Japan: The Fortunate Fish-Hook (cont.)

The name Toyotama means "Shining Jewel" or "Peerless Jewel," as the name is rendered here. You can read more about her at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Japanese Mythology unit. Story source: Romance of Old Japan, Part I: Mythology and Legend by E. W. Champney and F. Champney (1917).

The Fortunate Fish-Hook (cont.)

Thereafter Prince Fire-Fade related to the Sea-God the tale of the lost fish-hook, and Wata-tsumi summoned before him all the fishes of his kingdom. Thousands upon thousands they came, fishes “broad of fin and narrow of fin,” from the remote recesses of the mounts and valleys of the sea.

When they had all assembled in the Court-of-Sea-weed the Ocean-God questioned them, saying: “Know ye aught, my faithful subjects, of the magic fish-hook of Prince Fire-Flame?”

“We know naught,” answered the Lobster, “except that the Red Woman (the Tai) bideth at home with a wounded mouth.”

Wata-tsumi then despatched a fleet-finned swordfish to summon the Red Woman to their council. After a little the Tai came, and within her swollen gills was discovered the lost fish-hook!

For three long years Ho-wori dwelt happily with his Peerless Jewel Toyo-tama in the palace beneath the ocean. Then a great longing came upon him to return to his earthly home and to restore the lost fish-hook to his brother.

Toyo-tama, sorely troubled, told her father of her sorrow. But the Sea-God, by no means resenting the desire of his son-in-law, delivered unto him the fishhook, bidding him: “When thou givest this to thy brother spit thrice thereon and hand it to him with averted face saying, ‘‘Tis a hook of poverty, of ruin, and of downfall.”

Moreover Wata-tsumi presented Ho-wori with two talismans wherewith to rule the tides of the sea, enjoining him: “If thy brother be wroth, bring forth the Jewel of the Flowing Tide, and the waters shall drown him. But if he craveth thy forgiveness do thou display the Jewel of the Ebbing Tide and the waters shall sudden recede and therewithal thou shalt save him.”

As Ho-wori was about to depart Toyo-tama confided to him that she was soon to become a mother.

“Yet tarry not,” she entreated, “but build for me a house upon the strand. On a day when the tempest rageth I will come to thee.”

Prince Fire-Fade mounted a sea-dragon and node swiftly over the mountains and valleys of the sea to his own land.

When he found his brother he restored to him the lost fish-hook, and Prince Fire-Flame begged his forgiveness and promised eternal subjection.

On a day, “when the winds and waves were raging,” Princess Peerless Jewel came gliding over the water throned upon a great tortoise.

On the strand Ho-wori had builded a cottage “thatched with cormorant feathers,” and here, in due season, was she delivered of a beauteous son. When she had laid him in his joyous father’s arms, Toyo-tama, transformed into a mermaid, disappeared for ever, in the depths of the jade-green sea.

Long and bitterly lamented Prince Fire-Fade:

Gone is the Moon from out the summer sky,
Spring’s wonted flowers for me no longer bloom.
All changeth; former light is present gloom,
But still my changeless love lives on exhaustlessly.

He longed to become a fearless sailor and skim the foamy billows in his speedy sampan, questing ever strange and unknown lands. Distant voices called to him from the deep. The winds whispered even of a fairy country overflowing with fruit and flowers. Nevertheless, he lingered in Kyushu, biding with his beloved father rather than leave him childless in his declining years. When Prince Fire-Fade’s spirit was borne to the Eternal Land, whence none may return, his son committed his body to the waves.

Years after, feeling himself at death’s door, he summoned to his bedside his son, Jimmu Tenno, and commanded him: “Of old the beneficent Heavenly Deities conferred our Sunny Land of Rice Plains upon Ninigi, my divine ancestor. Now I learn that eastward lieth Yamato, a fair land girt by snow-crowned mountains, an isle of ease and plenty circled by the sapphire sea. Up therefore, journey thither, subdue its savage tribes, that thy descendants may dwell for ever in that fair country.”

Then the ever-bountiful Sun Goddess sent Yatagarasu the raven to guide him upon his way, and Jimmu, bearing with him the sacred regalia, necklace, sword, and mirror, sailed through the Sea of Myriad Isles to the flowery land of Yamato.

There he established his kingdom, which, thus the eternal gods have ordained, shall last from generation to generation so long as sun and moon endure!

(700 words)

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