Japanese Fairy Tales - novelonlinefull.com
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As soon as the old woman saw him she called out:
"O Fii San! (old man) I have been waiting for you to come home for such a long time to-day!"
"What is the matter? Why are you so impatient?" asked the old man, wondering at her unusual eagerness. "Has anything happened while I have been away?"
"Oh, no!" answered the old woman, "nothing has happened, only I have found a nice present for you!"
"That is good," said the old man. He then washed his feet in a basin of water and stepped up to the veranda.
The old woman now ran into the little room and brought out from the cupboard the big peach. It felt even heavier than before. She held it up to him, saying:
"Just look at this! Did you ever see such a large peach in all your life?"
When the old man looked at the peach he was greatly astonished and said:
"This is indeed the largest peach I have ever seen! Wherever did you buy it?"
"I did not buy it," answered the old woman. "I found it in the river where I was washing." And she told him the whole story.
"I am very glad that you have found it. Let us eat it now, for I am hungry," said the O Fii San.
He brought out the kitchen knife, and, placing the peach on a board, was about to cut it when, wonderful to tell, the peach split in two of itself and a clear voice said:
"Wait a bit, old man!" and out stepped a beautiful little child.
The old man and his wife were both so astonished at what they saw that they fell to the ground. The child spoke again:
"Don't be afraid. I am no demon or fairy. I will tell you the truth.
Heaven has had compa.s.sion on you. Every day and every night you have lamented that you had no child. Your cry has been heard and I am sent to be the son of your old age!"
On hearing this the old man and his wife were very happy. They had cried night and day for sorrow at having no child to help them in their lonely old age, and now that their prayer was answered they were so lost with joy that they did not know where to put their hands or their feet. First the old man took the child up in his arms, and then the old woman did the same; and they named him MOMOTARO, OR SON OF A PEACH, because he had come out of a peach.
The years pa.s.sed quickly by and the child grew to be fifteen years of age. He was taller and far stronger than any other boys of his own age, he had a handsome face and a heart full of courage, and he was very wise for his years. The old couple's pleasure was very great when they looked at him, for he was just what they thought a hero ought to be like.
One day Momotaro came to his foster-father and said solemnly:
"Father, by a strange chance we have become father and son. Your goodness to me has been higher than the mountain gra.s.ses which it was your daily work to cut, and deeper than the river where my mother washes the clothes. I do not know how to thank you enough."
"Why," answered the old man, "it is a matter of course that a father should bring up his son. When you are older it will be your turn to take care of us, so after all there will be no profit or loss between us--all will be equal. Indeed, I am rather surprised that you should thank me in this way!" and the old man looked bothered.
"I hope you will be patient with me," said Momotaro; "but before I begin to pay back your goodness to me I have a request to make which I hope you will grant me above everything else."
"I will let you do whatever you wish, for you are quite different to all other boys!"
"Then let me go away at once!"
"What do you say? Do you wish to leave your old father and mother and go away from your old home?"
"I will surely come back again, if you let me go now!"
"Where are you going?"
"You must think it strange that I want to go away," said Momotaro, "because I have not yet told you my reason. Far away from here to the northeast of j.a.pan there is an island in the sea. This island is the stronghold of a band of devils. I have often heard how they invade this land, kill and rob the people, and carry off all they can find. They are not only very wicked but they are disloyal to our Emperor and disobey his laws. They are also cannibals, for they kill and eat some of the poor people who are so unfortunate as to fall into their hands.
These devils are very hateful beings. I must go and conquer them and bring back all the plunder of which they have robbed this land. It is for this reason that I want to go away for a short time!"
The old man was much surprised at hearing all this from a mere boy of fifteen. He thought it best to let the boy go. He was strong and fearless, and besides all this, the old man knew he was no common child, for he had been sent to them as a gift from Heaven, and he felt quite sure that the devils would be powerless to harm him.
"All you say is very interesting, Momotaro," said the old man. "I will not hinder you in your determination. You may go if you wish. Go to the island as soon as ever you like and destroy the demons and bring peace to the land."
"Thank you, for all your kindness," said Momotaro, who began to get ready to go that very day. He was full of courage and did not know what fear was.
The old man and woman at once set to work to pound rice in the kitchen mortar to make cakes for Momotaro to take with him on his journey.
At last the cakes were made and Momotaro was ready to start on his long journey.
Parting is always sad. So it was now. The eyes of the two old people were filled with tears and their voices trembled as they said:
"Go with all care and speed. We expect you back victorious!"
Momotaro was very sorry to leave his old parents (though he knew he was coming back as soon as he could), for he thought of how lonely they would be while he was away. But he said "Good-by!" quite bravely.
"I am going now. Take good care of yourselves while I am away.
Good-by!" And he stepped quickly out of the house. In silence the eyes of Momotaro and his parents met in farewell.
Momotaro now hurried on his way till it was midday. He began to feel hungry, so he opened his bag and took out one of the rice-cakes and sat down under a tree by the side of the road to eat it. While he was thus having his lunch a dog almost as large as a colt came running out from the high gra.s.s. He made straight for Momotaro, and showing his teeth, said in a fierce way:
"You are a rude man to pa.s.s my field without asking permission first.
If you leave me all the cakes you have in your bag you may go; otherwise I will bite you till I kill you!"
Momotaro only laughed scornfully:
"What is that you are saying? Do you know who I am? I am Momotaro, and I am on my way to subdue the devils in their island stronghold in the northeast of j.a.pan. If you try to stop me on my way there I will cut you in two from the head downwards!"
The dog's manner at once changed. His tail dropped between his legs, and coming near he bowed so low that his forehead touched the ground.
"What do I hear? The name of Momotaro? Are you indeed Momotaro? I have often heard of your great strength. Not knowing who you were I have behaved in a very stupid way. Will you please pardon my rudeness? Are you indeed on your way to invade the Island of Devils? If you will take such a rude fellow with you as one of your followers, I shall be very grateful to you."
"I think I can take you with me if you wish to go," said Momotaro.
"Thank you!" said the dog. "By the way, I am very very hungry. Will you give me one of the cakes you are carrying?"
"This is the best kind of cake there is in j.a.pan," said Momotaro. "I cannot spare you a whole one; I will give you half of one."
"Thank you very much," said the dog, taking the piece thrown to him.
Then Momotaro got up and the dog followed. For a long time they walked over the hills and through the valleys. As they were going along an animal came down from a tree a little ahead of them. The creature soon came up to Momotaro and said:
"Good morning, Momotaro! You are welcome in this part of the country.
Will you allow me to go with you?"