Japanese tales : Cracking Mountain
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Cracking Mountain

Cracking Mountain
Illustrated by Kaya Hieda

Once upon a time, there was an old man and old woman. Everyday the old man worked in the fields, sowing seeds and singing,
"One seed becomes a thousand seeds".
Cracking Mountain Cracking Mountain

And everyday a badger came too, and sang
"One seed is one and I'll eat every one".
So when the old man came back to work the day after, there was always nothing left as the badger would have eaten every seed. That was why the old man and his wife lived poorly.

Cracking Mountain

It went on like this for a while, and everyday there was not even one seed saved from the badger. One day the old man got angry and decided to catch this wicked badger. As usual he went on sowing seeds and singing until the badger came and laughed at him. The old man suddenly rushed at the badger and in the twinkling of an eye, he caught and tied up the creature with a good strong rope. Then he went home with his unhappy and struggling burden.

Once he got home the old man said to his wife, "Look, I caught the badger! Let's have nice badger stew tonight."And then he went back to the fields.
The old woman began grinding some rice to bake rice cakes for supper when the cunning badger told her, "You are too old to do this alone; do untie me and I'll help you." The old woman hesitated and thought that if her husband knew of this he would get angry at her. But the badger wanted to help her so she untied him. The badger took the pestle, pretending he was going to grind the rice. Instead the wicked creature turned on the old woman and hit her hard on the head. The poor old woman lay dead while the badger fled to the mountains.
Cracking Mountain

When the old man came back he found his wife dead. He was weeping when a hare came and asked him what the matter was and why he was so sad. The old man told him about the badger's wicked deed, and the hare said, "I'll get your revenge" and went to the mountains.


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The hare was in the mountain picking dry wood, when the badger came and asked him what he was up to. The hare told him that as winter would be very cold he was going to store firewood. The badger thought that this was a good thing to do too so the both of them collected stacks of wood. Then they loaded it on their backs and went down the mountain. But the way was long and the hare began complaining, "Oh, it's heavy, so heavy," so the badger carried Hare's bundle too. As they went on, the hare came up behind the badger and started striking flints.
"Crack! Crack!"
The badger heard the flints and asked, "What's that?"
The hare replied, "Oh, don't you know, that sound you hear are the Cracking Birds from the Cracking Mountain."
Cracking Mountain
So the badger went on down the mountain, trusting his new friend. Finally, Hare was able to set fire to the wood on Badger's back. The wood was so dry, it went "Woosh! Woooosh!", as it caught fire.
Again the badger asked, "What's that?"
"Don't you know," said Hare, "that's the sound of the birds flying, and they call this mountain the Woosh Mountain."
Finally, the fire grew and his back started burning and the badger screamed, "Ouch! It hurts!" But the hare just ran away.

The day after, the hare was in the mountains again, picking red peppers to make some chilli powder. The badger happened to come there too, and seeing the hare he got angry and screamed at him, "Because of you, I was badly burnt at Cracking Mountain yesterday."
The hare pretended he did not know what the badger was talking about and said,
"Hares from Cracking Mountain are hares from Cracking Mountain.
Hares from Red Pepper Mountain are hares from Red Pepper Mountain.
I don't understand what you mean."
The badger thought, "Of course, that's true" and asked the hare if he had some medicine for his burns.
"Oh, I've just made some medicine that's really good for burns," said the hare, and he generously powdered the back of the badger with the chilli powder he had just prepared. At first the badger did not notice anything, but gradually it began to hurt and burn. And once more he was suffering and groaning, but the hare was far away.


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Cracking Mountain

The day after, the hare was in the mountains once again, cutting down some cedar trees to make a boat. The badger came by, his back badly hurting. He was really angry with the hare and he shouted at him, "Because of you and your medicine, I nearly died yesterday at Red Pepper Mountain".
The hare, just as if he had not met the badger even once in his life, replied,
"Hares from Red Pepper Mountain are hares from Red Pepper Mountain.
Hares from Cedar Mountain are hares from Cedar Mountain.
I don't know who you are."
Once more the gullible badger believed the hare, and thought "Of course, that's true." Then he asked the hare, "Why are you making a boat?"
The hare replied, "It is for fishing in the river." Badger wanted a boat too. So they decided to build two boats. Said Hare, "As my fur is white, I'm building a white boat with cedar; as your fur is black, you shall have a black boat made of earth."
Cracking Mountain

So they made the two boats, one out of wood and the other out of earth, and went on to the water. Not surprisingly, when they were in the middle of the river, Badger's boat began to fall apart. The badger, drowning, was shouting for help. But the hare looked at Badger blankly and said, "Just think of the poor old woman who died because of you", and paddled away.

The hare went to see the old man, and said, "The badger is dead." But the old man was not happy, because he felt that revenge would not make his wife come back. He wished he had never told anything to the wicked hare.

Translated and adapted from Japanese by Myriam Dartois

Illustrated by Kaya Hieda


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