Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Great Moon's Song" by Yoshio Toyoshima

"The Great Moon's Song" by Yoshio Toyoshima

In the Great Moon
Lives a Tailless Bird
With Gold Rings in its Mouth
Oh, Oh, It's Falling!
Oh, Oh, Look Out!


Once upon a time, when the forests were still teeming with small, cute wood elves, there was a prince of a certain kingdom, who was raised with much love, as he was the only child of the king. The prince was extremely kind, and had a great and compassionate heart.

Ever since the prince was small, for some reason, he loved above all to look at the moon. He often climbed the towers of the castle, or entered the expansive gardens to watch the moon until late at night. When he looked at the moon, he felt like he was looking at his mother who had passed away. The prince's mother died when he was three years old, and so he could not remember her face. But no matter how much he thought about it, it always seemed to him that his mother had ascended to the moon. Because of this, when he looked at the moon, he would think about his mother.

One night, when the prince was eight years old, like always, he went out to the garden  to look at the moon by himself, when, a man, only twelve inches tall and wearing a Roger's flower on his head, suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Then, just as suddenly, he bowed his head to the prince.

The prince was surprised, for he had never seen nor heard of such a tiny man before. However, the prince, the lovely boy with a gentle heart, also had great courage, for he would someday be the king. And so, in a calm voice, he asked the one foot-monk:

"Who are you?"

The one foot monk replied, in a sing-song voice:

"A wood elf I am! A wood elf from the forest behind the castle!"

The prince smiled and asked:

"Why have you come?"

"To bring greetings to the prince," the one-foot monk replied. "I am a messenger of Princess Chigusa, and I need you to come with me, if ya' please!"

Having said this, the wood elf turned around and started walking away. The prince was delighted, and followed after him. When they reached the back gate, it opened immediately, and when the prince and wood elf passed through to the other side, it was closed again, just like before, without a sound.

Directly behind the castle was a large forest called "The Bamboo Oak Forest." The wood elf went directly into the forest, and the prince too followed after him silently. However, when they arrived at the center of the forest, he suddenly could no longer see the wood elf. Surprised, the prince looked all around, and saw before him a wide clearing, with a lush green lawn, with many different flowers blooming in the middle. In the center of the clearing stood a woman, wearing a silk robe of red and yellow and white, and a crown made of lily flowers. She looked at the prince and smiled, and beckoned him closer. Seeing this, the prince felt somehow like he was looking at his long lost mother, and fearlessly approached her.

"My, you found us easily!" the woman said. "I am Chigusa, queen of this forest. Now let us watch some entertainment."

Then Princess Chigusa raised her voice and said:

"Come out everyone, and dance for the prince's entertainment!"

Whereupon, from out of nowhere, the wood elf from earlier appeared above the clearing, wearing a single rose on his head. Then, spinning round and round, he sang this song:

Oneee one
Spin round and come out!

And a wood elf wearing a chrysanthemum appeared. The two danced and sang once more:

Twooo two
Spinny-spin round and come out!

And a wood elf wearing a peony appeared.

Threee three
Round and spin and come out!

And a wood elf wearing a plum blossom appeared.

Fourrr four
Round and round and round and come out!

And a wood elf wearing a cherry blossom appeared.

Fiveee five
Everyone together burst forth!
To entertain the prince
Here and there and everywhere
Go round and round and round and round and round!

Then the clearing before him became full of wood elves, each one wearing a grass or tree flower on their heads. Then, linking hands, they formed a circle and sang a riveting song and danced a riveting dance.

The prince watched all this and felt like he was in a dream. The wood elves' dance continued on for an eternity. It was an amazing dance that he never grew tired of, no matter how long it continued.

"It's time, it's time! The palace is now closing!" a voice from far away suddenly called out. The wood elves who had had been dancing up this point looked like they all jumped high in the air, but when they fell back to the earth they had disappeared.

The prince was surprised, and looked all around, while Princess Chigusa stood smiling. Then she said to the prince:

"It is late now, so that shall be all for tonight. We will come with greetings again, so please come back at that time."

The prince wanted to stay longer, but because of what the Princess said, there was nothing to do but go home. Before he knew it, the wood elf wearing a Roger's flower appeared, and he lead the prince back to the castle gardens.


After that night, on evenings when the moon shone bright, the Prince would go to the Bamboo Oak Forest and play with the wood elves. In addition, he learned many things from Princess Chigusa. Like how the wood elves originally lived in the fields, but the fields were opened up and turned into rice paddies, and so the elves hid themselves in the forests, and became wood elves. And that Princess Chigusa is the queen of both the new wood elves and the original wood elves. And how the Princess knew all about how the old fields were going to become rice paddies beforehand, and how there was going to be a draft this coming summer, and floods in the fall. When the prince heard these things, he told each one to his father the king. The king would laugh, but because the prince pressed him so many times, in the end, he set up some precautions as a test.

