Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Japan: The Ogre of Rashomon

This story is part of the Japanese Fairy Tales (Ozaki) unit. Story source: Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki (1908).




The Ogre of Rashomon
LONG, long ago in Kyoto, the people of the city were terrified by accounts of a dreadful ogre who, it was said, haunted the Gate of Rashomon at twilight and seized whoever passed by. The missing victims were never seen again, so it was whispered that the ogre was a horrible cannibal who not only killed the unhappy victims but ate them also. Now everybody in the town and neighborhood was in great fear, and no one durst venture out after sunset near the Gate of Rashomon.

Now at this time there lived in Kyoto a general named Raiko who had made himself famous for his brave deeds. Some time before this he made the country ring with his name for he had attacked Oeyama, where a band of ogres lived with their chief who instead of wine drank the blood of human beings. He had routed them all and cut off the head of the chief monster.

This brave warrior was always followed by a band of faithful knights. In this band there were five knights of great valor. One evening as the five knights sat at a feast quaffing sake in their rice bowls and eating all kinds of fish, raw, and stewed, and broiled, and toasting each other's healths and exploits, the first knight, Hojo, said to the others: "Have you all heard the rumor that every evening after sunset there comes an ogre to the Gate of Rashomon and that he seizes all who pass by?"

The second knight, Watanabe, answered him, saying: "Do not talk such nonsense! All the ogres were killed by our chief Raiko at Oeyama! It cannot be true because, even if any ogres did escape from that great killing, they would not dare to show themselves in this city, for they know that our brave master would at once attack them if he knew that any of them were still alive!"

"Then do you disbelieve what I say, and think that I am telling you a falsehood?"

"No, I do not think that you are telling a lie," said Watanabe, "but you have heard some old woman's story which is not worth believing."

"Then the best plan is to prove what I say by going there yourself and finding out yourself whether it is true or not," said Hojo.

Watanabe, the second knight, could not bear the thought that his companion should believe he was afraid, so he answered quickly: "Of course, I will go at once and find out for myself!"

So Watanabe at once got ready to go — he buckled on his long sword, and put on a coat of armor, and tied on his large helmet. When he was ready to start he said to the others: "Give me something so that I can prove I have been there!"

Then one of the men got a roll of writing paper and his box of Indian ink and brushes, and the four comrades wrote their names on a piece of paper.

"I will take this," said Watanabe, "and put it on the Gate of Rashomon; so, tomorrow morning will you all go and look at it? I may be able to catch an ogre or two by then!" and he mounted his horse and rode off gallantly.

It was a very dark night, and there was neither moon nor star to light Watanabe on his way. To make the darkness worse, a storm came on, the rain fell heavily, and the wind howled like wolves in the mountains. Any ordinary man would have trembled at the thought of going out of doors, but Watanabe was a brave warrior and dauntless, and his honor and word were at stake, so he sped on into the night while his companions listened to the sound of his horse's hoofs dying away in the distance, then shut the sliding shutters close, and gathered round the charcoal fire and wondered what would happen — and whether their comrade would encounter one of those horrible Oni.

At last Watanabe reached the Gate of Rashomon, but peer as he might through the darkness, he could see no sign of an ogre.

"It is just as I thought," said Watanabe to himself. "There are certainly no ogres here; it is only an old woman's story. I will stick this paper on the gate so that the others can see I have been here when they come tomorrow, and then I will take my way home and laugh at them all."

He fastened the piece of paper, signed by all his four companions, on the gate, and then turned his horse's head towards home.


(800 words)





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