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The Peony Lantern

” cried the servant, “the youth has the fever, or he is perchance mad.”

Hagiwara faltered not at all. He looked neither to the right nor to the left. Straight forward he went, for he said to himself, “All roads lead past my love’s house.” Soon he came to a quiet suburb, and to a certain house whose garden had a split bamboo fence. Hagiwara laughed softly and scaled the fence.

“The same, the very same shall be the manner of our meeting,” he said. He found the garden wild and overgrown. Moss covered the three stone steps. The plum tree that grew there fluttered its green leaves disconsolate. The house was still, its shutters were all closed, it was forlorn and deserted.

The samurai grew cold as he stood and wondered. A soaking rain fell.

There came an old man into the garden. He said to Hagiwara:

“Sir, what do you do here?”

“The white flower has fallen from the plum tree,” said the samurai. “Where is the Lady of the Morning Dew?”

“She is dead,” answered the old man; “dead these five or six moons, of a strange and sudden sickness. She lies in the graveyard on the hill, and O’Yoné, her handmaid, lies by her side. She could not suffer her mistress to wander alone through the long night of Yomi. For their sweet spirits’ sake I would still tend this garden, but I am old and it is little that I can do. Oh, sir, they are dead indeed. The grass grows on their graves.”

Hagiwara went to his own home. He took a slip of pure white wood and he wrote upon it, in large fair characters, the dear name of his lady. This he set up, and burned before it incense and sweet odours, and made every offering that was meet, and did due observance, and all for the welfare of her departed spirit.

Then drew near the Festival of Bon, the time of returning souls. The good folk of Yedo took lanterns and visited their graves. Bringing food and flowers, they cared for their beloved dead. On the thirteenth day of the seventh month, which, in the Bon, is the day of days, Hagiwara the samurai walked in his garden by night for the sake of the coolness.

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