And even though there was indeed a drought that summer, they took water down from the springs in the mountains, and the farmers were not affected at all. And even though there were floods at the beginning of autumn, they built high embankments along the river, and the rice paddies were left unharmed. Because each of the prince's pronouncements were correct, the king, and then all the people of the palace, were completely astonished. Before long, word spread throughout the kingdom how "the prince had been transformed into a god." They asked how the prince how he knew these things before they happened, but because the prince was sworn to a strict secrecy by Princess Chigusa, he said nothing. Eventually even the king began to wonder if his son had become a god.

But to the prince, there was only one thing to start thinking about. And that was the fact that the moon didn't come out every night. If the moon didn't shine at night, the princess would not send for the prince.

When the moon did shine in the early hours of the night, the wood elf who wore a Roger's leaf would come to the palace gardens. The prince would go to Princess Chigusa, and a little before 10 o'clock when the palace gates closed, the prince would return home.

However, one night, when the prince had gone to the clearing in the Bamboo Oak Forest like usual, Princess Chigusa stood there looking terribly sad. Not one of the wood elves appeared that night. With a wildly beating heart, the prince asked the princess:

"Did something happen tonight?"

"Something sad is going to occur very soon," Princess Chigusa replied. The prince asked many things, but the princess would not say anything more. She only replied, "Soon you will understand."

The prince and princess sat silently in the clearing. The moonlight spread over the ground, making the grass and flower petals and leaves sparkle. Finally, Princess Chigusa sighed deeply and said:

"I don't know if we shall meet again."

Hearing this, the Prince became terribly sad.

"It's time, it's time, the palace is now closing!" a voice called from behind them.

He saw that the Roger's leaf wearing wood elf was standing behind him. Even so, the prince did not start going home. But the princess comforted him, and made him go home.

The prince couldn't understand why he couldn't see Princess Chigusa anymore. He suddenly wondered if Princess Chigusa was perhaps his long-long mother after all. But when he turned around to ask her, Princess Chigusa was no longer there.

Standing in the palace gardens, the prince was resolved: he had to meet with Princess Chigusa again.


So the prince continued to go to the garden on moon-lit nights to wait for the wood elf. But the wood elf never came for him. The prince gazed sadly at the castle back gates. Those iron gates were shut so tight, there was no way the prince could open them in the evenings.

After turning it over in his mind many times, the prince discussed with his nanny, an old woman, on how she could help him go to the Bamboo Oak forest. The old woman pitied the prince, and then they came up with a good idea.

One day, while the king was strolling in the gardens, the prince and the old woman went out to meet him,  and the old woman said to the king:

"This garden is beautiful on moonlit nights, but it is much too lonesome by oneself. Just once we should open the castle gates and let the townspeople come in, to dance and have fun while we do some moon gazing."

And the prince piped in and added:

"That would be so much fun. Father, can't we do it please?"

And because the two encouraged it so much, the king finally acquiesced. Immediately, he told his retainers to begin the preparations.

It was a big commotion that night. The king took to his stage, and held a banquet with a huge number of his servants. From front to back the castle gates were opened, and almost all the townspeople came. Everyone dressed up, and danced in the castle gardens, and played many songs. The moon shone in the clear night sky. Not even torches were allowed to to be lit. It was like the people of the castle surged with moonlight and music and dance and delicious smells.

The prince, with his nanny, quietly escaped from the back gates. Then, the old woman waited at the entrance to the Bamboo Oak forest, and the prince entered the forest alone.

However, when he reached the same clearing as always, there was no one there.

Along the sides of the clearing, moonlight silently trickled through the top of the tall trees. The bustling commotion from the castle resounded weakly from far away.

The prince waited a long time. Tears accumulating in his eyes, he called out "Princess Chigusa, it's me!" But he did not catch a glimpse of either the princess or the wood elves.

Finally, wiping away his tears, the prince gave up and returned to the castle. Even though the old woman who waited for him at the entrance asked him many questions, the prince, looking sad, completely ignored her.

The prince thought to himself: Why didn't Princess Chigusa come out for him? What did she mean when she said that something sad was going to happen? He felt like the princess was his dead mother, but was that really so? Why didn't she tell him anything?

Eventually, something sad did happen. The rich people of the castle wanted to chop down the Bamboo Oak Forest trees to turn them into lumber, and in the remains of the forest start new fields for crops. The people around the castle were multiplying, and they needed lots of wood for new houses, and more land to grow wheat, rice, and other grains. There was no one to oppose them, and the king granted the rich peoples' requests to cut down the forest.

When the prince heard this he was shocked, and begged the king to stop, but he had already permitted it, and he would not grant the prince's wishes.

The prince was devastated, and locked himself in his room everyday. But while he did that, little by little, day by day, the bamboo oak forest was disappearing.

