The Jelly-fish Takes A Journey
: Japanese Fairy Tales
Once upon a time the jelly-fish was a very handsome fellow. His form was
beautiful, and round as the full moon. He had glittering scales and fins
and a tail as other fishes have, but he had more than these. He had
little feet as well, so that he could walk upon the land as well as swim
in the sea. He was merry and he was gay, he was beloved and trusted of
the Dragon King. In spite of all this, his grandmother always said he
would come to a bad end, because he would not mind his books at school.
She was right. It all came about in this wise.
The Dragon King was but lately wed when the young Lady Dragon his wife
fell very sick. She took to her bed and stayed there, and wise folk in
Dragonland shook their heads and said her last day was at hand. Doctors
came from far and near, and they dosed her and they bled her, but no
good at all could they do her, the poor young thing, nor recover her of
The Dragon King was beside himself.
"Heart's Desire," he said to his pale bride, "I would give my life for
"Little good would it do me," she answered. "Howbeit, if you will fetch
me a monkey's liver I will eat it and live."
"A monkey's liver!" cried the Dragon King. "A monkey's liver! You talk
wildly, O light of mine eyes. How shall I find a monkey's liver? Know
you not, sweet one, that monkeys dwell in the trees of the forest,
whilst we are in the deep sea?"
Tears ran down the Dragon Queen's lovely countenance.
"If I do not have the monkey's liver, I shall die," she said.
Then the Dragon went forth and called to him the jelly-fish.
"The Queen must have a monkey's liver," he said, "to cure her of her
"What will she do with the monkey's liver?" asked the jelly-fish.
"Why, she will eat it," said the Dragon King.
"Oh!" said the jelly-fish.
"Now," said the King, "you must go and fetch me a live monkey. I have
heard that they dwell in the tall trees of the forest. Therefore swim
quickly, O jelly-fish, and bring a monkey with you back again."
"How will I get the monkey to come back with me?" said the jelly-fish.
"Tell him of all the beauties and pleasures of Dragonland. Tell him he
will be happy here and that he may play with mermaids all the day
"Well," said the jelly-fish, "I'll tell him that."
Off set the jelly-fish; and he swam and he swam, till at last he reached
the shore where grew the tall trees of the forest. And, sure enough,
there was a monkey sitting in the branches of a persimmon tree, eating
"The very thing," said the jelly-fish to himself; "I'm in luck."
"Noble monkey," he said, "will you come to Dragonland with me?"
"How should I get there?" said the monkey.
"Only sit on my back," said the jelly-fish, "and I'll take you there;
you'll have no trouble at all."
"Why should I go there, after all?" said the monkey. "I am very well off
as I am."
"Ah," said the jelly-fish, "it's plain that you know little of all the
beauties and pleasures of Dragonland. There you will be happy as the day
is long. You will win great riches and honour. Besides, you may play
with the mermaids from morn till eve."
"I'll come," said the monkey.
And he slipped down from the persimmon tree and jumped on the
When the two of them were about half-way over to Dragonland, the
"Now, jelly-fish, why do you laugh?"
"I laugh for joy," said the jelly-fish. "When you come to Dragonland,
my master, the Dragon King, will get your liver, and give it to my
mistress the Dragon Queen to eat, and then she will recover from her
"My liver?" said the monkey.
"Why, of course," said the jelly-fish.
"Alas and alack," cried the monkey, "I'm grieved indeed, but if it's my
liver you're wanting I haven't it with me. To tell you the truth, it
weighs pretty heavy, so I just took it out and hung it upon a branch of
that persimmon tree where you found me. Quick, quick, let's go back for
Back they went, and the monkey was up in the persimmon tree in a
"Mercy me, I don't see it at all," he said. "Where can I have mislaid
it? I should not be surprised if some rascal has stolen it," he said.
Now if the jelly-fish had minded his books at school, would he have been
hoodwinked by the monkey? You may believe not. But his grandmother
always said he would come to a bad end.
"I shall be some time finding it," said the monkey. "You'd best be
getting home to Dragonland. The King would be loath for you to be out
after dark. You can call for me another day. Sayonara."
The monkey and the jelly-fish parted on the best of terms.
The minute the Dragon King set eyes on the jelly-fish, "Where's the
monkey?" he said.
"I'm to call for him another day," said the jelly-fish. And he told all
The Dragon King flew into a towering rage. He called his executioners
and bid them beat the jelly-fish.
"Break every bone in his body," he cried; "beat him to a jelly."
Alas for the sad fate of the jelly-fish! Jelly he remains to this very
As for the young Dragon Queen, she was fain to laugh when she heard the
"If I can't have a monkey's liver I must needs do without it," she said.
"Give me my best brocade gown and I will get up, for I feel a good deal