This is a retelling of a Japanese folktale called The Star Lovers, from a collection by Grace Jones titled, Japanese Fairy Tales.
The Weaving Maiden
It is a love story from the old days of old Japan and tells of the Weaving Maiden who dwelt upon the shore of the Bright River of Heaven. Her duty was to weave the garments for all of the gods. She took her duty most seriously working tirelessly hour after hour weaving the white cloth for the garments of the gods. Ream upon ream of cloth lay piled all around her but she never stopped for rest or respite. Instead she spent all her time weaving. You see she was afraid. She was afraid because she had heard this saying,
“Sorrow, sorrow, age-long sorrow And eternal gloom Shall fall upon the Weaving Maiden When she leaves her loom.”
Therefore, she worked every hour, day and night making the clothing for the gods. In truth, they had clothes to spare. Conversely, in her efforts to clothe them she never took the time to ensure she was clad elegantly as befitted her own status. Instead she wore an old ill-fitting and worn tunic. She never bothered with the beautiful jewelry her father often lavished upon her either. Instead, she went bare of foot and allowed her hair to stream down over her shoulders and her back. When she was at work on the loom she just flung it casually over her one shoulder to keep it out of the way.
All her time was taken up with her work and she had never played with the other children of the gods among the stars. She had never interacted with them at all. She did not love or weep and she did not eat, she was not glad or sorry . She just sat at her loom and shuttle and wove and wove. She wove her very being into the cloth that she was weaving and it came out white.
At last her father noticed her industry and said, “ My daughter, you are working too hard.”
“But it is my duty, father,” she replied.
“Nonsense! You are too young to think of duty,” he replied.
“Father, why are you are displeased with me?”she asked.
“Daughter, are you wood, are you stone, or perhaps a pale flower all alone on the wayside?”he asked.
“Father, you know well I am none of these, therefore why do you ask?” she replied.
“Indeed, you are none of these, therefore, leave your loom and go out and live. Enjoy yourself and make friends and have fun. Be like others of your own age and live,” he answered.
“Why ever should I be like others!” she asked.
“What,you dare to question me your father? Leave your loom now!” he said sternly.
But she replied,
“Sorrow, sorrow, age-long sorrow And eternal gloom …
But her father cut her short saying angrily, “Do not throw that foolish saying at me. Age-long sorrow has no relevance to us, we are gods!”.
Taking her hand gently, but firmly, he covered over the loom and led her from the room. He gave her beautiful clothing and made sure her hair was groomed and styled and adorned with jewels and flowers and he gave her wonderful jewelry and gems. He made her look wonderfully beautiful and the first one to notice her was the Herd Boy of Heaven who looked after the flocks and herds along the banks of the Bright River.
The Herd Boy of Heaven
The Weaving Maiden was transformed beyond all recognition. Her lips were red and her eyes were like the stars she now played among. She sang and danced all day long and made many, many new friends. Instead of spending long hours at the loom alone she played with the children of the Gods.She danced lightly across the sky in shoes made of silver with the Herd Boy of Heaven and soon they were lovers. Their laughter resounded through the Heavens and the gods themselves joined in. For the first time in her life she was enjoying herself and having fun and she had someone she loved who loved her greatly and she was happy. In her happiness she said, “No longer will I spend long hours at the loom weaving the clothes of the gods and goddesses.”
She stopped worry about fulfilling her duty and stopped using her loom altogether.
“I have my life to live and will weave no more!” she said to herself and ran to the Herd Boy who held her in his arms, her eyes shining and her face smiling. From then on she lived her life as she thought she should. But the gods began to run out of new clothes and her father grew angry and said,
“Has my daughter gone mad? Everyone is laughing at her and who will weave the gods new clothes this spring?”
Three times he called his daughter to him and warned her. Three times she ignored him and the last time she said,
“But father, who was it who stopped me weaving? Who was it who clad me in fine clothes and jewels and sent me away from my loom? Father you are the one who opened the door and now neither mortal or god can shut it!”
“You think I cannot stop it? I will show you what I can do!” He called the magpies of the earth and they flocked to him from near and far. Spreading their wings from end to end they formed a fragile bridge spanning the Bright River. With no further discussion he banished the Herd Boy to the far side of the Bright River and he sadly stepped over the fragile bridge. She wept bitterly as she watched her love cross the frail bridge of magpies. Once he had stepped onto the other side of the Bright River the magpies quickly flew up dispersing to where they had come from. The Weaving Maiden was left standing on the opposite bank with her father unable to follow.
She stood upon the shore holding her arms out to her love on the opposite shore and crying. Throwing herself down on the river bank she sobbed her heart out while the Herd Boy sobbing disconsolately held out his arms to her. A long time she lay sobbing on the ground until she could cry no more.
At last she rose and returned to her loom and began working away again. After a while she stopped and gazed into space and said,
“Sorrow, sorrow, age-long sorrow And eternal gloom …”
Putting her head in her hands she wept. After a while she stopped, straightened her back and said,
“I will not return to what I was. Once I neither loved or wept. I was neither sorry of happy. Now, I know how to love, now I know how to weep, now I know what happiness is, now am I know sorrow. I will not go back to what I was!”
Taking up the shuttle she laboured diligently as the tears rolled down her face but she continued weaving the clothing of the gods. Sometimes the cloth came out grey as grief, at other times it came out rosy or gold as in pleasant dreams and the colours change according to her mood. This new style of clothing pleased the gods and her father was pleased for a change and said,
“I see I have my hardworking and diligent daughter back and you are happy and quiet.”
But she told him.
“I am not happy and it is the quiet of dark despair. I am but the most miserable one in Heaven!”
He looked on his daughter and seeing her heart was breaking he regretted what he had done and said,“Truly, I am sorry but what can I now do?”
