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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "The Black Bowl"

The Black Bowl

’ It is enough to make a wholesome body sick.”

On went the poor maid, and sometimes the children pelted her with mud and pebbles for sport. Sometimes she was handled roughly by village louts, who scoffed and caught at her dress as she went; they even laid hands upon the bowl itself and sought to drag it from her head by force. But they only played at that game once, for the bowl stung them as fiercely as if it had been a nettle, and the bullies ran away howling.

The beggar-maiden might seek her fortune, but it was very hard to find. She might ask for work; but see, would she get it? None were wishful to employ a girl with a black bowl on her head.

At last, on a fine day when she was tired out, she sat her upon a stone and began to cry as if her heart would break. Down rolled her tears from under the black bowl. They rolled down her cheeks and reached her white chin.

A wandering ballad-singer passed that way, with his biwa slung across his back. He had a sharp eye and marked the tears upon the maid’s white chin. It was all he could see of her face, and, “Oh, girl with the black bowl on your head,” quoth he, “why do you sit weeping by the roadside?”

“I weep,” she answered, “because the world is hard. I am hungry and tired.... No one will give me work or pay me money.”

“Now that’s unfortunate,” said the ballad-singer, for he had a kind heart; “but I haven’t a rin of my own, or it would be yours. Indeed I am sorry for you. In the circumstances the best I can do for you is to make you a little song.” With that he whips his biwa round, thrums on it with his fingers and starts as easy as you please. “To the tears on your white chin,” he says, and sings:

“The white cherry blooms by the roadside, How black is the canopy of cloud! The wild cherry droops by the roadside, Beware of the black canopy of cloud. Hark, hear the rain, hear the rainfall From the black canopy of cloud. Alas, the wild cherry, its sweet flowers are marred, Marred are the sweet flowers, forlorn on the spray!

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