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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "The Peony Lantern"

The Peony Lantern

He said never a word.

She drooped. “Lord,” she murmured, “shall I go or stay?”

And he said, “Stay.”

A little before daybreak the samurai fell into a deep sleep, and awoke to find himself alone in the clear light of the morning. He lost not an instant, but rose and went forth, and immediately made his way through Yedo to the quarter of the city which is called the Green Hill. Here he inquired for the house of the Lady of the Morning Dew, but no one could direct him. High and low he searched fruitlessly. It seemed to him that for the second time he had lost his dear lady, and he turned homewards in bitter despair. His way led him through the grounds of a certain temple, and as he went he marked two graves that were side by side. One was little and obscure, but the other was marked by a fair monument, like the tomb of some great one. Before the monument there hung a lantern with a bunch of peony flowers tied to its handle. It was such a lantern as is used at the time of Bon in the service of the dead.

Long, long did the samurai stand as one in a dream. Then he smiled a little and said:

“‘We have moved to a little house ... a very little house ... upon the Green Hill ... we were suffered to take nothing with us there and we are grown very poor ... with grief and want my mistress is become pale....’ A little house, a dark house, yet you will make room for me, oh, my beloved, pale one of my desires. We have loved for the space of ten existences, leave me not now ... my dear.” Then he went home.

His faithful servant met him and cried:

“Now what ails you, master?”

He said, “Why, nothing at all.... I was never merrier.”

But the servant departed weeping, and saying, “The mark of death is on his face ... and I, whither shall I go that bore him as a child in these arms?”

Every night, for seven nights, the maidens with the peony lantern came to Hagiwara’s dwelling. Fair weather or foul was the same to them. They came at the hour of the Ox. There was mystic wooing. By the strong bond of illusion the living and the dead were bound together.

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