Saturday, October 24, 2015
Okinawan Folktale: Driftwood and Charcoal
This story comes to us from Miyako Island, where two friends lived.
One was a wealthy man from the east, the other, a poor man from the west side of the island.
Both of them had wives at home, expecting to deliver babies.
They decided to go fishing, to kill some time.
The tide hadn't come in, yet when they arrived at the beach.
With a couple of hours, to wait, taking a nap sounded like a good idea.
The poor guy quickly fell asleep on the ground, along the shore.
Wealthy dude, had to look for something to rest his head upon as a pillow, in order to sleep.
He found a piece of driftwood, to use as a pillow.
Something came out of the ocean and began speaking, to the driftwood not, the man.
Peeking through closed eyelids, the rich man saw the God of the Sea Dragon.
The god, was inviting the driftwood, to accompany him on a visit.
He wanted to go to the homes of the children being born, to give them good luck.
Driftwood, being utilized as a pillow, declined the invitation.
It asked the god, to tell the story of the visit, when it returned from the homes.
The God of the Sea, visited the rich man's house first. It was a terrible mess.
Things were unkempt inside and outside the home and, servants were scampering.
They were haphazardly preparing for the arrival of a newborn child.
One servant tossed a bucket of stinking fish water on the god as he was arriving to visit.
He acted, as if the god, were some derelict beggar, to be shooed away.
Angry, the god, figured this family didn't deserve any good luck granted to it.
The visit to the poor man's house went quite differently.
As he neared the home, the god noticed the yard was well maintained.
The inside and outside of the residence were spotless.
The family, though poor, was busy preparing to celebrate a childbirth.
They had placed an offering, to the god, upon the sacred altar within the home.
The god, knew this family would be having a baby girl.
He gave the good luck to the, soon to be born, girl, plus a bonus.
The good luck, he had intended for the rich man's boy child, he bestowed upon the girl, too.
When the god returned to the beach, the rich guy was still sleeping on the driftwood.
He woke when he heard the driftwood ask the god about his excursion.
Keeping his eyes closed, he listened to the story.
God, told the driftwood, "All the luck was given to the family with the baby girl."
Too angry to discuss the matter further, he returned to the ocean.
Now, the wealthy person, couldn't wait to go home; he had to wake the poor guy up.
Neither of them knew what the sex of their newborn babies would be.
Without giving away his secret to his friend, he had to come up with a plan.
He woke him and said, "I forgot something at home. Let's cancel the fishing trip."
Arriving at his home, the rich man discovered, a son had been born.
He rushed over to his poor friend's house and, congratulated him on the birth of his daughter.
Then, he mentioned, the babies both born on the same day, must be a sign from the heavens.
"We should arrange for them to be married."
Well, the poor guy couldn't resist an offer like that. So, they shook hands over the deal.
When the children became of age, they got married.
With the good luck brought into the family, the rich man became richer.
The rich man's son, frowned upon his lovely wife, who had come from a poor family.
He resented that he had been forced to marry such a peasant girl.
On one festive occasion, she fed him a bowl of cooked barley.
It was intended, to honor a god, for the successful harvest of the year.
He hated barley and, screamed at her, "I don't care if it's the Barley Festival."
"Get out of my house forever."
He packed her belongings and, told her to scram.
She begged to be allowed, to stay the night and, would leave in the morning.
She had nowhere to live, as her parents had died years earlier.
He refused to let her stay and, threw her out into the night.
She was wandering, in the darkness with tears, streaming down her face.
Suddenly, a voice spoke, telling her to visit a charcoal-maker named, Taro.
The voice in the darkness, didn't give any directions and, the girl wondered where to go.
A pile of ants, tickled her feet and, began moving forward.
She followed the ants, barely visible, towards the mountains.
At the base of a mountain, she saw a lighted home and, the trail of ants disappeared.
The wooden house looked like a poor man's shack.
Knocking on the door, she got no response; nobody was at home.
Looking through a knothole in the door, the interior was just as shabby as the exterior.
Searching the rest of her surroundings, she saw firewood and charcoal in the yard.
For sure, this was the home of Sumiyaki Taro, the charcoal-maker, the voice told her about.
She decided to let herself in and, waited, siting on the floor, for his return home.
Up in the mountain, he was burning wood to make charcoal.
He habitually, carried a large wooden bucket, to carry charcoal home at day's end.
For some reason, on this day, he got an unquenchable thirst and, went to drink some water.
He scooped some water, with cupped hands, from a stream, flowing down the hills.
It tasted fantastically good so, he drank large quantities. It was most excellent.
In fact, he discovered it, wasn't water. It was sake !
Wooden barrels, stained with charcoal are perfect for storing alcohol.
So, he left his day's worth of charcoal behind and, filled the tub with sake.
Once home, he placed the wooden tub full of sake, in the yard and, went into the house.
He was a little tipsy and, got spooked, when he saw the beautiful woman.
Not sure if, he was drunk or, dreaming, he was speechless and, just stared at the girl.
Seeing his friendly eyes and smile on a charcoal-dusted face, she decided to speak first.
Before, she could utter her first word, a loud thunderclap was heard.
Thunder exploded again and, again frightening her.
She crawled over to Taro and, nestled up to him, shaking.
He held her head on his shoulder and comforted her, telling her not to worry.
Next thing you know, they became husband and wife.
They had plenty of children and became extremely wealthy.
Taro, figured out a way to quit the charcoal business and became a sake distributor.
Things didn't turn out so well for the original, rich man's family.
When the wealthy man's rotten son threw away his wife, things got bad.
Good luck, turned into bad luck and, they lost their fortunes.
The land and house were given up, to pay off debts.
Unlucky son, who kicked out his lucky wife, became a homeless beggar.
Walking the streets, one day, he spotted a mansion of a house and, went to beg for a meal.
When he knocked on the door, the woman who opened it, recognized him.
She, didn't say anything to her former spouse but, took pity on him and, got some food.
She brought him a bowl of cooked barley and, he quickly woofed it down.
Acting like a starved animal, he ate bowl after bowl and, she kept feeding him more.
After awhile, in as sweet of a tone, as you can imagine, she asked him,
"How's the barley?"
"Yum, yum, it's delicious." he replied.
Then she said, "That's strange. I thought you hated the stuff."
Suddenly, he recognized her.
He gulped his last swallow of the grain and, fell to the ground, where he choked to death !
Folktales of Okinawa ISBN4-947654-05-8 P.120
Condensed from: Shares of Fortune