The Tale of The Bamboo Cutter

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The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” also known as “The Tale of Princess Kaguya,” is a Japanese folktale whose author is unknown.

The story is considered one of Japan’s oldest narratives, with origins dating back to the 10th century. It has been passed down through generations and remains a beloved piece of Japanese literature.

Enjoy this short retelling of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and the Moon-Child.

Once upon a time, in ancient Japan, there lived a kind old bamboo cutter named Taketori no Okina. One day, while he was cutting bamboo in the forest, he came across a mysterious glowing stalk. As he cut it open, he found a tiny, exquisite girl no bigger than his thumb.

“What a miraculous sight!” exclaimed the old man. “This child must be a gift from the heavens.”

He took the tiny girl home to his wife.

“Oh, my dear,” said his wife, “she is beautiful. Let us raise her as our own.”

They named her Kaguya-hime, which means “Princess of the Radiant Night.” As time passed, Kaguya-hime grew into a beautiful young woman, and every time Taketori no Okina cut down a bamboo stalk, he found gold inside. Soon, they became very wealthy.

News of Kaguya-hime’s beauty spread far and wide, and many suitors came to ask for her hand in marriage. However, Kaguya-hime was reluctant to marry and gave impossible tasks to her suitors.

To the first suitor, she said, “Bring me the stone begging bowl of the Buddha from India.”

To the second, she requested, “I wish for a jeweled branch from the mythical island of Horai.”

To the third, she asked, “Please find me the robe of the fire-rat from China.”

To the fourth, she demanded, “Fetch me a colored jewel from a dragon’s neck.”

And to the fifth, she said, “I desire a shell that swallows the tide.”

Each suitor failed in their task, either through trickery or danger, and returned empty-handed. Despite their efforts, no one could win her heart.

One night, as Kaguya-hime gazed at the moon, tears welled up in her eyes.

“What troubles you, my dear?” asked Taketori no Okina.

“Father, I am not of this world,” she replied sorrowfully. “I come from the moon, and soon I must return to my people.”

The old couple was heartbroken but accepted her fate. On the night of the full moon, a celestial entourage descended from the sky to take Kaguya-hime back.

“Do not grieve, for I will never forget your kindness,” Kaguya-hime told them. “Here is a letter and a vial of the elixir of life as a token of my gratitude.”

With a heavy heart, Taketori no Okina watched as Kaguya-hime ascended to the moon, her radiant beauty fading into the night sky.

The old man, in his sorrow, took the letter and the elixir to the highest mountain in Japan, now known as Mount Fuji. There, he burned the letter and the elixir, hoping the smoke would carry his message to Kaguya-Hime.

And so, the smoke still rises from Mount Fuji, a reminder of the love and longing of the bamboo cutter and his celestial daughter, Kaguya-Hime.

Also Read: The Princess and the Goblin

Follow Up Questions

What was your favorite part of the story?
If you found a magical glowing bamboo stalk, what do you think you would find inside?
Why do you think Princess Kaguya had to go back to the moon?

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