“Bring back the Herd Boy of the Bright River – give me back my love!”
“I cannot. What has been done cannot be undone. He has been banished by a god and it can never be undone.” he told her regretfully.
“This was my fear, I knew it!” she said bitterly.
He thought for a while and then said,
“Yet, there is one thing I can do. On the seventh day of the seventh moon, from now until eternity, I will summon the magpies from all parts of the earth to the Bright River. They shall make a bridge with their wings and you may cross lightly over to the other side to be with your love for one day. Then you must return the same way.”
Thereafter, on the seventh day of the seventh moon the magpies of the earth arrive at the Bright River and make a frail bridge with their wings. Joyful the Weaving Maiden, with shining eyes, her heart fluttering and smiling happily treads lightly across the bridge into the arms of her waiting lover. To this day this tryst is kept except when the rains come and the river is too swollen and strong for the magpies to make their bridge. In such times the poor lovers must wait until the seventh day, of the seventh moon, comes around once again and pray for:
This work is a retelling of a kaiden, a traditional Japanese ghost story from a collection retold by Grace James titled, Japanese Fairy Tales, and called The Peony Lantern. There are also versions called Kaidan Botan Dōrō. In many ways it is passionate and romantic yet has more than a hint of horror involving necrophilia while hinting on the consequences of the karma of the two main characters.
The Peony Lantern
It is said that by the strong bond of illusion the living and the dead are bound together. Now, there was a young samurai who lived in Yedo. His name was Hagiwara and he had reached the most honorable rank of hatamoto. He was a very handsome man, very athletic and light on his feet and his good looks made him very popular with the ladies of Yedo. Some were very open about their affections, while others were more coy and secretive. For his part he gave little of his time and attention to love. Instead he preferred to join other young men in sports and joyous revelries. He would often be seen socializing and having fun with his favorite companions, very much the life and soul of the party.
The Festival of the New Year
When the Festival of the New Year came he was to be found in the company of laughing youths and happy maidens playing the game of battledore and shuttlecock in the streets. They had roamed far from their own neighborhood to the other side of town to a suburb of quiet streets and large houses that stood in grand gardens.
Hagiwara was good at the game and used his battledore with impressive skill and technique. However, the wind caught the shuttle after he had hit it taking it way over the heads of the other players and over a bamboo fence and into a garden. He ran after it but the others cried, “Leave, Hagiwara, let it stay! We have plenty more shuttlecocks to play with. Why waste time on that one?”
Hagiwara heard them but answered, “No my friends, that one was special. It was the color of a dove and gilded with gold. I will soon fetch it!”
“Let it stay!,” they cried, “we have a dozen here that are dove coloured and gilded with gold. Let it stay!”
Hagiwara stood staring at the garden. For some reason he felt a very strong need for that particular shuttlecock and did not know why. Ignoring his friends he quickly climbed the bamboo fence and jumped down into the garden. He had seen exactly where the shuttlecock landed and thought he would be able to retrieve it quickly, but when he went to the spot it was not there. For some reason he now considered that particular shuttlecock was his most valuable treasure. He searched up and down the garden, pushing aside bushes and plants, but all to no avail. His friends called him again and again but he ignored them and searched feverishly around the garden for the lost shuttlecock. Again his friends called, but he ignored them and continued searching. Eventually, they wandered off leaving him alone searching the garden.
He continued searching into the evening ignoring the glorious spectacle of the setting sun and as dusk fell gently he suddenly looked up. To his surprise there was a girl standing a few yards in front of him. Smiling, she motioned with her right hand while in the the palm of her left she held the shuttlecock he had been searching for. He moved eagerly towards her but she moved back still presenting the shuttlecock to him, but keeping it out of reach, luring him into him into following her. He followed her through the garden and up three stone steps that led into the house.
On one side of the first step a plum tree stood in white blossom and on the third step stood a most beautiful lady. She was dressed in celebration of the festival in a kimono of patterned turquoise with long ceremonial sleeves that swept the ground Underneath she wore garments of scarlet and gold and in her hair were pins of coral, tortoiseshell and gold.
O’Tsuyu, the Lady of the Morning Dew
On seeing the the beautiful lady, Hagiwara immediately knelt before her in reverence and adoration touching his forehead to the ground as a sign of respect. The lady smiled down on him with shining eyes and then spoke softly, “Welcome, Hagiwara Sama, most noble samurai of the hatamoto. Please allow me to introduce myself and my handmaiden. My name is O’Tsuyu, the Lady of the Morning Dew and this is O’Yone my handmaiden. She it it is that has brought you to me and I thank her. Glad am I to see you and happy indeed is this hour!”
Gently raising him she led him into the house and into a room where ten mats were placed upon the floor. He was then entertained in the traditional manner as the Lady of the Morning Dew danced for him while her handmaiden beat upon a small scarlet and gold drum. They set the red rice for him to eat and sweet warm wine to drink as was the tradition and he ate all he was given. It was getting late when he had finished and after pleasant conversation he took his leave and as she showed him to the door the Lady of the Morning Dew whispered, “Most honourable Hagiwara, I would be most happy if you came again.”
Hagiwara was now in high spirits and flippantly laughed,“And what would it be if I did not return? What is it if I do not come back, what then?”
O’Tsuyu, the Lady of the Morning Dew flinched and then stiffened and her face grew pale and drawn. She looked him directly in the eye and laid a hand upon his shoulder and whispered, “It will be death. Death for you, death for me. That is the only way!”
Standing next to her O’Yone shuddered and hid her face in her hands.
Perplexed and very much disturbed, Hagiwara the samurai went off into the night wandering through the thick darkness of the sleeping city like a lost ghost, very very afraid.
He wandered long in the pitch black night searching for his home. It was not until the first grey streaks of dawn broke the darkness that he at last found himself standing before his own door. Tired and weary he went in and threw himself on his bed and then laughed,“Hah, and I have forgotten my shuttlecock!”
