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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "The Robe of Feathers"

The Robe of Feathers

“I wouldn’t do that,” said the fisherman. “You’ll have it all to pieces.”

“I am a Moon Fairy, and at dawn I came to play upon fair Mio Strand; without my feathers I cannot go back to my place, my home in High Heaven. Therefore give me my feathers.”

“No,” said the fisherman.

“Oh, fisherman, fisherman, give me my robe.”

“I couldn’t think of it,” said the fisherman.

At this the maiden fell upon her knees and drooped like a lily in the heat of the day. With her arms she held the fisherman about the knees, and as she clung to him beseeching him, he felt her tears upon his bare feet.

She wept and said:

“I am a bird, a frail bird, A wounded bird with broken wings, I must die far from home, For the Five Woes are come upon me. The red flowers in my hair are faded; My robe is made unclean; Faintness comes upon me; I cannot see—farewell, dear sight of my eyes; I have lost joy. Oh, blessed flying clouds, and happy birds, And golden dust in the wind, And flying thoughts and flying prayers! I have lost all joy.”

“Oh, stop,” said the fisherman, “you may have your robe.”

“Give,” she cried.

“Softly, softly,” said the fisherman. “Not so fast. I will give you your robe if you will dance for me here on Mio Strand.”

“What must I dance?” she asked.

“You must dance the mystic dance that makes the Palace of the Moon turn round.”

She said, “Give me my feathers and I will dance it. I cannot dance without my feathers.”

“What if you cheat me, what if you break your promise and fly immediately to the moon and no dancing at all?”

“Ah, fisherman,” she said, “the faith of a Fairy!”

Then he gave her the robe.

Now, when she had arrayed herself and flung back her hair, the Fairy began to dance upon the yellow sand. In and out of the feather robe crept her fairy feet. Slowly, softly, she went with folded wings and sang:

“Oh, the gold and silver mountains of the Moon, And the sweet Singing Birds of Heaven! They sing in the branches of the cinnamon tree, To entertain the thirty kings that are there.

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