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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "The Maiden of Unai"

The Maiden of Unai

The one came from afar and was the champion of Chinu, and the other came from near, the champion of Unai. They were young, strong, and black-haired. They were equal in years, in strength, and in valour. Both were girded with great swords, and full-charged quivers were upon their backs, and six-foot bows of white wood were in their hands. Together they stood beneath the balcony of the maiden of Unai, like twin brothers in beauty and attainments. Together they cried aloud with passionate voices, telling of their eternal love, and bidding the maiden choose between them.

She lifted up her eyes and looked fixedly upon them, but spoke no word.

Then they drew their swords and made as if to fight the matter out there and then; but the maid’s father spoke: “Put up your swords, fair sirs; I have devised a better way for the decision of this thing. If it please you, enter my house.”

Now part of the house of Unai was built out upon a platform over the river that flowed past. It was the fifth month and the wistaria was in blossom upon the trellis, and hung downwards nearly into the water. The river was swift and deep. Here the master of the house brought the champions, and the maiden was there also. But the mother and the wise woman stood a little way apart, and hid their faces in their long sleeves. Presently a white water-bird dropped from the blue sky, and rocked to and fro upon the water of the river.

“Now, champions,” cried the father of the maiden, “draw me your bows and let fly each of you an arrow at yonder white bird that floats upon the river. He that shall strike the bird and prove himself to be the better marksman, he shall wed my daughter, the peerless Maiden of Unai.”

Then immediately the two champions drew their bows of white wood and let fly each of them an arrow. Each arrow sped swift; each arrow struck true. The champion of Chinu struck the water-bird in the head, but the champion of Unai struck her in the tail so that the white feathers were scattered. Then the champions cried, “Enough of this trifling.

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