Monday, February 09, 2009

The Animals Who Thwarted a Thief: an Old Tale

There was once a wealthy man in Echigo Province, as Niigata Prefecture was called in olden times. Although rich, the man was nevertheless kindly. He kept a number of animals as pets, and these he treated as though they had been his own children.
The man had never known an insidious thought in all his days, so he was unable to recognize treachery when it sidled up alongside him, as one day it did. The upshot: the man was forced to sell everything he had, his house, possessions, and his land.
“There’s nothing to do but sell our things and accept our fate,” announced the man to his family.
The man’s cat happening to be by just then, it overheard everything that passed, and it rushed outside to the stable where the horse was kept.
“Mr. Horse, Mr. Horse, I’ve terrible news!” said the cat.
When the horse had heard the story, it hung its head. “That’s truly awful. We must do something. Won’t you summon the dog and the hen?”
The cat rushed off to call the two animals, which were grieved by the news.
“I’ve lived here with master for too many years to count. In all that time the man has never beaten me. Instead, I’ve had none but the gentlest treatment,” said the dog. “As for me, the master still feeds me, even though I have stopped laying eggs,” added the hen.
Not to be outdone, the cat and the horse related stories of the many kindnesses performed by the man on their behalf.
"Well, that settles it. We must do something to show our gratitude. Can anyone think of a good way to repay these favors?"said the dog and the horse.
The animals deliberated, and they realized that the thieves who threatened the kind man lived in a cottage on a nearby ridge.
"What if we were to threaten them and get money from them?" suggested one of the animals.
"That's a swell idea. Let's be off," chimed in the others.
And so the four animals started off for the thieves' dwelling. When they arrived, the animals stealthily peered into the house, wherein they beheld the band of theives drinking sake before a mound of gold pieces. The horse called the others together, and they discussed a plan of attack.
"Sounds good! Let's get started!" they said a few moments later.
The horse stood before one of the sliding paper doors, and the dog stood upon its back. Atop the dog stood the cat, and topmost of all stood the hen.
"Here goes: 'Neigh, neigh!' 'Bow wow!' 'Meow, meow!' 'Cock-a-doodle-doo!' " cried the four together, each attempting to make his own voice as menacing as possible.
The occupants of the house were terribly surprised, and looking in the direction whence the noise seemed to issue, they beheld a bizarre outline against the sliding door.
"It's a monster! We're being attacked! Run away!" And the thieves ran out of the house in one body, leaving everything inside where it was.
The animals entered and filled bags with the gold pieces, being careful not to leave a single one behind. Then they returned home in high spirits.
"Here, master. Use this money. Accept this as repayment for the kindness you have shown us."
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart," replied the man.
As a result, the man didn't have to sell his property after all.
For their part, the animals returned to their former daily routine.
Translation 2009, Brian Southwick

1 comment:

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