The only strange thing was, every time one of the large trees of the forest was cut down, many voices could be heard from all around.  ———bird, bird, red ———bird, bird, blue ——— bird, bird, violet ——— bird, bird, green ———bird, bird, white———And each time, one by one, white and blue and violet and white and black and yellow and many other colored birds flew from the trees. The prince stood at the edge of the forest, gazing sadly at the birds flying away.

However, the lumberjacks could not hear those voices at all, and didn't suspect much of anything when they saw the many birds fly away. The trees of the forest were rapidly disappearing.

When the trees started disappearing closer and closer to the clearing inside the forest, the prince could no longer just stare at what was going on. That night, the light from the full moon shined beautifully.

The prince, all alone, creeped away to the back gates of the castle, but the gates were shut tight. The prince, with tears of frustration flowing down his cheeks, resolved to spend the whole night there, until someone opened the gate for him.

But then, strangely, the gate opened all by itself. The prince, feeling like he was in a dream, escaped from the castle and ran off.


The remains of the tree-less forest were like a graveyard. The stumps looked like gravestones and pagodas. The prince ran to the forest's center. He went to the clearing that still had a few trees left and stood there, relieved. He saw that there was no one there. "Princess Chigusa!" the prince called. There was no reply.

After a while, he heard a gentle voice near him.


The prince was surprised, and when he lifted his head that until now had been hanging down, he saw Princess Chigusa standing there. The prince ran to hug her.

"You came here often for me. But now is the time to say our farewells," the princess said.

The prince, neither happy or sad, could not even move his mouth, but after a time, he had many things to say to her.

"Why must we say goodbye? Why didn't you come to get me? Why didn't you meet me, even when I came here on a night when the moon was out? Aren't you my mother? Tell me. Let me hear it. I won't leave your side. I won't go back to the castle!"

Princess Chigusa didn't say anything in response. Then she took the prince's hand, and sat him down on the lawn. "I am not your mother. But it's not a bad thing for me to seem like a mother either. For we are the elves of the earth who give birth to all. The only sad thing is that someday the land we call our home will someday disappear. We are not particularly bitter about this, but the way it's going now, unfortunately, you humans are going to be all alone soon."

Hearing these words, the prince became unbearably sad and lonely. For a long time the two were silent, lost in their unhappy thoughts. The moon was rising, little by little, until it was finally right above them.

At that moment, Princess Chigusa suddenly raised her head and looked at the moon. "The time has come for us to say goodbye. Please take this, to remember me by."

As she said this, Princess Chigusa took off the bracelets on her hands and gave them to the prince.

Just then, out of nowhere, a many colored bird came and flew around Princess Chigusa. The prince gazed surprised at this little bird.

"With this, we say farewell."

When the Prince heard this, he turned to look at the princess, but he could no longer see her. Instead standing there was a huge, black bird. In its beak were Princess Chigusa's bracelets, and its feathers were shaped like lily petals.

Though the prince thought that this bird was bowing its head to him, it was already spreading its wings to fly away. The prince, with all his might, grabbed onto its tail, but the tail fell off, and the prince was left with just the tail in his hands. The other little bird stood there chirping sadly, because the wood elves were already becoming birds themselves, but the prince did not understand the meaning of its cries.

The prince stood there in a daze, when the Roger's leaf wearing wood elf suddenly appeared, who lead the Prince, holding the bracelets and the black bird's tail in his hands, back to the castle.

After, when the Bamboo Oak forest was completely cut down and turned to fields, the land around the castle became a fine town. However, for some reason, the moon was always cloudy, every single night. Then, amongst the children of the town came the following song:

In the Great Moon
Lives a Tailless Bird
With Gold Bracelets in its Mouth
Oh, Oh, It's Falling!
Oh, Oh, Look Out!

And because the light of the moon never came out, the crops in the fields of the kingdom would not grow. For dew and moonlight are important for plants to grow tall. The kingdom became poor, and the people were in despair. Because of it, the king grew extremely troubled, and handed his crown over to the prince.

The prince planted trees in the remains of the Bamboo Oak Forest and made a small new forest, and inside it built a shrine, where he enshrined the Princess Chigusa's bracelets and the bird's tail. Then, suddenly, the moon cleared up, the crops ripened, and the people of the kingdom were overjoyed. Then, on nights with a full moon, the castle gates were opened and the townspeople were invited to attend a moon-gazing party.

Even now the shrine and forest remain, and in that forest live many different colored birds. This is a story told by the old woman who sells food for the birds in front of the shrine. When the old woman tells this story, she always finishes by singing, in a quiet voice, "The Great Moon's Song."

1 comment:

  1. I love this! I had a book of stories from the seventies or something with fairy tales from all over the world in it. Somehow this one reminds me of one of my favorites, My Lord Bag of Rice. I think you did a great job with the style! I saw an extra comma here near the start of part 1 though: " himself, when, a man, only twelve inches tall.."

    Noticed the link to Japan Book News in Thought Morsels - thanks! I haven't really read it before, sadly. I'll start now!