In the morning he sat alone thinking about all that had happened the day before. The morning passed and he sat through the afternoon thinking about it. Evening began to fall and suddenly he stood up saying, “Surely, it was all a joke played on me by two geisha girls. They will be laughing at me expecting me to turn up but I will show them. I will not let them make a fool of me!”
Therefore dressing in his best clothes he went out into the evening to find his friends. For the next week he spent his time sporting and partying and through all these entertainments he was the loudest, the happiest, the wittiest and the wildest, but he knew things were not right. At last he said,“Enough, I have had enough! I am sick and tired of all this charade!”
Leaving his friends he took to roaming the streets alone. He wandered from one end of Yedo by day and then back again at night. He sought out the hidden ways of the city, the lost courtyards, the back alleys and the forgotten paths that ran between the houses, searching, always searching, for what he did not know.
Yet, he could not find the house and garden of the Lady of the Morning Dew although his restless spirit searched and searched. Eventually finding himself outside his own home he went to bed and fell into a sickness. For three moons he ate and drank barely enough to keep himself alive and his body grew weak, pale and thin, like some hungry, restless, wraith. Three moons later during the hot rainy season he left his sickbed and wrapping himself in a light summer robe set out into the city despite the entreaties of his good and faithful servant
“Alas, my master has the fever and it is driving him mad!”wailed the servant.
Hagiwara took no notice and looking straight ahead set out with resolve saying,“Have faith! Have faith! All roads will take me to my true love’s house!”
Eventually he came to a quiet suburb of big houses with gardens and saw before him one with a bamboo fence. Smiling, Hagiwara quickly climbed the fence and jumped down saying,“Now we shall meet again!”
Hagiwara the samurai stood in shocked silence staring at it. An old man appeared and asked,“Lord, is there something I can do for you?”
However, he was shocked to find the garden was overgrown and unkempt. Moss had grown over the steps and the plum tree had lost its white blossom, its green leaves fluttered forlornly in the breeze. The house was dark, quiet and empty, its shutters closed and an air of melancholy hung over it.
The Lady Has Gone
“I see the white blossom has fallen from the plum tree. Can you tell me where the Lady of the Morning Dew has gone?” Hagiwara sadly replied.
“Alas, Lord, the Lady of the Morning Dew has fallen like the blossom of the plum tree. Six moons ago she was taken by a strange illness that could not be alleviated. She now lies dead in the graveyard on the hillside. Her faithful handmaiden, O’Yone, would not be parted from her and would not allow her mistress to wander through the land of the dead alone and so lies with her. It is for their sakes that I still come to this garden and do what I can, though being old now that is but little and now the grass grows over their graves.”
Devastated by the news Hagiwara went home. He wrote the name of O’Tsuyu, the Lady of the Morning Dew, on a piece of white wood and then burned incense before it and placed offerings before it. He made sure he did everything necessary to pay the proper respects and ensure the well being of her spirit.
The Festival of Bon
The time of the returning souls arrived, the Festival of Bon, that honors the spirits of the dead. People carried lanterns and visited the graves of those deceased. They brought them presents of flowers and food to show they still cared. The days were hot and on first night of the festival Hagiwara unable to sleep walked alone in his garden. It was cooler than the blazing heat of the day and he was thankful for it. All was quiet and calm and he was enjoying the peacefulness of the night. It was around the hour of the Ox, that he heard the sound of footsteps approach. It was too dark to see who it was but he could tell there were two different people that he thought were women by the sound of their footsteps. Stepping up to his rose hedge he peered into the darkness to catch sight of who it was approaching. In the darkness he could make out the figures of two slender women who walked along the lane hand in hand towards him. One held before them on a pole a peony lantern such as those the folk of Yedo used in their traditions to honour the dead and it cast an eerie light around them. As they approached the lantern was held up to reveal their faces and instantly he recognized them and gave a cry of surprise. The girl holding the peony lantern held it up to light his face
“Hagiwara Sama, it is you! We were told that you were dead. We have been praying daily for your soul for many moons!” she cried.
“O’Yone, is it really you?” he cried, “and is that truly your mistress, O’Tsuyu, the Lady of the Morning Dew, you hold by the hand?”
“Indeed, Lord, is is she who holds my hand,” she replied as they entered the garden, but the Lady of the Morning Dew held up her sleeve so that it covered her face.
“How did I ever lose you?” he asked,“How could it have happened?”
“My Lord, we have moved to a little house, a very little house in the part of the city they call the Green Hill. We were not allowed to take anything with us and now we have nothing at all. My Lady has become pale and thin through want and grief,”saidthe handmaiden.
Hagiwara the samurai gently drew his Lady’s sleeve away from her face but she turned away.
“Oh, Lord, do not look upon me, I am no longer fair,”she sobbed.Slowly he turned her around and looked into her face and the flame of love leapt in him and swept through him but he never said a word
As he gazed upon her the Lady of the Morning Dew shrank away saying,“Shall I stay, or shall I go?”
“Stay!” he replied without hesitation.
The Green Hill
Just before dawn Hagiwara fell into a deep slumber, eventually awakening to find himself alone. Quickly dressing he went out and went through the city of Yedo to the place of the Green Hill. He asked all he met if they knew where the house of the Lady of the Morning Dew was but no one could help him. He searched everywhere but found no sign or clue as to where it could be. In despair he turned to go home, lamenting bitterly that for the second time he had lost his love.
Miserably he made his way home. His path took him through the grounds of a temple situated on a green hill. Walking through he noticed two graves side by side. One was small and hardly noticeable but the other was larģe and grand marked by a solemn monument. In front of the monument was a peony lantern with a small bunch of peonies tied to. It was similar in fashion to many of those used throughout Yedo during the Festival of Bon in reverence of the dead.
