“It is a hard thing to see the son of an illustrious house live and die a peasant. I will promote you to the rank of Samurai.”
Then the peasant answered, “My lord, if I become a Samurai, and the retainer of some noble, I shall not be so happy as when I was my own master. If I may not remain a husbandman, let me be a chief over men, however humble they may be.”
But my lord Hojo was angry at this, and, thinking to punish the peasant for his insolence, said:—
“Since you wish to become a chief over men, no matter how humble, there is no means of gratifying your strange wish but by making you chief over the Etas of the whole country. So now see that you rule them well.”
When he heard this, the peasant was afraid; but because he had said that he wished to become a chief over men, however humble, he could not choose but become chief of the Etas, he and his children after him for ever; and Danzayemon, who rules the Etas at the present time, and lives at Asakusa, is his lineal descendant.
I think that their quaintness is a sufficient apology for the following little children’s stories. With the exception of that of the “Elves and the Envious Neighbour,” which comes out of a curious book on etymology and proverbial lore, called the Kotowazagusa, these stories are found printed in little separate pamphlets, with illustrations, the stereotype blocks of which have become so worn that the print is hardly legible. These are the first tales which are put into a Japanese child’s hands; and it is with these, and such as these, that the Japanese mother hushes her little ones to sleep. Knowing the interest which many children of a larger growth take in such Baby Stories, I was anxious to have collected more of them. I was disappointed, however, for those which I give here are the only ones which I could find in print; and if I asked the Japanese to tell me others, they only thought I was laughing at them, and changed the subject. The stories of the Tongue-cut Sparrow, and the Old Couple and their Dog, have been paraphrased in other works upon Japan; but I am not aware of their having been literally translated before.
THE TONGUE-CUT SPARROW
Once upon a time there lived an old man and an old woman. The old man, who had a kind heart, kept a young sparrow, which he tenderly nurtured. But the dame was a cross-grained old thing; and one day, when the sparrow had pecked at some paste with which she was going to starch her linen, she flew into a great rage, and cut the sparrow’s tongue and let it loose. When the old man came home from the hills and found that the bird had flown, he asked what had become of it; so the old woman answered that she had cut its tongue and let it go, because it had stolen her starching-paste. Now the old man, hearing this cruel tale, was sorely grieved, and thought to himself, “Alas! where can my bird be gone? Poor thing! Poor little tongue-cut sparrow! where is your home now?” and he wandered far and wide, seeking for his pet, and crying, “Mr. Sparrow! Mr. Sparrow! where are you living?”