The White Crane
Celebrate Father’s Day with this Japanese Folktale about a poor fisherman, whose wish of becoming a father is granted, after he rescues a white crane trapped in a net. (duration-12 minutes) An episode from Journey with Story, a storytelling podcast for kids
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The White Crane – Episode 142
Have you ever broken any rules? What happened when you broke the rule? Were you caught or punished in some way? Did you regret breaking the rule?
Hello everyone. I’m Kathleen Pelley. Welcome to Journey with Story. Today’s story – which is perfect to celebrate Father’s Day this coming Sunday -is a Japanese folktale about a poor fisherman whose wish of becoming a father is granted after he rescues a beautiful white crane from a net, but alas, when he breaks one of her rules, his heart is broken.
Thanks so much to all our loyal listeners all around the world who have been rating and reviewing our podcast.
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Let’s take a journey with The White Crane.
Long ago, in Japan, there lived a poor fisherman and his wife. Every day, the fisherman rose before the first blush of dawn, and went out onto the lake in his boat to fish. But each day, he barely caught enough fish to feed him and his wife.
One day, just as the fisherman was about to give up and return home, he spotted a beautiful white crane at the edge of the marsh, flapping its wings wildly. He paddled his boat over to the crane and saw that it was caught up in an old net some careless fisherman had left there.
“Oh, you are so beautiful,” whispered the fisherman, as he tried to catch hold of the net. “Hold still, let me cut you free.”
The crane stood still and allowed the fisherman to cut the net away. When it broke free, it flapped its wings, circled the mist-covered lake and flew right over the fisherman’s head as if to say “Thank you for setting me free.”
Later that evening, the fisherman brought his day’s catch of fish to his wife for her to cook for their evening meal. After they had eaten, they sat for a while by the fire chatting about this and that. They were content in every way, but one. They had long wished for a son or a daughter to keep them company, but this wish had never been granted.
Suddenly, a sharp knock on the door startled them. The fisherman opened the door and there stood a beautiful girl with long black hair, dressed in flowing white kimono. The couple invited her inside to warm herself by the fire. After they chatted for a while, the girl told them that she was an orphan, with no home and no one to love or be loved by.
And so, at once, they insisted she must spend the night with them.
In the morning, the old couple awoke to find the girl had cooked breakfast, straightened all the mats in the house, and cleaned up all the pots and dishes in the sink. They were so delighted, they told her, “If we had a daughter, we would want her to be just like you.”
The girl smiled and told them, “Since I have no parents, I will be your daughter and I will mind you as you grow old.”
For many weeks and many months the old couple and the young girl lived in great peace and contentment. Every day the old man went off to fish for their supper in the lake. Every day the old woman went to work in the fields. And every day while they were both gone, the young girl went to the loom in the weaving room and there she wove for hours on end.
Sometimes when the couple came home, they found her still weaving away in the room. But she had warned them both that they must never, ever look in on her while she was weaving. For she wanted this to be a surprise for them. And the old couple did as she had asked, even though they could barely contain their curiosity.
Now when market day was almost upon them, the young girl brought out the beautiful bolt of cloth she had been weaving. She held it up to the light and the silky fabric shimmered with tiny threads of silver, glistening like the mist on the lake at sunrise. Its beauty filled the room and the couple were speechless with amazement.
“Take this to the market and sell it so that you will have money for food during the long harsh winter,” the girl told them.
So the old man set off for the village market carrying the beautiful bolt of cloth. Along the way, each neighbor who saw him asked about the cloth, admired it and told him how much he should charge. One said, “Oh, you should charge ten gold coins for a cloth as silky as this.”
Another said, “No, you must charge fifty gold coins for a cloth that has these lovely silver threads running through it.”
And yet another said, “No, no, poor fisherman, a cloth as beautiful as the mist on the lake is surely worth one hundred gold coins, enough to last for many, harsh winters.”
And so it happened that the fisherman sold the cloth for one hundred gold coins. The old couple could not believe their good fortune. Now they had enough money for food for many, many winters, but most important of all, they were blessed with a beautiful daughter to keep them company in their old age.
Time passed, and every day, the young girl still went to work in the weaving room. And every day she reminded the old couple that on no account were they to peek inside while she was weaving. Curious as they were, the old couple agreed to do as she had asked.
But one day, a meddlesome neighbor came to visit. She had seen the old couple’s good fortune and was eager to know more about their beautiful young daughter. She plied them with one question after another about the girl, and so the old couple invited their neighbor to join them for dinner.
As they ate, the couple shared all the blessings they had enjoyed since their beautiful young daughter had come to live with them. “How wonderful it will be now to have a daughter who will care for us in our old age,” said the old woman. And the neighbor smiled and nodded in agreement.
But then she asked if she could meet this beautiful daughter of theirs. “How I would love to see this beauty for myself,” she said.
“Oh, no, that is not possible,” said the fisherman. “She is weaving now in her room and no one is allowed to look in on her while she weaves.”
“Oh, surely I can take just a little peek,” said the neighbor as she pushed past them and opened the door a crack.
And there she saw…
A beautiful white crane, plucking out white feathers and turning them into soft silky white cloth, as delicate as mist on the lake.
Then in one instant – poof- the crane disappeared.
A few moments later, the beautiful young girl came out of the room, holding a half-finished length of cloth whose strands were frayed and falling apart.
Her eyes full of tears, the girl said, “I am sorry you did not remember the rule. Thank you for freeing me from the net. I wanted to stay with you as your daughter and comfort you in your old age, but alas now the spell is broken. I must return to my home in the misty lake.”
And before their eyes the beautiful young girl turned into a white crane, and with a flap of her wings off she flew.
From that day, the old man and his wife managed to scrape by, living off the money the beautiful bolt of cloth had brought them,
Now and then, the couple went out on the boat on the lake, and sometimes they would catch sight of the beautiful while crane as it circled the mist-covered lake, then it would flap its wings and fly right over their heads as if to say, “See, I am still here watching over you. Do not be sad. I am still here.”
Oh, so sad to see how the girl had to turn back into a crane again, wasn’t it? And what do you think of that nosy neighbor? Do you think it was all her fault or do you think the old couple could have stopped her from breaking the rule?
And what do you think this story’s souvenir is? That little glimmer of truth about this life?
Yes, I’m afraid it is true that if we do not follow certain rules, then we must risk losing everything!
Wishing all of our listeners a very happy Father’s Day this coming Sunday– hope your day is filled with great joy!
Cheerio then, join me next time for Journey with Story