Timeless Tales: Folktales from Around the World
This is it, I am graduated. With the completion of this project I officially finish my time as an Illustration student at Brigham Young University. Below is a brief description of the project, and you can also find the links to every story after that. My show will be up for three weeks in the Harris Fine Arts center on Brigham Young University campus.
I decided to focus the theme of my show on folktales from different countries around the world. I chose seven different regions from around the world and chose one group of people to read stories from; Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Africa, Russia, and Japan. There were so many stories to choose from, but I decided to focus on stories that were visually appealing to me. Maybe I should have focused it a lot more than that, but it turned out working out well for me. I love stories. I love to read the intricate details contained in each and every story that I read. I get invested in the stories, I want the characters to succeed in their endeavors. I learned a lot about the basics of storytelling, and even though these stories seem simple at first, they really do hold eternal truths in their words.
The folktale is a story, passed down verbally from
generation to generation. Each storyteller told
the stories a little differently, making them more
interesting as the ages passed. Different folktales bear the
characteristics of the culture, folklore and customs
of the people from which they originated. We can learn
about different cultures by studying their folktales, and the
more we know and understand about each other, the easier
it becomes to empathize with those who at first glance
would seem very different from ourselves. But we are
not so different as we at first appear to be. It is through
stories that we learn what people value: love, learning,
family, kindness, gratitude, and happy endings.
“And those who think that the legends here
recorded are childish and frivilous, may rest
assured that they bear on questions which could not
themselves be called either childish nor frivilous.
So, however silly a legend may be thought, let him
who knows such a legend communicate it to somebody
who will place it on record; he will probably find that it
has more meaning and interest than he had
Prince Ivan and the Firebird - a Russian fairytale
Jabu and the Lion - a Zulu tale
The Grateful Crane - a Japanese folktale
The Little Frog in the Stream - a Quechua folktale
East of the Sun, West of the Moon - a Norwegian fairytale
Maui and Mahuika - a Maori legend
Diarmuid and Grainne - an Irish Celtic Myth
Monday, August 15, 2016
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Prince Ivan and the Firebird
Taken from Essential Russian Mythology compiled by Pyotr Simonov
In a certain kingdom in a certain land here lived a tsar called Vyslav Andronovich who had three sons named Prince Dimitri, Prince Vasili, and Prince Ivan. The tsar had a garden so rich and abundant, there was none like it in any realm. Among the many valuable and rare trees in this garden – both with and without fruit – was one that was especially prized by the tsar. It was an apple tree that bore beautiful golden apples.
It happened that a firebird took to visiting Tsar Vyslav’s garden every evening. Her wings were of gold and her eyes sparkling crystals of the orient, and she would fly into the tree, perch on a bough, and pick the beautiful golden fruit. Then she would fly away, only to return the following evening to feast on the precious apples. The star was greatly distressed at the diminishing number of apples on the tree, so he summoned his three sons and said to them, “My beloved children, can any one of you catch the firebird that is attacking my favorite apple tree? Whoever captures the bird alive will receive one half of my kingdom here and now, while I yet live; and when I die he will inherit the rest.”
Then his sons, the three princes, shouted in response with one voice, “Gracious sovereign and father, we will endeavor with pleasure to capture the firebird alive.”
The first night Prince Dimitri kept watch in the garden and stood by the apple tree from which the firebird had been plucking the golden apples. He waited and waited and eventually fell deeply asleep and so did not notice the firebird enter the garden, fly into the tree and pick the precious fruit. The next morning Tsar Vyslav called Dimitri and asked him, “well, my dear son, did you or did you not see the firebird?”
“No gracious sovereign and father,” he replied, “for the firebird did not come last night.”
The next night, Prince Vasili kept watch in the garden and stood by the same apple tree. But barely had two hours elapsed before he fell fast asleep and so did not notice the firebird enter the garden, fly into the tree and pick the precious fruit. The following morning Tsar Vyslav called Vasili and asked him, “Well, my dear son, did you or did you not see the firebird?”
“No, gracious sovereign and father,” he replied, “for the firebird did not come last night.”
