Taro’s reward

August 6, 2020 § Leave a comment

So the trip to Kerala may not happen for now, with very heavy rains forecast, and some roads blocked.

We resolved an argument over the amount of time being spent on video games by my son with the agreement that he will spend an hour with me everyday working on his studies.

He has English class tomorrow, so we looked up his text book and turned to the lesson his class is currently discussing. It turned out to be Taro’s Reward, a Japanese story retold in English. Taro is a poor young woodcutter who wants to provide some comfort to his old parents who live with him in a remote hillside village.

The story warms up with Taro’s old father expressing a desire for a cup of sake to warm himself a bit, but poor Taro has not the money to buy it. So the next morning he starts even more early than usual to chop more wood to make a little extra money to save for his father’s sake.

A small magical waterfall near where Taro is chopping wood makes itself heard to the young woodcutter and rewards him with flowing sake instead of water. Taro fills his pitcher and takes the sake home to his father. The story spreads in the village and the next morning the whole village is out to tank up from the magical waterfall, but the villagers are disappointed to only get water.

Taro’s dedication to his parents and his hard work, however, earns him sake instead. His story reaches the emperor who rewards him with 20 gold pieces so that Taro and his parents need no longer live in penury.

This led to a little discussion amongst us about the values that the Japanese cared for, and my young son has now an assignment to do a little internet research on the old in Japan and their travails, and to come up with at least 400 words on the topic entirely in his own words, this weekend.

My efforts at finding the original or even a better translation didn’t really yield any results. The search results kept showing the same retold English version that appears in the CBSE textbook for class 6. I would have liked to at least know Taro’s full name.

There is another popular Japanese folk tale which I stumbled upon, called Urashima Taro, about a fisherman by that name who saves a turtle, who turns out to be a princess of the sea. He is given gills and visits her palace deep in the sea. But when he returns home, it turns out that 300 years have passed on land while he thought he had spent three days in the sea palace.

He opens a box that the princess had given him with a warning to never open it and that it would protect him. But when he opens it, it turns him into an old man. There is at least one more version with a different ending.

#Taro’sreward #Japan #japaneseliterature #japanesestories

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