THE SLAYING OF THE TANUKI
Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 900 words.
So the first thing he did was to search the house for materials to make an ointment, which he sprinkled plentifully with pepper and then put in his pocket. Next he took a hatchet, bade farewell to the old man, and departed to the forest. He bent his steps to the dwelling of the Tanuki and knocked at the door. The Tanuki, who had no cause to suspect the hare, was greatly pleased to see him, for he noticed the hatchet at once, and began to lay plots how to get hold of it.
To do this he thought he had better offer to accompany the hare, which was exactly what the hare wished and expected, for he knew all the Tanuki's cunning, and understood his ways. So he accepted the rascal's company with joy, and made himself very pleasant as they strolled along.
When they were wandering in this manner through the forest the hare carelessly raised his hatchet in passing, and cut down some thick boughs that were hanging over the path, but at length, after cutting down a good big tree, which cost him many hard blows, he declared that it was too heavy for him to carry home, and he must just leave it where it was. This delighted the greedy Tanuki, who said that they would be no weight for him, so they collected the large branches, which the hare bound tightly on his back. Then he trotted gaily to the house, the hare following after with his lighter bundle.
By this time the hare had decided what he would do, and as soon as they arrived, he quietly set on fire the wood on the back of the Tanuki. The Tanuki, who was busy with something else, observed nothing, and only called out to ask what was the meaning of the crackling that he heard.
'It is just the rattle of the stones which are rolling down the side of the mountain,' the hare said; and the Tanuki was content, and made no further remarks, never noticing that the noise really sprang from the burning boughs on his back, until his fur was in flames, and it was almost too late to put it out. Shrieking with pain, he let fall the burning wood from his back, and stamped and howled with agony. But the hare comforted him, and told him that he always carried with him an excellent plaster in case of need, which would bring him instant relief, and taking out his ointment he spread it on a leaf of bamboo, and laid it on the wound.
No sooner did it touch him than the Tanuki leapt yelling into the air, and the hare laughed, and ran to tell his friend the peasant what a trick he had played on their enemy. But the old man shook his head sadly, for he knew that the villain was only crushed for the moment, and that he would shortly be revenging himself upon them. No, the only way ever to get any peace and quiet was to render the Tanuki harmless for ever.
Long did the old man and the hare puzzle together how this
was to be done, and at last they decided that they would make two boats, a small
one of wood and a large one of clay. Then they fell to work at once, and when
the boats were ready and properly painted, the hare went to the Tanuki, who
was still very ill, and invited him to a great fish-catching. The Tanuki was
still feeling angry with the hare about the trick he had played him, but he
was weak and very hungry, so he gladly accepted the proposal, and accompanied
the hare to the bank of the river, where the two boats were moored, rocked by
the waves. They both looked exactly alike, and the Tanuki only saw that one
was bigger than the other, and would hold more fish, so he sprang into the large
one, while the hare climbed into the one which was made of wood.
They loosened their moorings, and made for the middle of the stream, and when they were at some distance from the bank, the hare took his oar, and struck such a heavy blow at the other boat, that it broke in two. The Tanuki fell straight into the water, and was held there by the hare till he was quite dead. Then he put the body in his boat and rowed to land, and told the old man that his enemy was dead at last. And the old man rejoiced that his wife was avenged, and he took the hare into his house, and they lived together all their days in peace and quietness upon the mountain.
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
Source: Andrew Lang, Pink Fairy Book (1897). Weblink. [Lang notes: From the Japanische Marchen und Sagen, von David Brauns (Leipzig: Wilhelm Friedrich).]
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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