The third night Prince Ivan kept watch in the garden and stood by the same apple tree. He remained alert for one hour, then two and then three – then suddenly the entire garden was flooded with light as if by many flames. Down flew the marvelous firebird; she alighted on one of the boughs of the apple tree and began to pick the priceless fruit. With great cunning and caution, Prince Ivan crept up to her, stretched out his arm and made a sudden grasp. But the bird was too quick for him; she tore herself free and flew off in fright. All that was left in Prince Ivan’s clenched fist was one brightly colored tail feather.
Early the next morning the prince rushed into his father’s chambers, “Well, my dear son, did you or did you not see the firebird?”
“Yes gracious sovereign and father,” replied Ivan, “the firebird did come last night and here is a feather from her tail. She will never trespass in your garden again.”
Tsar Vyslav was greatly delighted that his youngest son had been able to retrieve even one small feather from the firebird’s tail. And what a feather it was! When placed in a darkened room it glowed marvelously and shone with the light of a thousand candles. The tsar treasured this relic, for a thing so marvelous, he thought, should be preserved for all time.
“If but one small feather can possess such extraordinary beauty,” mused Tsar Vyslav, “what must the entire bird be like?” An idea suddenly possessed him. He again summoned the three princes and said to them, “My dear children, I offer you my blessing to set out on an urgent mission. Go forth and seek out the fabulous firebird. Bring her to me alive, and what I had promised at first will surely go to the one who succeeds.”
Now Prince Dimitri and Prince Vasili bore malice against their younger brother because he had been able to seize a feather from the firebird’s tail. They were determined to get the better of him this time so, taking their father’s blessing, they rode swiftly away together to capture the firebird. Prince Ivan as well received from his protective and reluctant father a blessing to set out on this quest. The young man immediately selected a fine horse and set out on his journey even though he knew not where he was going.
Randomly taking a dusty path, he proceeded onwards uphill and downhill, near and far, along byways and throughways. Eventually he reached wide open country and rode onto a grassy meadow. In front of him he spotted a tall stone pillar on which were written the words:
Whoever continues straight on past this pillar,
Will become cold and hungry.
Whoever turns to the right will keep strong and healthy,
But his horse will be killed.
Whoever turns to the left will himself be killed,
But his horse will be safe and sound.
Having read this inscription, Prince Ivan decided to go to the right, bearing in mind that although his horse might be killed, he himself would remain alive and would in time get another horse.
He travelled for one entire day, then for a second day and finally for a third. All at once an enormous grey wolf leaped towards him and tore the prince’s horse in two and departed as quickly as he came.
Prince Ivan lamented bitterly the loss of his horse, but continued his journey on foot. He walked the entire day and became unspeakably exhausted. Just as he was about to sit down and rest for a moment, the grey wolf quite suddenly appeared and said, “I am extremely sorry, Prince Ivan, that you are so tired from walking and I also regret having destroyed your fine horse. So please climb on my back and tell me where I may take you and for what purpose.”
The prince climbed on the wolf’s back and told him the whole story about the firebird and the tsar’s commands. The grey wolf sped off with him more swiftly than and horse could have carried him and by nightfall they arrived at a low stone wall.
“Now, Prince Ivan, climb down and quickly scale that stone wall. Behind it you will discover a beautiful garden, and in that garden sits the firebird that you seek. She is sitting in a gilded cage. Take the firebird, but I warn you, do not touch the golden cage. If you attempt to remove it, you will be unable to escape but will be caught straight away.”
Prince Ivan climbed over the stone wall into the garden, spotted the firebird in her gilded cage, and was totally captivated by the beauty of the cage. He removed the bird from the cage and began retracing his steps when he stopped in his tracks and thought, ‘why have I taken the firebird without her cage? Where shall I put her?’ So he returned , and no sooner did he lay his hand on the cage than there was a thunderous noise that echoed throughout the garden, for warning wires had been attached to the bird’s golden cage. At once the watchmen woke up, ran into the garden, apprehended Prince Ivan with the firebird and took him to their king, whose name was Dolmat.
Dolmat was greatly incensed at the prince and shouted at him in a fierce and furious voice: “What is this! Young man, are you not ashamed to steal? What is your name and who is your father and from which land have you come?”
