Japanese Tales : The Bamboo Princess
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The Bamboo Princess

Once upon a time there was an old man and woman. Everyday the old man went to cut bamboo to make things out of them as this was his livelihood. One day, the old man went to the bamboo thicket and found there a strange bamboo. This bamboo was shining; a light came from its base.
The old man wondered, "That's strange! Why is this bamboo shining like that?" When he cut the bamboo he was really surprised. A lovely little girl was sitting in the bamboo and that was why it was shining! The old man picked the little girl up, put her on his hand and went back home in a hurry.
"Look what I've found!", cried the old man and he showed his wife the lovely little girl he had found in the shining bamboo.
The old woman thought, "It's certainly the gods that give us this marvellous little girl!" They called her the "Bamboo Princess" and loved and looked after her as if she were their own child.

The little girl grew up very quickly and became a gorgeous beauty. When the old man and his wife were tired or in a bad mood, they had just to look at her and they would feel better. They lived very happily with the Bamboo Princess, loving her as their own daughter. After finding the little girl in the bamboo, whenever the old man went to cut bamboo he would always find some gold inside. Soon he became rich and could afford to build a big house. He would not let his precious princess go out but nevertheless her beauty became known all over the country.

Hearing of this famous beauty, young men came from the whole of Japan to see her. But the old man would not let them meet the princess. Disappointed, many of them went back home. But there were a few young men who were very determined to meet her and even marry her. There were five of these men and they came every day to the house of the old man, regardless of the weather.

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One day the Bamboo Princess said to the old man, "I am going to ask to these five young men something I wish. If one of them can bring it to me, I will marry him." But the princess did not at all want to marry anybody, so she asked for the most difficult things to find.

She asked the first one to bring her the cup of Buddha, made of stone, which is in India. To the second, she asked for the golden tree trunk which bears precious stone fruits. To the third, the pelt of the mouse of the sun which is said to be in China. To the fourth, the five-coloured jewel which shines at the neck of the dragon. At last to the fifth, a cowrie, a shell that can be found in the nest of swallows. The princess asked for things that nobody knew existed and so the young men were disheartened.

After that the young men did not go to the old man's place for a while as they were all looking for the things the princess wanted. One day, the first man came and brought the cup of Buddha he had been asked for. But he did not go to India as he should have, and instead he got an old and dirty cup from a shrine near Kyoto. When the princess saw it, she immediately knew it was not Buddha's cup. Because though it was very old and made of stone, the cup that was from India always shone.

The second one did not know where this tree with a trunk made of gold and fruits of precious stones could be found, and did not want to make a long journey. Since he was very rich, he decided to order one from some jewellers. Then he brought the tree to the princess. It was so magnificient she thought it was the real tree. She was thinking that she could no longer escape marrying him when the jewellers came and asked for their money. This was how the princess knew that it was not the tree she had asked for.

The third one, who had been asked for the pelt of the mouse of the sun, gave a great amount of money to some merchants who were going to China. They brought him a gorgeous pelt, saying it was from the mouse of the sun. He brought it to the princess, who said, "It's really a fine pelt. But the pelt of the mouse of sun does not burn, even if you throw it into the fire. Let's try it." And she threw the pelt in the fire. It burnt in a few minutes. The young man, angry and ashamed, went away.

The fourth was very courageous and he tried to find the dragon by himself. He sailed and wandered for a very long time, because nobody knew where a dragon lived. But during his journey, he was caught in a storm and nearly died. He could not search for the dragon any longer and went back home. Even then he was still ill and was not able to meet the Bamboo Princess again.

The fifth and last of all these young men, who had been asked for the cowrie -a precious shell that can sometimes be found in the nest of swallows, looked in all the nests. He thought he had found the shell and hurried down the ladder. In his haste, he fell and was badly injured. Moreover, what he had firmly in his hand was not the precious shell, but an old and hard swallow's dropping. That is how he too failed to marry the Bamboo Princess.

The reputation of the Bamboo Princess soon became known even to the Emperor so he also wanted to meet this beauty. One day he went to the house of the old man and saw the princess. He fell in love with her and wanted her to go with him to his palace. But the princess said to him, "I was not born on this planet, I cannot go with you." Nevertheless, the Emperor could not forget this charming young woman.

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n German

One summer, the Bamboo Princess was weeping and looking at the moon. The old man asked her what was wrong but she would not answer. The princess grew sadder every day and she would always look at the moon and cry. The old man and his wife were really worried, but as the princess remained silent they could not do anything for her. Then on the day before the full moon of mid-August, the princess explained to the old man and the old woman why she was so sad. "I was not born on this planet. I left the Moon to live here a few years, but now I have to go back where I belong. When the moon is full tomorrow, people from the Moon are coming to take me back. I have been very happy with you, thank you very much." she said.

The old man and his wife could not endure this and they were profoundly sad. They told the princess not to go back, but she answered, "I have to go back. I do not want to, but I must. I am really sorry." Then the old man decided to go and ask the Emperor for help. He told him the story of the Bamboo Princess and the Emperor immediately sent two thousand warriors to the house of the old man.

On the night of the full moon of mid-August, the old man's house was surrounded by warriors. Half of them were posted on the roof and the others were around the house trying to protect the princess. In the house, the old man and his wife were with the Bamboo Princess waiting for the people of the Moon. Outside, the warriors were looking at the moon and gripping firmly their bows and arrows. When the moon became full, the people from the Moon came down. They were Moon nymphs and were sparkling and shining so much that the warriors were dazzled and could not use their bows. The strangest thing was that they had also lost their will and could not fight. The warriors, the old man and the old woman were helpless. The Bamboo Princess came out of the house towards the nymphs of the Moon.

"I do not want to leave you, but I have to. I must go back to where I belong. Please, sometimes think of me", she said to the old man and woman. She also wrote a good-bye letter to the Emperor. After that, the nymphs put a cloak from the Moon on her shoulders and suddenly the Bamboo Princess forgot everything about her life on earth. Then she returned to the moon with the nymphs.

Translated and adapted by Myriam Dartois


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