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Japanese fairy tales    Oni     Tengu     Kitsune     Tanuki     Kami

The Tanuki and the Priest

Once there was a pious priest who lived in a village in the countryside of Hidatschi along the eastern seaboard to the north of Tokyo. The priest lived with benevolence and constant love of his neighbors. He lived a happy unassuming live, never complaining that the kami hadn’t given him the wealth that many priests got. Never concerned that he didn’t have earlty treasure for he felt perfectly happy with what he had. He performed the duties of his office with rare fidelity And after work in the evening he would sit peacefully in his little room. His apartment was right next to the beautiful temple and was cool in the summer. In the winter when the winds blew from the ocean and caused the tops of the high cedars to wave gently. The pious priest would push his shutters closed and sit beside his coal burner and so he would be warm. So content was he that he wouldn’t have traded his place with any prince.
One late bitterly cold winters evening, the priest sat his warm little den and read from his pray book in a hushed voice when he heard a faint knock on the shutters which ran around the house. He listened carefully and the tiny knock was soon repeated. So he stood up and slide the door open and was surprised to see a tanuki standing outside in the bitter cold begging for admittance. The priest took pity on the shaking cold and hungry animal. So he let the Tanuki into his warm home and gave him some fish and treated his guest as best as he could. At last the Tanuki fell asleep from exhaustion and so the priest let him lay undisturbed. The next morning when the priest arose the Tanuki had already risen, he thanked his host and said good by.
That evening the priest was relaxing when he heard another knock. So again the priest let the Tanuki into his home and fet it then allowed it to sleep to the next morning. This occurred so often that the priest grew accustomed to sharing his home with the Tanuki and so he was sad the first time the Tanuki failed to show himself. The winter had passed and it was spring, so the Tanuki had returned to his forest home with his relatives. The Tanuki promised however to come back when winter returned. The priest continued to live happily though the summer. Winter came and snow covered the land. So the tanuki returned again to spend the evenings in the warm priests corridors.
Once more when winter passed and spring drew near. The Tanuki then asked his host if he had anything he desired.
“Yes, I have one but you cannot satisfy it,” the priest told the Tanuki. “I’d loved to buy a burial plot in a sacred place and have a proper funeral but I do not have the money to do so. A poor priest could never afford such things.”
After he’d told the Tanuki of his desires the priest saw that the little animal was embarrassed and saddened for asking so the priest assured the animal that these were only his vanities of which he should be ashamed.
“What does it mater after all how someone is buried, the most important thing to bring to the grave are good deeds after all,” the priest assured the Tanuki.
The Tanuki was lost in thought however and didn’t respond or bring up any further touchy subjects.
Spring came again and the animal took leave from his host and vanished as he had the years before. The summer passed as it did every year and brought many joys, providing people with a wealth of fruit and was so splendid it almost allowed people to forget their was a winter. But winter did come eventually as it always does, along with his hardships. The streets grew deserted and the birds crept into their hiding places. And the hoarse cry of foxes echoed through the cold night, and those who had poorly insulated homes stuffed the corners of their homes and tried their best to protect themselves from the cold.
The priest expected his friend the Tanuki to come and often rushed to the door at any sound which might have been a soft knock but the Tanuki was never there. The next year the priest waited in vain once more but the Tanuki didn’t show. The third year the priest though a hunter, or wolf or bear must have killed the poor animal.
Time passed and the priest started to feel the weight of his years and started to thing more often of his death.
Then one winter evening their was another knock on the shutters just as their had been before. Curious the priest jumped up and opened the door to find the same Tanuki standing outside his door. Overjoyed to see his old friend the priest told him to come in and told the priest where he’d been for the last three winteres.
“Your request for a burial touched my heart and so I asked around for a good burial place. And hear many good things about the Island of Sado. I worked hard for the money to buy a spot their and it took me three years to gather it all. The money is here in this bag so please take it,” the Tanuki finished.
The priest utterly amazed and deeply moved by the by the Tanuki’s gesture but at first he could not bring himself to take the Tanuki’s money. But the Tanuki insisted with tears in his eyes telling the priest that the money would not benefit him anyways.
“If I take the money so easily, people will say it was not honestly earned so if you insist that I accept it I must ask  you to go with me to the temple to confirm your story so they will not believe that I have been defrauding them,” the priest told the Tanuki.
The Tanuki agreed and went with the priest to the temple and those who heard the story praised the Tanuki for his loyalty to the priest. So the priest was able to buy a burial place in a holy place and was highly honored by all as he lived for many years with the Tanuki who continued to come to visit him every winters night for the rest of his long life.