(Audio here. 音声はここです。)
A long, long time ago on Mount Tenjou, which is a little south of Edo and west of Mount Fuji, an old man lived with his wife.
They worked hard together, to make enough food to eat. But they had a problem.
A tanuki lived nearby.
Tanukis are like dogs, but with faces like raccoons. They are cute, but mischievous.
This tanuki was not just mischievous, he was mean.
The old man would go out every day to work in his fields and garden, and every day the tanuki would come to play.
First, he would stand on a tree stump and taunt the old man. The old man didn't mind that so much.
Then he would jump off the stump and run around the old man's gardens and fields, making a mess of things.
He would dig up the vegetables, steal the best daikon radishes and satsuma-imo
sweet potatoes, and leave the rest to wither in the soil.
A rabbit who lived nearby tried to talk the tanuki into being nice to the old man.
If you destroy all the old man's food, both he and his wife will die of hunger.But the tanuki just laughed.
Silly, stupid old man. Be nice? Why bother?Finally, the old man had had enough. One morning, he set a trap for the tanuki.
He hung a cage over the stump where the tanuki would stand and taunt him.
Then he mixed up some thick rice glue and spread it on the stump.
When the tanuki came, the old man scolded him.
You are rude. And you steal my food. And you destroy what you don't take.
You shouldn't be so bad.The tanuki pretended to be insulted.
Me, bad? You're just a stupid old man! Stupid gets what stupid deserves!And the tanuki tried to jump off the stump to run through the garden again.
But he was stuck in the glue.
While he struggled to get loose, the old man dropped the cage on him.
Now the tanuki was sorry.
Let me go! I promise I'll be good! I'll quit messing up your garden!He cried and whimpered, but the old man tied him up and took him back to the house.
He showed the tanuki to his wife and said,
Now we shall have a treat for our stew tonight.This made the tanuki really scared.
The old man hung the tanuki up by his feet from a rafter, and then went back to his fields.
The old woman happily started making millet dumplings.
The tanuki thought miserably about ways to escape.
He started whimpering and crying. But the old woman didn't pay any attention.
Then she started pounding rice to make mochi. It was hard work.
When she stopped to rest, the tanuki called to her and said,
That's hard work. You need a rest. If you untie me, I'll pound the mochi for you.The old woman was tired, and without thinking, said,
Oh, that would be such a big help.and untied the tanuki.
Now, most tanukis would have just run away, but this tanuki was really mean.
He took the mallet and, instead of pounding rice, hit the old woman over the head with it.
Then he stole the millet dumplings and ran away.
He ran past where the old man was working and stopped and shouted,
Hey, stupid old man! Your stupid wife untied me. So I killed her.The old man screamed in panic and ran back to the house.
And then the tanuki stole more daikons and satsuma-imos and ran away.
When the old man got to the house, his wife was lying on the dirt floor, moaning in pain.
His neighbor, the rabbit, heard his screams and came running, too.
Together, they took care of her wounds and put her to bed.
When they had made sure that she would be okay, the rabbit said,
This time he has gone too far. He might actually have killed her. You take care of your wife, and I'll take care of that tanuki.The old man thanked the rabbit and turned his attention to his wife.
The rabbit thought about how to stop the tanuki, and made some plans.
The next day he visited the tanuki, as if nothing had happened, and said,
You know, there is lots of kindling wood and grass on the mountain. If we go gather it, we can sell it in the village.Making money sounded good to the tanuki, so he agreed to go gather grass and kindling with the rabbit the next day.
But he got up early, and went before the rabbit, and gathered all the good kindling wood and grass.
When the rabbit arrived, the tanuki was carrying it all back down, tied on his back. He said,
Sorry, there's no more good wood or grass.And the rabbit said,
Oh, well, I guess I'll head back down, too, then.The rabbit walked behind and, while they talked, struck flint against a blade.
Click. Scratch.The tanuki was surprised.
What's that click-scratch sound?And the rabbit answered.
Well, you know, they call this mountain, "Click-Scratch Mountain."The tanuki didn't know any such thing, but he was embarrassed to admit it.
Oh, yeah. That's right.And the rabbit continued,
It's for the call of the click-scratch birds that live on this mountain.After they had walked a little further, some sparks from the flint had taken hold in the grass in the tanuki's bundle.
Crackle. Pop.Again, the tanuki was surprised.
Did you hear crackling and popping?And the rabbit answered.
Well, you know, they also call this mountain, "Crackle-Pop Mountain," for the call of the crackle-pop birds that also live here.The tanuki didn't know whether to believe this, but, before he could ask more questions, he felt the heat on his back.
Oow! Ooh! Hot! Hot! Ouch! Owwwwww!And he ran all the way down the mountain, which only fanned the flames and made the fire burn hotter.
By the time he reached the river and jumped in, he was very badly burnt.
The rabbit followed behind. He called from the bank,
Are you hurt? I'm sorry I couldn't keep the crackle-pop birds out of your wood.The tanuki crawled back to the bank, and the rabbit helped him back home.
He had a suggestion.
I have some salve that should help that burn.And the tanuki said,
Oh, thank you.But what the rabbit had prepared was a paste of cayenne pepper and salt.
On his way to get the paste, he stopped by the old couple's house.
How is she doing?The old man said,
She's feeling better today. I think she'll be okay, if I don't have to keep that tanuki out of our food.So the rabbit told him,
I don't think you'll have to worry about him for a while.And he explained how the tanuki was going to need time to heal from his burns.
Oh, dear.said the old woman from her bedroll.
You could have died.the rabbit said.
The old woman answered,
But we were going to eat him. Don't hurt him any more, please.So the old man took some real salve and visited the tanuki with the rabbit.
When the tanuki saw the old man, he got scared. But he couldn't move.
Uhm. Hello. I'm sorry I hurt your wife.
She's feeling better today. Maybe she'll be okay. You're hurt.The tanuki thought for a moment and then said,
I'm sorry I stole your vegetables and destroyed your garden.
Are you, now? Well, we have some salve that should help your burns.The tanuki didn't know what to think.
The old man continued as he dressed the tanuki's burns.
If I don't have to keep you out of my vegetables for a few weeks, I should be able to nurse her back to health.And the tanuki said,
You won't have to worry about me any more.So the rabbit took care of the tanuki, and the old man took care of his wife.
After a while, when everyone was healthy, they all got together for some soy bean soup.
Then they became friends.
And the tanuki started helping the old man with his gardens and crops instead of destroying them.
And the old man and woman shared their vegetables with their friends, the rabbit and the tanuki.
And the tanuki was no longer mean. He was still mischievous, but he was no longer mean.