228. Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (10th century)

Source : The Tale of The Bamboo Cutter (Taketori Monogatari), modern telling by Yasunari Kawabata, translated by Donald Keene, illustrated by Masayuki Miyata, published Kodansha, 1998 (ISBN 4770023294)

Thoughts : A Japanese fairy tale. An old bamboo cutter finds a baby no bigger than his thumb nestled in a bamboo stalk. He and his wife adopt the girl who grows to adulthood overnight. Her renowned beauty draws many suitors who are all rejected. The most tenacious five are each given a challenge by the girl Kaguya – to fetch the stone begging-bowl of the Buddha from India, a jeweled branch from Paradise, a robe made of fire-rat fur, a jewel from a dragon, and the easy-delivery charm of the swallows, but each try to use their money or power to deceive or short cut their challenge and are rejected.

The Emperor of Japan hears of Kaguya’s beauty and requests her to attend him at court, but this too she rejects. Soon it is revealed that she is the Princess of the Moon who has been exiled to Earth for a short time and must now return, where she will forget her love for her elderly adoptive parents. A troop of Moon Warriors are sent to take her away, facing off against a thousand of the Emperor’s elite soldiers.

I hadn’t heard this story before. The fate of the five suitors becomes progressively more severe, but it is the conclusion of the story and the fate of the Moon Princess and the bamboo cutter and his wife that captures the interest. Even Mount Fuji makes a cameo appearance at the end.

The artwork in the book is beautiful and spare, recalling anime style and print block work.

Digressions/diversions:   Studio Ghibli’s anime movie The Tale of Princess Kaguya is lined up for my weekend viewing.

Personal rating:  7/10

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