Nevertheless, it caught his eye and he stood and stared. As if in a dream he heard the words of O’Yone, the handmaiden,
“We have moved to a little house, a very little house in the part of the city they call the Green Hill. … My Lady has become pale and thin through want and grief,”
Then he smiled and understood and he went home. He was greeted by his servant who asked if he was alright. The samurai tried to reassure him that he was fine emphasizing that he had never been happier. However, the servant knew his master and knew something was wrong and said to himself,“My master has the mark of death upon him. If he dies what will happen to me who has served him since he was a child?”
The faithful servant of Hagiwara realized someone was visiting his master in the night and grew afraid. On the seventh night he spied on his master through a crack in the window shutters and his blood ran cold at what he saw. His master was in the embrace of a most fearful and terrifying being whose face was the horror of the grave. He was gazing lovingly into its eyes and smiling at the loathsome thing while all the time stroking and caressing its long dark hair with his hands.
Illusion and Death
Nevertheless, Hagiwara was happy. Every night the ladies with the peony lantern came to visit him. Every night for seven nights no matter how wild the weather they came to him in the hour of the Ox. Every night Hagiwara lay with the Lady of the Morning Dew. Thus, by the strong bond of illusion were the living and dead merged and bound to each other
Just before dawn the fearful thing from the grave and its companion left. The faithful servant, fearing for his master’s soul went to seek the advice of a holy man. After relating to him all that he had seen he asked,“ Can my master be saved?”
The holy man thought for a moment and then replied, “Can humans thwart the power of Karma? There is little hope but we will do what we can.”
With that he instructed the servant in all that he must do. When he got home his master was out and he hid in his clothes an emblem of the Tathagata and placed them ready for the next morning for him to wear. After this, above all the doors and windows he placed a sacred text. When his Hagiwara returned late in the evening he was surprised to find he had suddenly become weak and faint. His faithful servant carried him to bed and gently placed a light cover over him as he fell into a deep sleep.
The servant hid himself that he may spy on whatever might come to pass that night. With the arrival of the hour of the Ox he heard footsteps outside in the lane. They came nearer and nearer and then slowed down and stopped close to the house and he hears a despairing voice say,
Entry is Barred
“Oh, O’Yone, my faithful handmaiden, what is the meaning of this? The house is all in darkness. Where is my lord?”
“Come away, come away, mistress, let us go back. I fear his heart has changed towards you,”whispered O’Yone.
“I will not go. I will not leave until I have seen my love. You must get me in to see him!” whispered the Lady of the Morning Dew.
“My Lady, we cannot pass into the house – see the sacred writing over the door over the windows, we cannot enter,” warned the handmaiden.
The Lady wailed and then began sobbing pitifully, “Hagiwara, my lord, I have loved you through ten lifetimes!” and then footsteps were heard leaving as O’Yone led her weeping mistress away.
It was the same the next night. At the hour of the Ox, footsteps in the lane were heard and then a long pitiful wail followed by the sound footsteps disappearing back down the lane as the ghosts departed sobbing and crying.
The next day Hagiwara got up, dressed and went out into the city. While he was out a pickpocket stole the emblem of Tathagata but he did not notice. When night came he lay awake unable to sleep but his faithful servant, worn out with worry and lack of sleep dozed off. In the night a heavy rain fell and and washed the sacred text from over the round window of the bedroom
The hour of the Ox crept round and footsteps were heard in the lane and entering the garden. Hagiwara listened as they came nearer and nearer until they stopped just outside.
The Power of Karma
“Tonight is the last chance, O’Yone. You must get me inside to my lord, Hagiwara. Remember the love of ten lifetimes. The power of Karma is great but we must overcome it. There must be a way you can get me in to see him!”said the Lady mournfully.
Inside Hagiwara heard them and called out,“Come to me my beloved, I await you!”
“We cannot enter. You must let us in!” she cried.
Hagiwara tried to sit up but he could not move.“Come to me my beloved!”he called again.
“I cannot enter and I am cut in two. Alas, for the sins of our previous life!” wailed the Lady.
Then, O’Yone grasped the hand of her mistress and pointed at the round window,“See, Lady, the rain has washed away the text!”
Holding hands the two rose gently upwards and passed like a mist through the round window into the bedroom of the samurai as he called out, “Come to me my beloved!,”
“Verily Lord, verily, I come!”answered the Lady.
The next morning the faithful servant of Hagiwara of the most honorable rank of hatamoto found his master grey lifeless and cold. By the side of him stood a peony lantern that still burned with a pale, yellow flame. The faithful servant seeing his master lying still and cold wept saying, “I cannot bear it.”And so the strong bond of illusion bound together the living and the dead.
The next morning the faithful servant of Hagiwara of the most honorable rank of hatamoto found his master grey lifeless and cold. By the side of him stood a peony lantern that still burned with a pale, yellow flame. The faithful servant seeing his master lying still and cold wept saying, “I cannot bear it.”And so the strong bond of illusion bound together the living and the dead.
The legend of Keong Mas, or the Golden Snail, is a popular folktale from East Java, Indonesia. There are several versions and this retelling draws on more than one source. It tells how many years ago there was a rich and prosperous kingdom called Daha ruled by King Kertamarta who had two beautiful daughters named Candra Kirana and Dewi Galuh. The princesses were very good friends as well as being sisters and were very happy and content with their lives.One day a handsome prince from the Kingdom of Kahuripan named Raden Inu Kertapati visited King Kertamarta. On meeting Candra Kirana for the first time he fell in love with her and she with him and he asked the king for permission to marry his daughter. King Kertamarta was happy to give his permission and the two were engaged to be married.
