|Japanese fairy tales
THE WATERFALL WHICH FLOWED SAKE
Once there was a poor woodcutter who toiled early and late for a
living. He worked harder than others, because he loved his old father
and mother dearly, and wished to give them all the good things of life.
But though he was more diligent than any other woodcutter of the
village, he never seemed able to gain enough sen to buy sake and tea,
but only enough for rice and bread.
One day he climbed high up on the mountain to find the best wood. It
was a very steep mountain, and no one else would try to climb so high.
So he worked alone. Chop, chop, his axe broke the stillness and soon he
had a goodly pile of logs.
Stopping for a moment to rest, he saw a badger lying asleep under a
tree, and he thought to himself, "Aha, my fine little beastie! You will
make a fine morsel for my father's supper. He and my mother have not
tasted meat for many a day."
The longer he looked at the badger, however, the less he wanted to kill
him. He was such a little creature and it seemed mean to kill a
sleeping thing and one so much smaller than himself!
"No," he said to himself at last, "I can not kill him! I will but work
the harder that I may earn money to buy my parents some meat!"
Now the badger seemed to understand and approve of this resolve on the
part of the young woodcutter. He opened one eye and then the other.
Then he blinked saucily at the woodcutter.
"Thank you," he said. "That was a wise conclusion."
The young man dropped his axe and jumped high into the air, so great was his astonishment at hearing a badger talk.
"You couldn't kill me if you tried," said the badger. "Besides, I am
far more useful to you alive than dead. And now, because you have
proved yourself of a kind heart, I will show you kindness. Bring me the
flat, white stone which lies beneath yonder pine tree."
The woodcutter turned to obey, and suddenly stopped in wonder. Spread
upon the stone was the finest feast he had ever seen. There were rice
and sake, fish and dango,1 and other good things. He sighed as he
looked, for he wished he could take the food home to his parents.
"Sit and eat," said the badger who answered his thoughts as if they had
been spoken. "Your father and mother shall eat the same."
The woodcutter obeyed, but when he tried to thank his little friend, he
saw that the badger was gone and that, just where he had sat, there was
a sparkling, tinkling waterfall. It rippled over stones and crags and
sang a sweet little song, and as the woodcutter stooped to drink of it
lo! the waterfall flowed with sake! It was the richest he had ever
tasted and he filled his gourd with it and hurried home to share it
with his parents.
When he arrived there and had told his story, his mother smiled and said, "Thou art a good son."
"We have fared as well," his father said, "for we found spread for us
just such a feast as yours, though we knew not at all whence it came."
Next day the young man went early to his work. As he climbed the
mountain he saw, to his surprise, a troop of woodcutters following him,
and each carried a gourd. Some one had overheard him tell his father of
the waterfall which flowed sake, and all the woodcutters of the village
wished to taste of the wonderful drink.
When they drank, however, they were filled with rage, for to them the
waterfall flowed only water. Then they reviled the youth and cried,
"Base one, you have beguiled us here on false pretenses! You have
spoken falsely! We have toiled here for nothing! You are an evil
But he replied calmly, "I did not ask you to come. For me the waterfall flows sake still, as sweet as yestereve."
They went away in great anger, and as they went the waterfall almost
seemed to laugh, so gayly did it tinkle over the stones. When the
woodcutter drank, however, the laughter turned to music and a sweet
voice crooned a gentle song,
"Sake for him who is kind,
Water for those who seek self,
Sake, for him who is kind!"
Thereafter it was the same. Whenever the woodcutter, worn with toil,
stooped to drink from the sparkling waterfall, or at night when he
filled his gourd to bear to his father at home, the sake flowed free
and clear and delicious. And ever the tinkling voice repeated, over and
over to the music of waters falling,
"Sake to him who is kind."