“I am Prince Ivan, the son of Tsar Vyslav Andronovich, and have come from his kingdom. Your firebird made a habit of flying to our royal garden each night to pluck the golden apples from my father’s favorite tree. She has practically ruined the entire trees. This is why my father sent me to locate the thieving firebird and take her to him.”
“Oh, young man, Prince Ivan! Listen carefully, If you render me a special service, I will pardon you your offence and give you the firebird with all honor. Go beyond the thrice-nine lands to the thrice-tenth kingdom and get me from Tsar Aphron his golden-maned steed. If you refuse me this, I will let it be known in all parts how despicably you have behaved in my kingdom and that you are a miserable thief.”
Prince Ivan was greatly distressed. He promised to procure for King Dolmat the horse with the golden mane, and took his leave of him.
He went back to the grey wolf and reported to him all that King Dolmat had said. “Ah, Prince Ivan, young man,” said the grey wolf, “why did you disobey my instructions? Why did you attempt to take the gilded cage? Very well. Now climb back on my back, and I shall take you wherever you wish to go.”
The prince did so and the grey wolf sped off like lighting, a short distance or a long one, toward the eastern sky. At dusk they entered the realm of Tsar Aphron and eventually came to the white-walled stables. The grey wolf said “You must go alone into these white-walled stables, Prince Ivan, but have no fear, the guards are fast asleep. Take the golden-maned steed which you will find in the furthest stall. But heed this warning, do not lay a finger on the golden bridle that hangs on the wall. Otherwise great misfortune will befall you.”
Prince Ivan entered the white-walled stables, took the horse and began retracing his steps when he stopped in his tracks and thought, “What an exquisite bride. Without it, how can I lead this noble beast?” So he removed it from the wall. Instantly the stable guards woke up, rushed in, seized Prince Ivan and conducted him to Tsar Aphron. The Tsar was furious. “Listen carefully young Prince, if you render me a special service, if you will go beyond the thrice-ninth lands to the thrice-tenth kingdom and get for me Princess Elena the fair, with whom I long ago fell completely in love with, heart and soul, but whom I cannot secure for my wife, I will pardon you your offence and give you the horse with the golden mane with all honor. But if you refuse me this, I will let it be known in all parts how despicably you have behaved in my kingdom and that you are a miserable thief.” Prince Ivan promised Aphron to secure Princess Elena the fair and then left the palace weeping bitterly.
He went back to the grey wolf and reported to him all that Tsar Aphron had said. “A, Prince Ivan, young man,” said the grey wolf, “why did you disobey my instructions? Why did you attempt to take the golden bridle? But so be it. Climb back upon my back and I shall take you wherever you wish to go.”
The prince did that and the grey wolf sped off like lightning, so that in an amazingly short time they reached the kingdom of Elena the Fair.
This time, the grey wolf told Prince Ivan to wait for him while he went to retrieved the princess. The grey wolf waited for Princess Elena by the golden fence. Toward evening, as the sun was sinking low in the western sky and the night air lost its warmth, Princess Elena set out on her evening stroll with her handmaidens. As soon as she approached the spot by the fence where the grey wolf was lying in wait, he suddenly jumped out, seized her, sprang back again and bore her away at full speed.
When he met up with Prince Ivan he shouted, “My prince! Leap up on my back immediately!” Prince Ivan did so, and the grey wolf sped off, bearing them both along to the territory of Tsar Aphron.
Meanwhile, Princess Elena’s handmaidens reported the events immediately, and at a moment’s notice men-at-arms were commanded to pursue and overtake the grey wolf; but no matter how fast they ran, they could not outrun hum and were forced to turn back without her.
While sitting beside Elena the Fair on the grey wolf’s back, Prince Ivan fell totally in love with her, and she also began to love him. Thus by the time the grey wolf had entered Tsar Aphron’s domain, Prince Ivan began to be sullen and to lament with bitter tears.
“Why are you weeping so, Prince Ivan?” asked the grey wolf.
“Oh, grey wolf, my dear friend, how can a young fellow such as I not weep and grieve? I have fallen in love with Elena with all my heart and soul, and now I must render her up to Tsar Aphron in return for the horse with the golden mane. For if I fail to do this, the tsar will dishonor me far and wide.”
