|Japanese fairy tales
THE BOY AND THE SPIRITS OF THINGS
There was once a little boy of the Ainu who was very wise. He seldom
played with the other boys, for the spirits of things were his
playmates. No one could see his playmates, but he talked to them and
loved them better than all the children whom he knew.
"My friends tell me strange things," he said; and his mother asked,
"Who are your friends and what strange things do they tell you, my
"My friends are the spirits of things," the boy made answer. "I can not
tell you what they say, but the spirit of the pine tree whispers to me
the things the spirit of the north wind tells to him; the tall bamboo
spirit bends down as the tree sways, and talks of the sun's glowing
rays; the birds and blossoms speak to me of the earth's beauty. Even
the common things have spirits and they tell me many things."
The boy's mother sighed as she looked at him, for she thought he was too wise.
One day the boy fell ill. He was very sick, but no one knew what was
the matter with him. He drooped from day to day and seemed not to care
for anything. And it was the winter time.
One day his mother came to him and said, "My son, the first plum
blossom is seen upon the trees. The sun is warm. Will you not go out of
doors to see it?"
"The plum blossom spirit whispered me of its com: ing," he said. "I will go and see."
Then he crept slowly from the little thatched hut and, resting at the
door, he saw the plum blossom and smelled its delicious fragrance. He
smiled a little and then a queer look came into his eyes. He held his
chin in the palm of his hand and sat quietly nodding his head once or
twice as if saying, "Yes."
At last his mother could bear no longer to be without his thoughts. She
feared to lose him, and she felt jealous of everything that came near
to him. "Tell me what you think, little son," she said.
"I will tell you," the boy answered. "Oftentimes a boy and girl come to
play with me. They are Spirit Children and we play many things. To-day
they have told me why I am ill. It is this. My grandfather had a fine
axe. With it he made many things, a tray, and a pestle to pound millet,
and others. But my father threw away the axe, forgetting how well it
had served. Now it lies rusting, and the spirit of the axe is angry.
Because the spirit of the axe is angry, it has made me ill. So, if you
do not wish me to die, you must tell my father to seek the axe and do
honor to its spirit."
"It shall be as you say, my son," said his mother, and she sought his
father and told him all. Then he found the axe, and polished it
carefully until it shone. He made for it a new handle of ironwood, and
carved it with care. And to it he set up a worship stick. This stick
was tall, and its feathers curled and waved in the breeze.
Then the spirit of the axe was happy, and the boy was made well, so that joy fell upon the soul of his mother.
And when he grew to be a man, he became a great augur, for the spirits
of things came often to him and told him much that was concealed from
other beings. For the spirits of things were his friends.