Friday, June 24, 2011

Yoshio Toyoshima's "The Great Moon's Song" Part 4

[The final installment of a Japanese children's story from 1919 by noted translator/not-noted novelist Yoshio Toyoshima. Intro and Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.]


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.

"Prince!"

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 surprisedly 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 lilly 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."

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