“I have been of much service to you, Prince Ivan,” said the grey wolf, “but I shall help you once again. You must take me to the tsar in Princess Elena’s place, for I can transform myself into any form I wish. I will transform myself into the fair princess. After you leave me, you only need to call me to your remembrance, and I will be at your side again in my true form.”
Having uttered these words, the grey wolf struck himself against the earth and became the image and likeness of Princess Elena the fair so that it was impossible to distinguish between them. When the prince presented the false Elena to the tsar, he immediately rejoiced with all his heart that he had taken possession of the treasure which he had long desired. Accepting the beautiful imposter, the tsar gave Prince Ivan the horse with the golden mane. The prince immediately mounted the steed and rode out of the town to his fair Elena whom he seated behind him; thereupon he set his course to the kingdom of Tsar Dolmat.
As for the grey wolf, he remained with the tsar for one day, a second day, and then a third, in the place of Elena the Fair. On the fourth day, he went to take a stroll in an open field. Meanwhile, Prince Ivan was riding along the highways with the Princess Elena, almost forgetting about the grey wolf. However, he suddenly remembered what the grey wolf had told him and he exclaimed, “Oh, where can my grey wolf be?”
In the twinkling of an eye, the grey wolf appeared before him, and joined them on their journey to the kingdom of King Dolmat.
After traveling a long time or a short time, they approached the kingdom and stopped a few miles outside of the town. Prince Ivan began to beseech the grey wolf, saying, “My dear friend, grey wolf, please listen to my words. You have been of much service to me and I am extremely grateful. Now do me one last favor, would it not be possible for you to take on the appearance of a golden-maned horse in place of this one? For I greatly desire to have my own horse with a golden mane.” Immediately the grey wolf struck himself against the ground and became the image and likeness of a horse with a golden mane.
Leaving the Princess and the true golden-maned horse in a green meadow, Prince Ivan climbed onto the grey wolf as the false horse and entered the wide palace courtyard of King Dolmat. As soon as the king saw Prince Ivan approaching, on the horse with the golden mane, he rejoiced greatly. In a few moments, he rushed down to meet the prince with wild excitement, and presented to the prince the firebird in its golden cage. Together with the firebird, Ivan journeyed outside the town, mounted the true golden-maned steed alongside Princess Elena the Fair and set out for his homeland, the kingdom of Tsar Vyslav Andronovich.
As for King Dolmat, he decided the next day to break in his new steed out in the open field. He ordered his aides to saddle the steed, then he mounted it and rode off to the open field. But his actions irritated the horse, which threw him from his back. The horse then became the grey wolf again, raced away and caught up with Prince Ivan.
As soon as the grey wolf had brought Prince Ivan to the spot where he had torn his horse in two he stopped and said: "Now Prince Ivan, I have served you long enough in faith and truth. Here is the place where we first met and I tore your horse in two. I have now returned you to the same spot safe and sound. I am no longer your servant." With these words the grey wolf departed quickly. Prince Ivan bitterly bewailed the loss of his faithful wolf and continued his journey with the beautiful princess.
When Prince Ivan returned to the kingdom of Tsar Vyslav Andronovich with the golden-maned horse, the beautiful princess, and the firebird, his brothers Prince Dimitri and Prince Vasili were consumed with jealousy. But Ivan the prince married Princess Elena the Fair that same day and lived with her in such harmony and love that neither of them could bear to be without the other for a single moment.
Zulu of Southern Africa
Jabu and the Lion
There was a young herdboy named Jabu (jah'-boo). He took great pride in the way in which he cared for his father's cattle. And his father had many cows - over 25! It was quite a task to keep these silly creatures out of trouble, away from the farmers mealies (corn) and out of the dangerous roads. Jabu had some friends who also kept their fathers' cattle, but none of them had even half the herd Jabu did! And none of them were as careful as Jabu. It was a sign of Jabu's father's pride in his boy that he entrusted such a large herd to such a young boy.
One day as he sat atop a small koppie (hill) watching the animals feed and braiding long thin strips of grass into bangles for his sisters, Jabu's friend Sipho (see'-poh) came running to him. "Have you heard the news, my friend?" panted Sipho. Before Jabu could even answer, Sipho rushed on to tell him. "Bhubesi, the lion, has been seen in these parts. Last night Bhubesi attacked and killed one of Thabo's (tah'-boh) father's cows. The men of the village are already setting traps for the beast!"
