I am terrified of the thunder he generates”. The Sage was disheartened once again and asked the Lord of Clouds if he could suggest a possible groom. The Lord of Clouds said, “Wind God can make a possible match for her as he can easily blow me away”.

The Sage then prayed to the Wind God to appear and asked him to marry his daughter. The Daughter declined the idea and said, “I can’t marry a frail person like the Wind God who is always stirring”. Once again the sage got sad and asked the Wind God to give some suggestion. The Wind God replied, “Lord of Mountain is solid and can stop the hard blows of wind easily. He can make a suitable match for your daughter”. 

As per the kind suggestion made by the Wind God, the Sage went to the Lord of Mountain and asked him to marry his daughter. But the Girl once again declined the proposal and said, “I can’t marry the Lord of Mountain because he is too cold-hearted”. She asked the Sage to find a softer groom for her. The Sage sought Mountain Lord’s suggestion for the same. The Mountain Lord replied,”A mouse will make a perfect match for her as he is soft and can easily make holes in the mountain”.

The daughter approved the idea of marrying a he-mouse. Moreover, she was pleased at this proposal. The Sage said, “This is destiny. You came as a mouse and you were fated to marry a mouse”. Saying this, the Sage converted the Girl back to a female mouse. The female mouse got married to a male mouse and lived happily thereafter.

Moral: Destiny cannot be changed.

Source: http://www.culturalindia.net

Indian Folktale: The Sage's Daughter - Esther Neela Blog

Japanese Folktale: Visu the Woodsman and the Old Priest

Many years ago there lived on the then barren plain of Suruga a woodsman by the name of Visu. He was a giant in stature, and lived in a hut with his wife and children.
One day Visu received a visit from an old priest, who said to him: “Honorable woodsman, I am afraid you never pray.”

Visu replied: “If you had a wife and a large family to keep, you would never have time to pray.”

This remark made the priest angry, and the old man gave the woodcutter a vivid description of the horror of being reborn as a toad, or a mouse, or an insect for millions of years. Such lurid details were not to Visu’s liking, and he accordingly promised the priest that in future he would pray.

“Work and pray,” said the priest as he took his departure.

Unfortunately Visu did nothing but pray. He prayed all day long and refused to do any work, so that his rice crops withered and his wife and family starved. Visu’s wife, who had hitherto never said a harsh or bitter word to her husband, now became extremely angry, and, pointing to the poor thin bodies of her children, she exclaimed: “Rise, Visu, take up your ax and do something more helpful to us all than the mere mumbling of prayers!”

Visu was so utterly amazed at what his wife had said that it was some time before he could think of a fitting reply. When he did so his words came hot and strong to the ears of his poor, much-wronged wife.

“Woman,” said he, “the Gods come first. You are an impertinent creature to speak to me so, and I will have nothing more to do with you!” Visu snatched up his ax and, without looking round to say farewell, he left the hut, strode out of the wood, and climbed up Fujiyama, where a mist hid him from sight.

When Visu had seated himself upon the mountain he heard a soft rustling sound, and immediately afterward saw a fox dart into a thicket. Now Visu deemed it extremely lucky to see a fox, and, forgetting his prayers, he sprang up, and ran hither and thither in the hope of again finding this sharp-nosed little creature.

He was about to give up the chase when, coming to an open space in a wood, he saw two ladies sitting down by a brook playing go. The woodsman was so completely fascinated that he could do nothing but sit down and watch them. There was no sound except the soft click of pieces on the board and the song of the running brook. The ladies took no notice of Visu, for they seemed to be playing a strange game that had no end, a game that entirely absorbed their attention. Visu could not keep his eyes off these fair women. He watched their long black hair and the little quick hands that shot out now and again from their big silk sleeves in order to move the pieces.

After he had been sitting there for three hundred years, though to him it was but a summer’s afternoon, he saw that one of the players had made a false move. “Wrong, most lovely lady!” he exclaimed excitedly. In a moment these women turned into foxes and ran away.

When Visu attempted to pursue them he found to his horror that his limbs were terribly stiff, that his hair was very long, and that his beard touched the ground. He discovered, moreover, that the handle of his ax, though made of the hardest wood, had crumbled away into a little heap of dust.

After many painful efforts Visu was able to stand on his feet and proceed very slowly toward his little home. When he reached the spot he was surprised to see no hut, and, perceiving a very old woman, he said: “Good lady, I am amazed to find that my little home has disappeared. I went away this afternoon, and now in the evening it has vanished!”

The old woman, who believed that a madman was addressing her, inquired his name. When she was told, she exclaimed: “Bah! You must indeed be mad! Visu lived three hundred years ago! He went away one day, and he never came back again.”

“Three hundred years!” murmured Visu. “It cannot be possible. Where are my dear wife and children?”

“Buried!” hissed the old woman, “and, if what you say is true, you children’s children too. The Gods have prolonged your miserable life in punishment for having neglected your wife and little children.”

Big tears ran down Visu’s withered cheeks as he said in a husky voice: “I have lost my manhood. I have prayed when my dear ones starved and needed the labor of my once strong hands. Old woman, remember my last words: “If you pray, work too!”

We do not know how long the poor but repentant Visu lived after he returned from his strange adventures. His white spirit is still said to haunt Fujiyama when the moon shines brightly.

Source: F. Hadland Davis, Myths and Legends of Japan (London: George G. Harrap and Company, 1912), pp. 136-39.
This is a type 766 folktale. Davis entitles the story “The Rip van Winkle of Old Japan.”

