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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "The Mallet"

The Mallet

Ay, there’s the question. Cho turned green with envy, as green as grass. “I’ll have a fairy mallet, too,” he says, “and be rich for nothing. Why should that idiot spendthrift Kanè have all the good fortune?” So he goes and begs rice from his brother, which his brother gives him very willingly, a good sackful. And he waits for it to ripen, quite wild with impatience. It ripens sure enough, and sure enough a flight of swallows comes and settles upon the good grain in the ear.

“Arah! Arah!” shouted Cho, clapping his hands and laughing aloud for joy. The swallows flew away, and Cho was after them. He chased them over hill and dale, hedge and ditch, rice-field and mulberry-field, till at last they flew away from his sight, and he found himself in a mossy dell shaded by spreading pine-trees. Cho looks about him.

“This should be the place,” says he. So he lies down and waits with one wily eye shut and one wily eye open.

Presently who should trip into the dell but the fairies’ children! Very fresh they were as they moved among the pine-tree trunks.

“Leader! Leader! Fetch us the mallet,” they cried. Up stepped the leader and lifted away the mossy stone. And behold there was no mallet there!

Now the fairies’ children became very angry. They stamped their little feet, and cried and rushed wildly to and fro, and were beside themselves altogether because the mallet was gone.

“See,” cried the leader at last, “see this ugly old farmer man; he must have taken our mallet. Let us pull his nose for him.”

With a shrill scream the fairies’ children set upon Cho. They pinched him, and pulled him, and buffeted him, and set their sharp teeth in his flesh till he yelled in agony. Worst of all, they laid hold of his nose and pulled it. Long it grew, and longer. It reached his waist. It reached his feet.

Lord, how they laughed, the fairies’ children! Then they scampered away like fallen leaves before the wind.

Cho sighed, and he groaned, and he cursed, and he swore, but for all that his nose was not an inch shorter.

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