Jabu wasn't surprised by this news. His keen eyes had seen the spoor of the lion -- his left-over kill, his prints here-and-there in the soft earth, his dung. Jabu had respect for the king of the beasts. And since Bhubesi's pattern was to hunt at night when the cattle was safely within the kraal (/krawl/ "corral"), Jabu had seen no reason to alert the village of Bhubesi's presence. But the killing of a cow! "I wonder," thought Jabu to himself, "if the cow was not left out of the kraal?" Thabo was known to be a sloppy herdboy, a fellow who ran with his head in the clouds. He had been known to forget a cow or two before.
"Woza, Ngane!" (woh'-zah ngah'-nay "Come, friend!") Sipho urged, "come and put your cows away for the day and watch with me as the men set the traps!" Jabu slowly shook his head as he looked at Sipho and smiled. "You know me, friend," he returned Sipho's address. "I cannot put the cattle back into the kraal so early in the day! They need to be driven to the river before they go home."
Sipho smiled. "Yes, I thought you would say this. But I wanted to tell you anyway. I will see you later, friend, perhaps by the fire tonight!" And Sipho ran toward the village with a final wave to Jabu.
Jabu began to gather the cows together. He waved his intonga (ee-ntah'-gah "staff") and gave a loud whistle. Each cow looked up, then after a moment's pause, slowly started to trudge toward Jabu. With a grin Jabu began to take them to water.
Jabu bathed his feet in the cool refreshing river as the cows drank their fill. It was a fine sunny Autumn day, and if his mind had not been so busy thinking about the lion and the traps the men were setting, Jabu would probably be shaping the soft river clay into small cow figurines for his young brother. Then Jabu heard a sound that stole his breath from him. "Rrrrroar!" came the bellow. The cows all froze, a wild look coming into their eyes. "Rrrroarrrrrrr...." It was Bhubesi, and he was near! There was no time to drive the animals home; the lion was much too close. Jabu slowly rose, looking carefully around, his hand clenched on his staff. He walked purposefully, trying not to show the fear that made his knees tremble, pulling the cattle together into a tight circle. The cows trusted him and they obeyed. "Rrrrroarr...oarr..oarr...aaa!" Jabu listened. Bhubesi was not declaring his majesty or might....it sounded more like a cry for help. Several more bellows and Jabu knew, Bhubesi was in trouble. Somehow this took most of the boy's fear from him. Gripping his staff, Jabu quietly began to walk toward the lion's cry.
Yes, indeed, the lion was in trouble. Jabu found him in a small clearing several metres across the river. He was caught in on of the traps laid by the men of the village. His head was firmly wedged in the barred structure, and the more he struggled, the tighter the snare became. Jabu stood and stared. Never before had he seen the king of the animals so near. He truly was a majestic animal. And a large part of his heart was sore for the creature. Then the lion saw the boy. "Hawu! Mfana! (hah'woo mfah'nah "Oh! Boy!") It is good that you are here. Please, help me. I am caught in this stupid trap and I cannot free myself. Please, please, will you come and pull up on the bar that is holding my head here. Please!"
Jabu looked into Bhubesi's eyes. He could not read them, but he could hear the desperation in the animal's voice. "Please, Mfana! Please! Before those hunters come and kill me. Please release me!"
Jabu had a tender heart, but he was no fool. "I would very much like to free you, Bhubesi! But I am afraid that as soon as I did so you would make me your dinner."
"Oh, no, Ngane wami! (ngah'nee wah'me "My friend") I could never eat someone who set me free! I promise, I really promise with full sincerity, that I will not touch a hair on your head!"
Well, the lion begged and pleaded so pitifully that Jabu finally decided to trust him and set him free. Gingerly he stepped over to the trap and raised the bar that held the lion's head. With a mighty bound the lion leapt free of the trap and shook his mane. "Oh, thank you, Mfana! I really owe you something. My neck was getting so stiff in there, and I fear it would have been parted from by body by the hunters if you hadn't come along. Now, please, if you don't mind, Mfana, one last thing.... I have become so thirsty from being in that thing, I would really like a drink of water. Can you show me where the river is? I seem to have become confused with my directions."