The Wicked Witch
Although the two sisters had been happy and good friends up until then Dewi Galuh was now deeply jealous of her sister wishing Prince Raden Inu Kertapati had chosen her instead. She thought that perhaps is she could somehow get her sister out of the way the prince might instead turn his affections towards her and marry her. Therefore, she sought the help of a wicked witch who suggested she cast a spell and turn her sister, Candra Kirana, into something repulsive to to kill the passion of Prince Raden Inu Kertapati promising to pay the witch handsomely. The wicked witch agreed but told her she would have to get near enough to cast the spell so she suggested she take her sister for a walk along the river bank where she would disguise herself and lie in wait for them and she transformed herself into a large golden snail.
The Golden Snail
As Dewi Galuh and her sister walked along the river bank they came across the golden snail and Candra Kirana said, “Ugh! What a repulsive creature!” The witch instantly transformed back to herself and cast her spell transforming Princess Candra Kirana into a large golden snail and threw it into the river
One day a very old woman was casting nets into the river hoping to catch some fish. She did this several times but when she pulled the net out each time she was very disappointed because the net was completely empty of fish. She decided to have one last go and once again the net was empty of fish but did contain a large golden snail. The grandmother had never seen a golden snail before and thought it would make a good pet so she took it home and placed in a large jar.
The next morning she went out down to the river with her nets hoping to have better luck than the previous day and catch a few fish. Again she was disappointed and this time there was not even a snail. She trudged home disconsolate but when she got back she had a big surprise. When she entered the door she noticed the pleasant aroma of cooking and on the table were beautifully prepared dishes of the most delicious food.
Of course she wondered who had sent her such wonderful food but she counted her blessings and ate it all. Everyday the old woman would go down to the river and cast her nets into the water and every day she would catch nothing. Each day on her return there would be a sumptuous feast prepared and waiting on the table for her. Of course, the old woman ate and enjoyed all the food and gave thanks for such blessings but she was curious. One morning she took her nets and made as if to go down to the river but instead double-backed and peaked through the window to see what might be happening.
At first she saw nothing but then she noticed her golden snail had slithered up the inside of the jar and then down the outside, To he utter amazement it then began to grow and transform into a beautiful princess who stepped out of the shell. The girl began preparing and cooking ingredients that appeared on the table creating the most wonderfully tasty dishes. The old woman was surprised and shocked and stepped into house and asked the beautiful princess why she was cooking for an old woman like her.
The Spell is Broken
The Princess of the Golden Snail replied, “I am Princess Candra Kiranathe daughter of King Kertamarta. who was chosen by Prince Raden Inu Kertapati to be his wife. My sister Princess Dewi Galuh was jealous and persuaded my wicked witch to transform me into this golden snail. The old woman was disbelieving of the tale but when remembered how she had seen her transform into a princess from the golden snail before her eyes she was astounded but believed. Now although the old woman was not in anyway magical she possessed a certain wisdom and this wisdom told her that if she broke the golden snail’s shell then the princess would not be able to transform back into a snail and return to it so she crushed the shell under her foot. Sure enough the princess had nowhere to return to and the spell was broken.
Prince Raden Inu Kertapati
Meanwhile, Prince Raden Inu Kertapati learnt of the disappearance of his true love and was heartbroken. He loved her with all of his heart and she had become the light of his life, his candle in the dark and he resolved to find her. He left the king’s court and searched the countryside and traveled to many towns and villages in search of his lost love but could find no trace.
His disappearance from court came to the ears of the wicked witch. She quickly realised he was searching for Princess Candra Kirana andtransformed herself into a crow to seek him out and thwart him. One day as he was resting under a tree a crow came and perched in a branch above him and began talking to him. Of course he was surprised by encountering a talking crow but realizing it must be magical listened to what it said. The crow deceived him telling him that Princess Candra Kirana, the light of his life, his candle in the dark, was kept prisoner by a wicked old woman in a place over the mountains and told him that he would lead him to that place.
Therefore, he followed the crow’s which flew before him. After many days traveling he came across an old man who was sat by the road begging for food. The prince had little to give but gave it all anyway even though he knew he would have to go hungry.The old man thanked him and after he had eaten told him that he was a sorcerer and because he had stopped and given him the last of his food he would help him to find his heart’s desire and asked him what that might be.
Prince Raden Inu Kertapati told him about his search for his lost love and how the crow was leading him to where she was being held prisoner. The old man looked searchingly at the crow then hit it with his stick and it disappeared in a puff of smoke. The prince was aghast and shouted, Why did you do that? Now I will never find my lost love who is my heart’s desire!”
The old man smiled and said, “Fear not! I will tell you where your heart’s desire lies and I will tell you that cast upon her is now broken by an old woman and I know where she is waiting for you.”
The old man told him which village she could be found in and gave him directions and told her she lived with a kind old woman and which house they lived in. So the prince made his way to the village and when he arrived he was tired and thirsty so he approached one of the huts to ask for drink of water. He knocked on the door and a kind old woman answered and invited him in to have a drink and a rest. As he entered he was thrilled to see Princess Candra Kirana cooking some food. As soon as she saw him she ran to him and they embraced.
Prince Raden Inu Kertapati took Princess Candra Kirana and the kind old woman back to the Royal Court and Princess Candra Kirana told her father, King Kertamarta about the spell her sister had persuaded the wicked witch to place on her. The king was very angry with Princess Dewi Galuh and fearing what punishment he might inflict upon her she fled into the forest and was never seen again. Prince Raden Inu Kertapati and Princess Candra Kirana were married and lived a long and happy life together and the kind old woman stayed with them.
