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

The Maiden of Unai

There is but one way.” And again their bright swords leapt from their scabbards.

But the maid stood trembling, holding the gnarled stem of the wistaria in her hands. She trembled and shook the branches so that the frail flowers fell about her. “My lords, my lords,” she cried, “oh, brave and beautiful heroes of fame, it is not meet that one of you should die for such as I am. I honour you; I love you both—therefore farewell.” With that, still holding to the wistaria, she swung herself clear of the balcony and dropped into the deep and swift-flowing river. “Weep not,” she cried, “for no woman dies to-day. It is but a child that is lost.” And so she sank.

Down sprang the champion of Chinu into the flood, and in the same instant down sprang the champion of Unai. Alack, they were heavy with the arms that they bore, and they sank and were entangled in the long water weeds. And so the three of them were drowned.

But at night when the moon shone, the pale dead rose, floating to the surface of the water. The champion of Unai held the maiden’s right hand in his own, but the champion of Chinu lay with his head against the maiden’s heart, bound close to her by a tress of her long hair; and as he lay he smiled.

The three corpses they lifted from the water, and laid them together upon a bier of fair white wood, and over them they strewed herbs and sweet flowers, and laid a veil over their faces of fine white silk. And they lighted fires and burned incense. Gallants and warriors and men of note who loved the maiden, alive or dead, stood about her bier and made a hedge with themselves and their bright swords. And there was sorrow and mourning, loud and grievous, so that the sound of it reached High Heaven and offended the peace of the gods.

A grave was dug wide and deep, and the three were buried therein. The maid they laid in the middle, and the two champions upon either side. Idzumo was the native place of the champion of Chinu, so they brought earth from thence in a junk, and with this earth they covered him.

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