Jabu agreed, keeping a wary eye on the lion, and led the lion upstream from where he had come, away from his father's cows, since Bhubesi had made no promise about not eating them! As lion drank he watched Jabu with one eye. He was thinking to himself, "Hmmm....nice looking legs on that boy! Hmmm....and those arms are good looking too! Pity to waste such an excellent meal!" When the lion raised his head from the river, both eyes were on Jabu, and this time the boy could see what was reflected there. Jabu began to back up.
"You promised, Bhubesi," Jabu began. "I saved you from the hunters, and you promised not to eat me!"
"Yes," said Bhubesi, slowly walking toward the retreating boy. "You are right, I did make that promise. But somehow now that I am free it does not seem so important to keep that promise. And I am awfully hungry!"
"You are making a big mistake," said Jabu. "Don't you know that if you break your promises that the pieces of the broken promises will come back to pierce you?"
The lion stopped and laughed. "Hah! What nonsense! How can such a flimsy thing pierce me? I am more determined than ever to eat you now, boy," and he started stalking Jabu once more, "and all this talk is just serving to make me hungrier!"
Just then an old donkey happened across their path. "Ask the donkey," said Jabu to the lion. "Ask him and he will tell you how bad it is to break a promise."
"He, wena! (hay, way'nah "alright, you!") You are certainly dragging this thing out! So I will ask the donkey." The lion turned to the old creature. "I want to eat this boy," he addressed the donkey. "Isn't that okay?"
Jabu broke in, "But he promised to let me go after I freed him from the snare," Jabu added.
The donkey slowly looked at the lion and then at Jabu. "I say," the donkey started, "that all my life these stupid humans have beat me and forced me to carry things. Now that I am old they turn me out and leave me to waste away all alone. I do not like humans." He turned back to the lion. "Eat the boy!" and the donkey moved on.
"Well, that settles that," said the lion as he began to approach the boy once more. Just then Mpungushe the jackal stepped between the two.
"Oh, terribly sorry," he said, "to have disturbed you. I'll be on my way..."
"No!" shouted Jabu. "Wait and tell the lion how bad it is to break a promise."
"A promise?" asked the jackal. "Well, I suppose it depends upon the promise, doesn't it? Why? Did one of you make a promise?"
Lion sat down and rolled his eyes up toward the heavens.
"Yes," Jabu said. And he told Jackal how he had freed the lion from the trap, and how Lion had promised not to eat him, and how now Lion was intent upon doing that very thing!
"Oh, what a silly story!" said Jackal. "My nkosi, the great king of all the animals, stuck in a little trap made by humans? Impossible! I don't believe it."
"It is true," said Bhubesi. "It is a strong and terrible trap!"
"Oh, I can't believe anything is stronger than my king. I must see this thing! Please, will you take the courtesy before your dinner to show me this trap that you are speaking about. Please! Then you can eat your meal in peace!"
So the lion, keeping Jabu in front of himself, led Jackal to the trap. "But you can't tell me that this little thing could actually hold your head! Never! I just can't imagine it. Nkosi, would you mind just sticking your head there so I can see how you looked when the boy found you?"
"Hawu. You are taxing me with your questions. This last thing I will do for you and then you must be on your way and leave me to my dinner in peace." So Lion stuck his head back between the bars just the way he had been when Jabu had found him. Then, quicker that lightning, Jackal threw the top bar in place. Lion was caught fast once again!
"Yes," said Jackal, " now I see how you were trapped. What a pity that you are so trapped once more. But the boy is right, Nkosi. Broken promises always catch up with you!"
Lion roared in anger, but the sound trap held him well. Jabu thanked the jackal and ran back to his cows, who were all patiently waiting for their shepherd's return.
Jabu drove them home and into the kraal. What a day he had had! "Jabu, Jabu," Sipho came running from behind Jabu. "The lion has been caught in the trap near the river! You and your cows missed all the adventure!"
Jabu turned and smiled at his friend. "We have had all the adventure we need for one day," he said. And as Sipho headed back to the hunters to hear the story once again of the mighty lion caught in the trap, Jabu greeted his mother in the cooking house and sat down with a sigh.
