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Kaguya-hime

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This a summary of the Kaguya-hime folktale, put here to compare and contrast with Kaguya Houraisan's backstory. Its traditional name is "Taketori Monogatari" (Story of the Bamboo-Cutter.)


Long ago there lived an old bamboo cutter. One day he noticed a glowing bamboo among those he was cutting, and within found a tiny child. He and his wife had never had children, and adopted her as their own. Thereafter whenever he cut bamboo, he would find gold within the joints, and soon became very rich. The child grew quick as a young bamboo, and was a beautiful young woman in a matter of months. She was named "Nayotake no Kaguya-hime." (Note that Kaguya is usually written just 輝 (shining), not 輝夜 (shining night) like Kaguya Houraisan)

Men from all across Japan heard tales of her beauty, and came in hopes of catching a glimpse, but none ever succeeded. In time, all that remained were five especially persistent noblemen, vying for her hand in marriage though they had never seen her. After months of their visits, the old bamboo cutter begged her to choose a husband from among them, as befit her station.

She was reluctant, and beyond that, did not know which one to choose. So she asked each one to fetch an item for her, to show that they were the most devoted. These were the items:

Buddha's stone bowl
A jeweled branch from the mountain of Hourai
The hide of a fire rat from China
The five-colored jewel from a dragon's head
A cowrie shell laid by a swallow (like an egg)

Some of the men set off at once, confident that they would achieve the impossible tasks and win Kaguya-hime's love. Others attempted to purchase the items from intermediaries and were swindled, and one hired artisans to craft a fake. In time, all of them failed, their lives lost, stations destroyed or deceit unmasked...


The rumors of Kaguya-hime's beauty reached the Emperor himself, and he requested that she come to his court; but she refused, saying she would die if taken there. Undaunted, he organized a hunting trip near her home, and slipped away from it to her house unexpectedly. In this way, he became the first man beyond family friends to see her. She was as beautiful as the tales said.

Though she still refused to return with him, she answered his letters, and the two wrote to each other for many years.

One new year, Kaguya-hime began to spend long nights staring at the moon, lost in thought. Around the eighth month, her parents found her out on the veranda, weeping bitterly. She confessed to them:

"I'm not a person of this world. I come from the moon country. But because of a promise made long ago, I have spent this time in the human world. The time has come when I have to return-- on the 15th of this month, people will come from my country to get me. I have to go back, so since this spring I have been worrying that you will be sad."

Kaguya-hime had grown more attached to her parents on the Earth than on the moon, and dearly wished that she did not have to return. Though she thought it was futile, the old man contacted the emperor, and asked that on the 15th he send men to defend her from the emissaries of the moon country.

When the day came, two thousand men with bows and arrows came to the bamboo cutter's house. A thousand manned the outer wall, and a thousand were on the roof. Kaguya-hime was put in a locked cabinet, the old man standing in front, and his wife inside with her arms wrapped around Kaguya-hime.

At midnight, people riding on clouds descended from the sky, dressed with a beauty unlike everything else. The soldiers were overcome with awe and dropped their bows. The moon people went inside the house, and as they demanded Kaguya-hime come out, the doors of her hiding place unlocked and opened themselves. They told her to drink the medicine of immortality and put on the heavenly feather robe, thus cleansing herself of this impure world.

"Please wait! When I put on the robe my heart will become different from the hearts of men of this world. There is something I want to say first."

She wrote sad notes of apology to her parents and to the Emperor, then gave her parents her own robe as a memento. She then took a small taste of the medicine, attached it to her letter to the Emperor, and gave it to a guard officer. As she handed it to him, the feather robe was placed on her shoulders, and all of her sadness and compassion for the people of the Earth were forgotten.

Having forgotten everything, she got into the flying carriage they had brought, and ascended into the sky with her escort of heavenly beings.

The parents became very sad and were soon put to bed sick. The guard officer returned to the Emperor with the items Kaguya-hime had given him as her last mortal act, and reported what had happened. With no desire to live forever, he commanded his men to take the medicine to the top of mountain closest to heaven in all of Japan, and then burn it.

This mountain was called Fuji. It is said that even now the smoke continues to climb up to the clouds above it.


Summarized from http://users.mdonline.net/wabei/xlation/kaguya/kagtoc.htm.


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