The Bamboo Cutter and the Moon-Child


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The Bamboo cutter

There was once a man named Taketori no Okina (the Old Man who Harvests Bamboo) who made his living by cutting bamboo.  Although he was married he had no children although he and his wife would dearly have loved one.  One day while walking through the bamboo forest he found something very strange.  It was a shining stalk of bamboo and he stopped to have a closer look.  After spending all his life cutting bamboo he had never seen a stalk of bamboo like it.  Intrigued, he cut it open to see what was making it shine.  


To his astonishment and joy there was a tiny baby girl no bigger than his thumb inside.  In wonder and delight he hurried home to show his wife who was also pleased and delighted and they both fell in love with her. They named the baby girl, Kaguya-hime which means princess of bamboos scattering light.  Together and with much love and devotion they raised the tiny girl as their own.  

Ever since  the day Taketori no Okina had found Kaguya-hime every time he cut a stalk of bamboo he found a small nugget of gold inside.   Very soon he became very rich and his daughter grew very fast into an extraordinarily beautiful woman of more normal size.  To begin with he and his wife had tried to keep the existence of Kaguya-hime secret from outsiders, but as is often the case with the extraordinary word spread of her beauty.

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The Japanese folktale of the stonecutter

In every mountain there is a spirit and in every man there is a spirit of yearning. The mountain spirit yearns to help the man, while the man often yearns for what he does not need. A man who makes his living through daily sweat and toil such as a stonecutter can often become disenchanted with the everyday drudgery of existence and wish for a better life. The mountain spirit can grant a man anything that he can wish for and uses this power to benefit anyone deemed worthy enough to receive such a great gift. At any moment in time, at any place in the world, wherever a mountain and a man may be found existing together, is a place where this story may be enacted.

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The stonecutter

And in that place a man who made his living as a stonecutter goes every day to the the mountain where he chips away until he has cut a large slab of rock from the rock face. He then cuts it into different sizes. Sometimes he cuts it into paving slabs. Sometimes he cuts it into gravestones, and sometimes he cuts it up for different purposes.

Over the years he had grown very skilled and knowledgeable about his trade. People respected him for his hard work, skill, reliability and diligence and he had a good reputation and many customers.

He lived in a wooden hut at the bottom of the mountain. It was not much but supplied his basic need for shelter. For many years he worked hard at his trade which provided all his meager needs. He was happy and satisfied and asked for nothing else in life.  But things were about to change!  Continue reading