I don’t think I’ve written about a Japanese tale for a while. Let’s remedy that, shall we?
Today we’re going to talk about “The Tale Of The Bamboo Cutter.”
So, to start off, we have this old bamboo cutter named Taketori no Okina, and his wife. The two of them have a couple of problems that are making their lives suck a little bit more than necessary: 1) they have no kids, and 2) bamboo cutting doesn’t pay very well, so they’re dirt poor.
One day, Taketori no Okina is out and about, doing his job, when he finds a little girl in a stalk of bamboo he just chopped. And when I say little, I don’t just mean she’s young: I mean she’s about three inches tall. He ignores how obviously weird this whole thing is, and decides to bring her home to his wife. The pair decide to raise her as their own and name her Kaguya, and that’s problem number one sorted.
That’s not all, though. After this, whenever Taketori no Okina cuts some bamboo, gold nuggets pop out. This makes him absolutely wealthy, and he’s able to build a big old house for his wife and adopted daughter. Which, as you can see, solves their second problem.
So things are going pretty well for the three of them, and Kaguya grows up to be ridiculously beautiful, which is par for the course for these sorts of stories. This, of course, leads to suitors calling. Five of them, to be precise. Kaguya rejects all their advances. Taketori no Okina, worried about what would become of her after he dies, tells her to just pick one.
She relents, but only if they can complete some hilariously impossible tasks. The first suitor she sends of to get the Buhdda’s stone begging bowl from India, the second a branch from the jeweled trees of the mythical island of Hokai, the third is charged with getting the robe of the Chinese fire-rat, the fourth a jewel from a dragon’s neck, and the fifth a cowrie shell born from a swallow.
The first three give her fakes, the fourth gives up because he ran into a nasty storm, and the fifth just straight up dies in the attempt.
So, eventually the Emperor hears about this really hot lady living with some woodcutters, and decides to go off and see her for himself. And, of course, as soon as he claps eyes on her, he proposes. Kaguya tells him she can’t marry him, because she’s not from this land, but the two become close friends.
Anyway, one day Kaguya’s parents see her looking up the moon, all sad. They ask her what’s wrong, and she explains that she’s from the moon. See, she had been sent to earth as punishment for some vague indiscretion, and her sentence is up, meaning she has to go back soon. The Emperor, upon hearing this, sends a bunch of guards to the bamboo cutter’s house to try and keep her from leaving. The moon, however, has other plans, and strikes all the guards blind when her escort arrives.
Before she leaves, though, she leaves behind her cloak, and sends the Emperor a letter with the Elixir of Life attached. Then her entourage puts a cloak on her shoulders which makes her forget about her love for humanity as they whisk her back off to the moon.
The Emperor, meanwhile, is too despondent to actually drink the elixir, and instead sends a bunch of his soliders off to Mt. Fuji in order to burn it.
And that, my friends, is the “Tale Of The Bamboo Cutter.” I’ve also heard it called the “Tale Of Princess Kaguya,” which is also the title of a 2013 Studio Ghibli film based on the story, and honestly, I think I like that title better. The story, in fact, focuses more on her than on Taketori no Okina.
Also, the name Kaguya tends to pop up a lot in different anime, and was actually one of the inspirations behind Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon. So, there’s that.
((Hey, folks! Do you like what I do? Then please consider supporting me on Patreon, Ko-Fi, or PayPal! Since I’m on furlough for my job indefinitely, it would really help me out. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, and can follow the blog directly for updates. Thanks!)Hey, folks! Do you like what I do? Then please consider supporting me on Patreon, Ko-Fi, or PayPal! Since I’m on furlough for my job indefinitely, it would really help me out. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, and can follow the blog directly for updates. Thanks!)