Esther’s Reflection: While it may be tempting to run away from life problems and happenings, we have to know that the current world life such as family are also our responsibilities. We can always be in meditation mode or to say in “Zen” mode in our daily life and in the daily work we do. There is no need to leave our existing life to seek peace. Peace is readily available – it is all in our thoughts and mind…

Esther Neela Blog

Chinese Folktale: The Ants

Ho Kwan of Kuang Nan was a kindhearted man and never killed any living thing. He had a jar containing one thousand pieces of silver which he kept in a casket. The white ants, of which there were so many in his district, invaded the casket and ate part of the silver. When his family found what had happened, they traced the ants to a hollow cave where millions of them were living. They thought if they put all of these ants in a crucible, perhaps they could recover a part of the lost silver. But Ho objected to the scheme, saying: “I cannot bear to see all these many creatures killed on account of a small sum of silver.”

So they let the matter drop. That night he dreamed that scores of soldiers in white armor came to him, asking him to enter a carriage which they had with them and to come to the palace of their king. Ho Kwan proceeded with the soldiers to a town where the people looked prosperous and the buildings were all magnificent. Numerous officers came to meet him and took him to a splendid palace.

The king, clad in royal fashion, descended from the throne, and, cordially saluting Ho Kwan, said: “By your benevolent acts we have been saved from our enemy. While not forgetting your kindness, the lack of strict discipline among my people caused you some trouble recently, but by your mercy they have again been saved from calamity. How could I let your kindness go unrequited this time? There is a certain tree near your residence readily identified, under which in olden times a certain person buried a jar full of silver. Just dig that out and keep it for yourself. You are the unicorn of mankind (the emblem of perfect goodness) that will never hurt any living soul. It is a pity that you are now too old to enjoy the fruits of your kindness yourself, but your descendents will reap what you have sown.”

After this Ho Kwan was escorted back to his own house as before, by armed soldiers. When he awoke he meditated on the dream and found it to be the work of the ants. So he dug up the place as told by their king and recovered a jar buried therein these many years. His son became an eminent scholar.

Sacred Texts T’ai-Shang Kan-Ying P’ien Translated from the Chinese by Teitaro Suzuki and Dr. Paul Carus [1906]


Japanese Folktale: The Mirror of Matsuyama

Esther’s Note: A heart moving story of a child’s love for her mother and values of filial piety. Shows the unconditional love of the child…

In ancient days there lived in a remote part of Japan a man and his wife, and they were blessed with a little girl, who was the pet and idol of her parents. On one occasion the man was called away on business in distant Kyoto. Before he went he told his daughter that if she were good and dutiful to her mother he would bring her back a present she would prize very highly. Then the good man took his departure, mother and daughter watching him go.

At last he returned to his home, and after his wife and child had taken off his large hat and sandals he sat down upon the white mats and opened a bamboo basket, watching the eager gaze of his little child. He took out a wonderful doll and a lacquer box of cakes and put them into her outstretched hands. Once more he dived into his basket, and presented his wife with a metal mirror. Its convex surface shone brightly, while upon its back there was a design of pine trees and storks.

The good man’s wife had never seen a mirror before, and on gazing into it she was under the impression that another woman looked out upon her as she gazed with growing wonder. Her husband explained the mystery and bade her take great care of the mirror.

Not long after this happy homecoming and distribution of presents the woman became very ill. Just before she died she called to her little daughter, and said: “Dear child, when I am dead take every care of your father. You will miss me when I have left you. But take this mirror, and when you feel most lonely look into it and you will always see me.” Having said these words she passed away.

In due time the man married again, and his wife was not at all kind to her stepdaughter. But the little one, remembering her mother’s words, would retire to a corner and eagerly look into the mirror, where it seemed to her that she saw her dear mother’s face, not drawn in pain as she had seen it on her deathbed, but young and beautiful.

One day this child’s stepmother chanced to see her crouching in a corner over an object she could not quite see, murmuring to herself. This ignorant woman, who detested the child and believed that her stepdaughter detested her in return, fancied that this little one was performing some strange magical art–perhaps making an image and sticking pins into it. Full of these notions, the stepmother went to her husband and told him that his wicked child was doing her best to kill her by witchcraft.

When the master of the house had listened to this extraordinary recital he went straight to his daughter’s room. He took her by surprise, and immediately the girl saw him she slipped the mirror into her sleeve. For the first time her doting father grew angry, and he feared that there was, after all, truth in what his wife had told him, and he repeated her tale forthwith.

When his daughter had heard this unjust accusation she was amazed at her father’s words, and she told him that she loved him far too well ever to attempt or wish to kill his wife, who she knew was dear to him.

“What have you hidden in your sleeve?” said her father, only half convinced and still much puzzled.

“The mirror you gave my mother, and which she on her deathbed gave to me. Every time I look into its shining surface I see the face of my dear mother, young and beautiful. When my heart aches–and oh! it has ached so much lately–I take out the mirror, and mother’s face, with sweet, kind smile, brings me peace, and helps me to bear hard words and cross looks.”

Then the man understood and loved his child the more for her filial piety. Even the girl’s stepmother, when she knew what had really taken place, was ashamed and asked forgiveness. And this child, who believed she had seen her mother’s face in the mirror, forgave, and trouble forever departed from the home.

Source: F. Hadland Davis, Myths and Legends of Japan 
(London: George G. Harrap and Company, 1912), pp. 196-98.