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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "The Nurse"

The Nurse

Idé the samurai was wedded to a fair wife and had an only child, a boy called Fugiwaka. Idé was a mighty man of war, and as often as not he was away from home upon the business of his liege lord. So the child Fugiwaka was reared by his mother and by the faithful woman, his nurse. Matsu was her name, which is, in the speech of the country, the Pine Tree. And even as the pine tree, strong and evergreen, was she, unchanging and enduring.

In the house of Idé there was a very precious sword. Aforetime a hero of Idé’s clan slew eight-and-forty of his enemies with this sword in one battle. The sword was Idé’s most sacred treasure. He kept it laid away in a safe place with his household gods.

Morning and evening the child Fugiwaka came to make salutations before the household gods, and to reverence the glorious memory of his ancestors. And Matsu, the nurse, knelt by his side.

Morning and evening, “Show me the sword, O Matsu, my nurse,” said Fugiwaka.

And O Matsu made answer, “Of a surety, my lord, I will show it to you.”

Then she brought the sword from its place, wrapped in a covering of red and gold brocade. And she drew off the covering and she took the sword from its golden sheath and displayed the bright steel to Fugiwaka. And the child made obeisance till his forehead touched the mats.

At bedtime O Matsu sang songs and lullabies. She sang this song:

“Sleep, my little child, sweetly sleep— Would you know the secret, The secret of the hare o Nennin Yama? Sleep, my little child, sweetly sleep— You shall know the secret. Oh, the august hare of Nennin Yama, How augustly long are his ears! Why should this be, oh, best beloved? You shall know the secret. His mother ate the bamboo seed. Hush! Hush! His mother ate the loquat seed. Hush! Hush! Sleep, my little child, sweetly sleep— Now you know the secret.”

Then O Matsu said, “Will you sleep now, my lord Fugiwaka?”

And the child answered, “I will sleep now, O Matsu.”

“Listen, my lord,” she said, “and, sleeping or waking, remember.

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