The Khasi people live in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya with populations in the neighboring state of Assam and some regions of Bangladesh. They evolved their own unique mythology and folklore and created many wonderful folktales that attempt to explain different aspects of the natural world. There are all sorts of stories featuring monkeys, tigers, lynxes and other wild animals. The domestication of some animals is also dealt with telling how dogs, cats, goats and oxen came to live among humans and give explanations of cosmic creation and natural phenomena. The Khasi divinities, such as the twin goddesses Ka Ngot and Ka Iam, who gave their names to the rivers Ngot and Lam respectively, are found along with other divine beings. All this and more can be found in Folktales of the Khasis by Mrs. K. U. Rafy (1920) and presented here is a retelling of the story What Makes the Lightning?
What Makes the Lightning?
The story begins in the
young days of the world when animals socialized with people. They spoke their
language and tried to copy human customs and manners. Every thirteen moons the people held a great
festival where there were many sports and events. People competed against each other and
demonstrated their abilities in many different activities and one of the most
popular was the sword dance. All the
people from the hills and the forest would come and take part and it was a gay
and happy time. The animals loved this
event and would watch the people competing, dancing and having fun and the
younger beasts began to ask the elders for a festival of their own. After
considerable thought the elders agreed and said that the animals should appoint
a day when their own festival should be held.
U Pyrthat’s Drum
With great enthusiasm
the animals learnt all the skills and rules for the competitions and all the
moves and steps for the dances. When
they were ready they set a date for the festival to begin, but no one knew how
to let everyone know the event was taking place. Someone suggested that perhaps
U Pyrthat, the thunder giant, would beat his drum to tell everyone the event
was beginning. U Pyrthat agreed
and began to beat his drum summoning all the animals to their great
festival. His drum could be heard in the
farthest of hills and the most remote places of the forest and the animals
flocked towards the sound excitedly and a soon a great multitude gathered
around U Pyrthat and his drum.
The animals had gone to
great trouble to prepare grooming and preening themselves to look their
very best. Each one carried either a musical instrument or a weapon relevant
to how they intended to participate in the festival events. There was much merriment when the squirrel marched in
banging on a small drum followed by a small bird called the Shakyllia playing a
flute, who was followed by a porcupine clashing cymbals together. It was a very
happy day and all the animals were jolly and laughing, sharing a jokes and
having fun. The mole looked up and saw
the owl trying to dance but because her eyes were not used to daylight she kept
bumping into objects. The mole laughed so much his own eyes became
narrowed and his vision unclear and that is how we find him today.
The Sword Dance of U Kui, the Lynx
When the fun and
merriment reached its height U Kui, the lynx appeared carrying a most splendid
silver sword which he had lavished a lot of money on. He had bought it just
for the festival because he wanted to show off his skills in the sword
dance. Calling everyone to attention he
began his dance leaping and stepping with energy, grace and precision. Everyone cheered and admired his elegance of
movement and technique but his success went to his head and he began to see
himself as better than the others.
U Pyrthat’s Sword Dance
Pyrthat, the thunder giant, saw the performance of the lynx and was full of
admiration for his dancing skills and was very impressed with the silver sword.
He had not brought a sword himself as he had brought the drum he used to
summon everyone. Thinking that he should like to try a dance or two wielding
such a fine sword he asked the lynx if he could borrow it as a favor. U Kui was reluctant to
allow the thunder giant to borrow his silver sword not only because it was so
fine and expensive but because he did not like the idea that he might be
upstaged. The crowd seeing his reluctance began to shout,
“Shame! shame! shame!”
and booed and hissed
thinking that it was rude and ungracious of him to refuse being as the thunder
giant had beat his drum to summon them all. In the end the lynx was shamed into lending the the giant
his sword and reluctantly the handed it to him.
Taking hold of the magnificent silver sword the
thunder giant prepared himself to dance. When he was ready he suddenly
burst into life leaping high and whirling the flashing blade in circles all
around him. He danced so furiously and leapt
high and the flashing blade dazzled everyone. As he danced he beat on his drum so hard the
earth shook and the animals fled in terror.
Thunder and Lightning
U Pyrthat was inspired
by the silver sword and danced faster and faster, leaping higher and higher.
Carried away by his dancing and the wonderful blade he leaped right into
the sky with the silver sword flashing all around him while he beat on his drum,
the sound rumbling and crashing down to earth.
At times, the noise of the drum and the flashing of the sword are still
heard and seen by people all around the world.
They called it thunder and lightning, but the Khasis people know that it
is the drum of U Pyrthat, the thunder giant and the stolen sword of U Kui, the
lynx, that the people hear and see.
U Kui’s Heartbreak
U Kui was heartbroken at
the loss of his fine silver sword. Folks
say that afterwards he made his home near a great hill and would sit and look
at the sky when U Pyrthat danced. He kept piling stones upon the hill
hoping one day to make it high enough to reach the sky where he hoped to
to reclaim his sword from the dancing
Alice Elizabeth Dracott writing in her Introduction to her book, Simla Village Tales, or Folk Tales from the Himalayas (1906) says,
“Himalayan folk-lore, with its beauty, wit, and mysticism, is a most fascinating study, and makes one grieve to think that the day is fast approaching when the honest rugged hill-folk of Northern India will lose their fireside tales under the influence of modern civilisation. ….
… From their cradle under the shade of ancient deodars, beside the rocks, forests and streams of the mighty Himalayan mountains, have I sought these tales to place them upon the great Bookshelf of the World.”
The similar sentiments can expressed for the folklore of indigenous people all around the world. Although we cannot hold back time and should not try these stories hold the collective wisdom, hopes, fears and experience built up over many generations, often showing the common traits of different people from all around the world through time.
Presented here is a retelling of a folktale from this collectioncalled Kulloo, A Faithful Dog, helping out his human master. The theme of Animal Helper appears in different forms in folktales all around the world. In this case the dog remains faithful even though his master killed him and returns from death to save his life. There are other themes and principles also at play in the story which are found in stories from other cultures showing that they have much more in common with one another than often meets the eye.