The Grateful Crane
Taken from http://writing.wikinut.com/Introducing-a-Japanese-Fairy-Tale-The-Grateful-Crane/5f4a1nxo/
Taken from http://writing.wikinut.com/Introducing-a-Japanese-Fairy-Tale-The-Grateful-Crane/5f4a1nxo/
It was winter. The fields were covered with snow, and the winding river was frozen so thickly that you could walk on it. A poor farmer was returning home along the river bank when he heard a noise from inside a frosty thicket. He understood right away that it was a wounded bird, and his first thought was that it would make an easy catch to take home and boil in his pot, but when he parted the twigs and undergrowth, he found a such a beautiful bird that he did not have the heart to kill it. It was a crane, whose side had been pierced by an arrow. He pulled out the shaft and rubbed some balm into the wound. The crane then spread out its wings and soared into the sky.
The farmer returned to his hovel, ate half a bowl of rice, and went to bed as soon as it was dark as there was nothing else to do. In the early hours of the morning he heard a tap-tap tapping at his door. At first he thought it was the wind, and then he wondered if it was a ghost. At last he realised that he would not sleep until he had opened up and seen who or what was there. He lifted up the latch, expecting to see a ghastly apparition in the moonlight. He was prepared for a spectre from the spirit world. His hand, clasping a great knife, was ready for a robber – but he was utterly unready for the face of a beautiful girl. In fact, she was so lovely that he was quite startled. He was simply amazed that anyone could be so gorgeous, let alone standing at his door.
He let the girl in, and she slept on his bed, while he lay by the ashes of the fire. After she had stayed with him for three days and nights, he finally found the words to ask her to marry him, though he never expected her to accept. The girl replied that she had come to his door hoping that he would ask that very question, and she gladly accepted.
The farmer thought to himself, “Until just recently, I was lonely, poor and wretched. Now I am still poor, but chance or some god has brought me happiness.”
Nobody can live on love alone, however. The winter was long and hard and the couple ran out of rice to take the edge off their hunger. The farmer said, “What are we to do? I have no food, no money, and nothing we can sell.” He himself was on the brink of tears, and he expected that his wife would either grow angry with him for failing to provide for them both, or to break down into sobs too. This, he thought, was the end of their happiness.
Instead she just smiled and said, “Dear husband, do not worry or fret. I will weave a cloth, and you shall take it to the market to sell.”
The farmer shrugged his shoulders, because they had no thread to weave, but his wife went into the one and only room of their house, and as she closed the door she said, “Whatever you do, do not come in.”
Some hours later, she came out of the room carrying a beautiful cloth. It was embroidered with flowers and birds and was so beautiful that it was fit for a princess. The next day the farmer took it to the market and sold it for a great sum. They couple had enough money to last them several winters – But when you have money, there is a tendency to spend. You forget how careful you once were, you buy whatever you want, and you pay prices that are sometimes over the odds. In short, the money run out, and once again the couple were poor.
The farmer was again on the edge of despair but his wife said, “Do not fret. I will weave another cloth. I will go into the back room and work, but whatever you do, do not peep in until I come out.”
While his wife weaved, the farmer sat and wondered how he had been so fortunate to have found such a woman, one so lovely, one who loved him, and one who was able to weave cloth out of nothing. He recalled how she had turned up at his door on a winter’s night, and he thought about how little he knew or understood who she was, why she had come to him, or how she weaved the cloth. He lived with her, he loved her, and yet he hardly knew her. At last his curiosity overcame him; he opened the door and he peeped in through the crack.
This is what he saw: It was his wife, but not a woman. She was the crane that he had saved from the thicket. On the floor was an intricate pattern of feathers, and as she worked, she plucked yet more feathers from her own breast. The cost to her was pain and loss of her own plumage, but she was ready to inflict this on herself for him. Suddenly the bird looked up and saw him. She let out a cry and and shed a single tear from her eye. She flapped her wings and flew up and away, out through the hole in the roof that served as a chimney in the cottage. That was the last the poor farmer ever saw of the grateful crane who had become his wife, and who had plucked feathers from her own breast to keep him from poverty. He never married again, and lived to the end of his days alone.