: Japanese Fairy Tales
Once there lived two brothers who were princes in the land.
The elder brother was a hunter. He loved the deep woods and the chase.
He went from dawn to dark with his bow and his arrows. Swiftly he could
run; he was strong and bright-eyed. The younger brother was a dreamer;
his eyes were gentle. From dawn to dark he would sit with his book or
with his thoughts. Sweetly could he sing of love, or of war, or of the
green fields, and tell stories of the fairies and of the time of the
Upon a fair day of summer the hunter betook himself very early to the
woods, as was his wont. But the dreamer took his book in his hand, and,
musing, he wandered by the stream's side, where grew the yellow mimulus.
"It is the fairies' money," he said; "it will buy all the joys of
fairyland!" So he went on his way, smiling.
And when he had continued for some time, he came to a holy shrine. And
there led to the shrine a hundred steps, moss-grown and grey. Beside
the steps were guardian lions, carved in stone. Behind the shrine was
Fugi, the Mystic Mountain, white and beautiful, and all the lesser hills
rose softly up like prayers.
"O peerless Fugi," said the dreamer, "O passionless wonder mountain! To
see thee is to hear sweet music without sound, the blessed harmony of
Then he climbed the steps, moss-grown and grey. And the lions that were
carved in stone rose up and followed him, and they came with him to the
inner gates of the shrine and stayed there.
In the shrine there was a hush of noonday. The smoke of incense curled
and hung upon the air. Dimly shone the gold and the bronze, the lights
and the mystic mirrors.
There was a sound of singing in the shrine, and turning, the dreamer saw
a man who stood at his right hand. The man was taller than any child of
earth. Moreover, his face shone with the glory of a youth that cannot
pass away. He held a year-old child upon his arm and hushed it to sleep,
singing a strange melody. When the babe fell asleep he was well pleased,
"What babe is that?" said the dreamer.
"O dreamer, it is no babe, but a spirit."
"Then, my lord, what are you?" said the dreamer.
"I am Jizo, who guards the souls of little children. It is most pitiful
to hear their crying when they come to the sandy river-bed, the
Sai-no-kawara. O dreamer, they come alone, as needs they must, wailing
and wandering, stretching out their pretty hands. They have a task,
which is to pile stones for a tower of prayer. But in the night come the
Oni to throw down the towers and to scatter all the stones. So the
children are made afraid, and their labour is lost."
"What then, my lord Jizo?" said the dreamer.
"Why, then I come, for the Great One gives me leave. And I call 'Come
hither, wandering souls.' And they fly to me that I may hide them in my
long sleeves. I carry them in my arms and on my breast, where they lie
light and cold,--as light and cold as the morning mist upon the
When he had spoken, the year-old child stirred and murmured: so he
rocked it, and wandered to and fro in the quiet temple court and hushed
it as he went.
So the swift moments flew and the noontide passed away.
Presently there came to the shrine a lady most gentle and beautiful.
Grey was her robe, and she had silver sandals on her feet. She said, "I
am called The Merciful. For mankind's dear sake, I have refused eternal
peace. The Great One has given to me a thousand loving arms, arms of
mercy. And my hands are full of gifts. O dreamer, when you dream your
dreams you shall see me in my lotus boat when I sail upon the mystic
"Lady, Lady Kwannon ..." said the dreamer.
Then came one clothed in blue, speaking with a sweet, deep, well-known
"I am Benten, the Goddess of the Sea and the Goddess of Song. My dragons
are about me and beneath my feet. See their green scales and their opal
eyes. Greeting, O dreamer!"
After her there came a band of blooming boys, laughing and holding out
their rosy arms. "We are the Sons of the Sea Goddess," they said. "Come,
dreamer, come to our cool caves."
The God of Roads came, and his three messengers with him. Three apes
were the three messengers. The first ape covered his eyes with his
hands, for he could see no evil thing. The second ape covered his ears
with his hands, for he could hear no evil thing. The third ape covered
his mouth with his hands, for he could speak no evil thing. Then came
She, the fearful woman who takes the clothes of the dead who are not
able to pay their toll, so that they must stand shivering at the
entrance of the mysterious Three Ways. They are unfortunate indeed.
And many and many a vision the dreamer saw in that enchanted shrine.
And dark night fell, with storm and tempest and the sound of rain upon
the roof. Yet the dreamer never stirred. Suddenly there was a sound of
hurrying feet without. A voice called loud, "My brother, my brother, my
brother!..." In sprang the hunter through the golden temple doors.
"Where are you?" he cried, "my brother, my brother!" He had his swinging
lantern in his hand and held it high, as he flung his long blown hair
back over his shoulder. His face was bright with the rain upon it, his
eyes were as keen as an eagle's.
"O brother ..." said the dreamer, and ran to meet him.
"Now the dear gods be thanked that I have you safe and sound," said the
hunter. "Half the night I have sought you, wandering in the forest and
by the stream's side. I was all to blame for leaving you ... my little
brother." With that, he took his brother's face between his two warm
But the dreamer sighed, "I have been with the gods all night," he said,
"and I think I see them still. The place is holy."
Then the hunter flashed his light upon the temple walls, upon the
gilding and the bronze.
"I see no gods," he said.
"What see you, brother?"
"I see a row of stones, broken images, grey, with moss-grown feet."
"They are grey because they are sad, they are sad because they are
forgotten," said the dreamer.
But the hunter took him by the hand and led him into the night.
The dreamer said, "O brother, how sweet is the scent of the bean fields
after the rain."
"Now bind your sandals on," said the hunter, "and I'll run you a race to