Kulloo, the Faithful Dog
In the part of the world where this story is set a Bunniah is a kind of merchant or trader of various commodities and in this story there was a Bunniah who had a faithful dog named Kulloo who was his best friend. One day the Bunniah decided he needed a wife and so he married a woman. Together, they traveled to a faraway city taking Kulloo with them. On the way he developed a raging headache so he stopped by the side of the road with his head resting in his wife’s lap. While he was resting in this way he fell asleep and while he was sleeping a man who passed by on his horse stopped and asked the Bunniah’s wife if she had the means to light his pipe because he fancied a smoke. She told him “I cannot give you a light for your pipe as my husband is resting his head in my lap and I cannot move without disturbing him in his sleep.”
The man was in fact a robber who stole anything he took a fancy to and made a lot of money from stealing many things from many people.
“Slip some clothes under his head and he will not notice,” replied the man. The woman did this and her husband continued to sleep soundly while she lit the man’s pipe. Suddenly he grabbed hold of her and throwing her across his horse leapt into the saddle and carried her off.
After a while the Bunniah awoke and found his wife gone but his dog patiently and faithfully waiting by his side for him to awaken. The dog told his master what had happened and said, “Master, if we become beggars we can go from door to door without suspicion begging for food while seeking out your wife.”
The Bunniah thought this a good plan so dressing in old clothes he and his faithful dog went begging from door to door. After many days of begging the Bunniah eventually knocked on the door of the home of the abductor of his wife and it was she who answered the door. She did not recognize her husband or the dog but gave them food and money. However, Kulloo recognised her and later asked his master if he had not recognized his wife when she opened the door. His master admitted that he had not so and Kulloo led his master back to the house.
Once again the Bunniah knocked on the door and his wife opened it. This time he made himself known to her and she recognising him and invited him in but she was in a quandary. Her abductor had forced her to marry him but had given her a very high standard of living. This was, far greater than her first husband could ever have given her which she had now become accustomed to. Nevertheless, she made a great act of seeing her first husband again and invited him to dinner that evening, telling him that when her abductor had fallen asleep then he would have the chance to kill him and escape with her.
The Bunniah agreed and he and Kulloo went off intending to return later for dinner and to complete the plan. However, when they had gone she called her abductor to her and they made a plan to kill her first husband and be rid of him once and for all. They made a deep hole in the floor and placed a cover over it that would eventually collapse when weight would was placed upon it. She made sure everything was arranged it so her first husband would be seated over it as he ate.
They installed spikes into the walls and floor so that as he fell he would be impaled and killed. When the Bunniah returned for dinner their plan worked perfectly and he fell into the hole as he was eating. His wife and her abductor went off to bed laughing believing him to be dead. Although he was impaled on the spikes he was not mortally wounded but would have died had not his faithful Kulloo came and pulled out the pikes with his teeth freeing him and helping him to safety. Looking around the Bunniah saw the abductor was asleep so he hit him hard over the head killing him and made his escape taking his wife with him.
There was a lot of blood and Kulloo saw that his master left a trail for others to follow so he came along behind lapping up the blood to prevent this. Kulloo, being a wise dog, knew that his master’s wife was a wicked woman and would never rest until she had gained revenge.
Death of Kulloo
The Bunniah reclaimed his wife but she told him she would not eat or drink until Kullo was dead. Of course the Bunniah refused to kill his faithful dog but his wife was adamant and began wasting away from lack of food. The Bunniah implored her to eat but she insisted she would only do so when Kulloo was dead. As she grew weaker her insistence grew stronger and eventually the Bunniah agreed to kill his faithful dog.
Poor Kulloo, knowing he was to be killed begged his master to make sure he buried him properly making sure his head, which was to be cut off, was buried beside him, because there would come a time when he would return to save his master’s life. This the Bunniah did and his wife now ate and drank her fill but she was not satisfied and still wanted vengeance on her husband.
Return of Kulloo
She went to the local court and accused the Bunniah of being a robber and a murderer and claimed he had killed her husband and abducted her. The sentence for such crimes was death and the Bunniah was put on trial and found guilty. Just as the judge was about to sentence him to death the Bunniah thought of his faithful Kulloo and in that second the dog appeared at his side and begged to speak to the judge. The judge agreed and Kulloo revealed the entire story of how the Bunniah’s wife had been abducted and how she had plotted with her abductor to kill him. The judge believed Kulloo and dismissed the charges against his master setting him free. Thus it was for the second time that the faithful Kulloo had saved the life of his master but now having completed his task he disappeared never to be seen again.
Presented here is a retelling of folktale from Indonesia called The Soul in the Mountain Rice, from Indonesian Legends and Folktales, told by Adele de Leeuw.
The Goddess, Tisna Wati
In the abode in the sky where the gods lived there was once a most charming and beautiful young goddess named Tisna Wati. Although she lived in this divine place she was not really very happy there. She would often look down to the Earth and watch all the people busily going about their everyday tasks. It fascinated her to see what all the mortals were doing; how they lived, how they worked and all of the many different things they did together. It was the “togetherness” she really liked because she was often alone and she would sigh and say, “I wish I could be like a mortal on Earth and do things with others instead of being all alone!”
Her father would often leave her alone while he went and battled with demons of the air and giants and she would be sad and lonely yearning to go with him. When he returned she would show her displeasure by sulking and pouting but it made no difference.
One day his father returned after battling a particularly nasty giant and found her in an exceptional surly and unpleasant frame of mind. He grew angry with her and said, “I have had enough of your sulking and bad humor and wish I could send you down to earth to live among the mortals. However, I cannot do this because you have drunk of the water of life and are therefore immortal. It is a shame, but I have thought of something else for you. You will marry one of the gods and your husband will teach you how to improve your demeanor.”
