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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "The Fire Quest"

The Fire Quest

The Wise Poet sat reading by the light of his taper. It was a night of the seventh month. The cicala sang in the flower of the pomegranate, the frog sang by the pond. The moon was out and all the stars, the air was heavy and sweet-scented. But the Poet was not happy, for moths came by the score to the light of his taper; not moths only, but cockchafers and dragon-flies with their wings rainbow-tinted. One and all they came upon the Fire Quest; one and all they burned their bright wings in the flame and so died. And the Poet was grieved.

“Little harmless children of the night,” he said, “why will you still fly upon the Fire Quest? Never, never can you attain, yet you strive and die. Foolish ones, have you never heard the story of the Firefly Queen?”

The moths and the cockchafers and the dragon-flies fluttered about the taper and paid him no heed.

“They have never heard it,” said the Poet; “yet it is old enough. Listen:

“The Firefly Queen was the brightest and most beautiful of small things that fly. She dwelt in the heart of a rosy lotus. The lotus grew on a still lake, and it swayed to and fro upon the lake’s bosom while the Firefly Queen slept within. It was like the reflection of a star in the water.

“You must know, oh, little children of the night, that the Firefly Queen had many suitors. Moths and cockchafers and dragon-flies innumerable flew to the lotus on the lake. And their hearts were filled with passionate love. ‘Have pity, have pity,’ they cried, ‘Queen of the Fireflies, Bright Light of the Lake.’ But the Firefly Queen sat and smiled and shone. It seemed that she was not sensible of the incense of love that arose about her.

“At last she said, ‘Oh, you lovers, one and all, what make you here idly, cumbering my lotus house? Prove your love, if you love me indeed. Go, you lovers, and bring me fire, and then I will answer.’

“Then, oh, little children of the night, there was a swift whirr of wings, for the moths and the cockchafers and the dragon-flies innumerable swiftly departed upon the Fire Quest.

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