“Marriage!”she cried, “I know just who I want for a husband, there!” she cried happily.
“What?,” cried her father, “Who can that be? Not one of those vile demons of the air. I forbid it! Not one of those awful giants! I will not allow it!”
The Young Man
“No father, look he is there!” she said, pointing down to earth where a handsome young man was hard at work ploughing a rice field on the hillside.
“But that is the son of a man,” growled her father furiously. “He is but a mortal and you are the daughter of a god, I will not agree to this, you can never marry him!”
“I will marry him, or no one else!” shouted Tisna Wati, “He will be my husband and I will be his wife, no one else will do, if I am to leave here!”
“Daughter, I tell you I will never let you marry a mortal man. I will turn you into a wild rice stalk first. Understand and accept that I will choose your husband for you. He will be a son of one of the other gods and that is the end of the matter. Be quiet and accept it!” growled her father angrily.
When Tisna Wati saw his rage she grew afraid that her father would inseed turn her into a rice stalk as happened to the beautiful wife of Vishnu, Dewi Sri who had disobeyed her husband, leaving her deathless spirit to inhabit the fields of rice.
Tisna Wati was adamant that she would never allow herself to be turned into a rice stalk and she definitely would not marry one of the sons of the gods. Her heart was set on marrying the handsome young man she had seen ploughing on the hillside and now for her no one else would do.
Without another word her father stormed off to find his wayward daughter a husband. Suddenly, word came to him that the demons of the air and the giants were threatening the Heaven of the gods once again. Therefore he had to put off finding a husband for his daughter to fight them, but he shouted back at her, “I will return with your husband, be ready!”
Tisna Wati Goes to Earth
“So it shall be father,” she said meekly, “so it shall be!” as if accepting her fate. As soon as he had gone she leapt on the wings of the wind and rode it safely down to earth where it kindly set her close to the hillside where the handsome young man was ploughing.
Tisna Wati was very excited and said to herself, “Now I see him close up and he looks better than I ever imagined!” and sat herself down to watch him and wait for him to notice her.
She watched as he ploughed, but he being intent on his work he did not notice her until he came to the end of the furrow and had to turn to begin another row. Then he saw her and thought she was the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen and went over to talk to her.
“May I ask what you are looking for?” he said.
“Ha! I am looking for my husband.” she answered laughing.
The young man was surprised at her answer but her laughter made him laugh. They laughed and they laughed because they were so happy. As they laughed together they fell deeply in love and they laughed and they laughed and they laughed. Their laughter rang out from the Earth up to Heaven where her father was fighting demons and giants and he broke off from the battle to listen. Realizing it was his daughter’s voice he looked across to Earth and saw her sitting with the young man and the both of them laughing happily together. Their joyful laughter rang out across the heavens drowning out the noise of battle and he erupted into rage and flew from the battle down to earth to where his daughter and the young man sat laughing together.
“Come with me immediately!” he commanded, “You are going home.”
Despite her father’s rage Tisna Wati had other ideas. She was in love with the young man and wanted to stay with him and her love was stronger than her fear of her father’s wrath.
“No, father, I will not go back with you. I am in love and would rather become a mortal and stay with my beloved,” she firmly replied.
The Soul in the Wild Mountain Rice
“So be it you shall stay, but not as a daughter of a god, or as a mortal. You shall become a rice stalk and your soul shall become one with the wild rice!” cried her father. The young man looked on in shock and horror as Tisna Wati changed into a slender stalk of wild rice that bent gracefully towards him.
Her father saw this and he was filled with sorrow for what he had done. “I could have let them be together, but now it is to late. I cannot change her back and she must now remain a rice stalk for ever and her soul will enter the wild rice. I will change him into a rice stalk too,” and after he did this he saw how the two stalks bent towards each other as lovers do. He watched for a while and then shaking his head, flew back to the Heaven of the gods.
Ever since then the soul of Tisna Wati has been in the wild mountain rice, but where the soul of the young man went no one knows. Some say that when the breeze passes through the wild mountain rice stalks their laughter can still be heard by those who are in love.
Presented below is a retelling of a short folk story from India called, The Judas Tree, from Eastern Stories and Legends, by Marie L. Shedlock.
The Judas Tree
King Brahmadatta of Benares had four sons. Like most boys they were naturally curious of many things in the world. One day someone mentioned a Judas tree which piqued their curiosity, but none of them knew what one was. They decided they would like to see a Judas tree and they sent for their charioteer who would take them wherever they wanted and told him of their desire.
“Take us to see a Judas tree,” they told him.
“Very good, if that is your desire, then I will! When I am ready I will come and take you.” he told them.
First of all, he came for the eldest son and drove him in his chariot to a place where he knew a Judas tree grew and showed it to him. The boy was astonished to see that the tree was covered in brown buds.
The charioteer went for the second eldest son at a time of year when the trunk and branches were covered with glorious pink blossom. The third son he took when green leaves were beginning to unfurl and the fourth he took when its branches were heavy with fruit.
It so happened that some time later when the brothers were all together someone asked what kind of tree was the Judas tree.
The first brother said, “It is like a burnt stump!”
“No,” said the second, “It is like a banyan tree!”
“Not at all!” protested the third, “it is like a green cloud!”
“Never!” cried the fourth, “it is like an acacia!”
They were all puzzled at the very different answers they gave so they went to their father, saying, “Father, tell us what kind of tree is the Judas tree?”
Their father looked surprised at the question and said, “Why do you ask me that, my sons?”
They told him of how they had asked the charioteer to take them to see a Judas tree and he had taken them at different times individually.
“Ah, now I see!” said their father, “All four of you asked him to show you the Judas tree and he fulfilled your request and showed you one. Your problem is that you did not specify you all wanted to see it together, you did not specify the season and that is why the Judas tree is different for all of you. Listen now to this rhyme,