Märchen – Japanese

Japanese Märchen

A long time ago in a small village there was this old couple that could never conceive a child. They prayed to god everyday for one. One day the old man was out plowing the fields and the old woman went to wash their clothes in the river. Suddenly this huge peach comes floating down the river, the old woman gasps and pulls it out. She calls the old man, he comes running, takes an axe, and splits it open. Inside the peach where the pit is supposed to be is this child. “momo” means peach so they named him momotaro. Momotaro gets big and strong and decides he wants to go on an adventure and kill the oni (demons) on onigashima (Demon Island). Old couple gives him three dumplings called kibidango. He befriends a dog a monkey and a pheasant that become his crew. He gets them to follow him by giving him a dumpling as a bribe. Basically they get to the island they kill all the demons, momotaro goes home, peace, happily ever after.”

This fairy tale is said to be very popular in Japanese culture.  Japan has traditionally old and rich culture and its citizens pride themselves in continuing to recognize that and share their ancient traditions.  This example of Japanese märchen is one among many fairy tales that parents share with their children.

This fairy tale is essentially about a couple that wants a child and eventually receives a child who in the end acts well by killing demons.  Japanese fairy tales tend to not simply be just for amusement, but to teach children a lesson in the story, as well.  This story is said to teach the virtue of patience.  The couple who had been trying to have a child for so long was patient and eventually received their child.  When the child grows up, he ends up being very heroic and virtuous, which is clearly very gratifying for the parents.  All most parents want is to have their child or children grow up with a good mind and a strong set of values.  This story shows that patience and hard work eventually pay off.  It is also a way for parents to teach their children to have good virtues as a whole.  By describing the boy in a positive way and elaborating on his efforts to kill the demons, the parents are implying that every child should strive to do good actions.

This fairy tale also works as a way for adults to keep their children entertained.  It certainly has educational value in terms of teaching morals, but it also is a way for adults to distract their children if they happen to have other duties to take care of.  The story is sweet with a simple concept, but is very detailed and keeps the listener engaged.  Another aspect of this particular story is that it isn’t very predictable, as many märchen are.  It is surprising and educational entertainment for kids, and satisfaction on the parent’s part for having provided that to them.

Thirdly, it reminds children of their heritage and culture.  This story discusses a Japanese culture performing traditional activities and it involves traditionally sacred concepts and values.  This reminds the child/listener that they should have pride in belonging to their culture and also pass the story down to remind others, as well.  Stories like this one are very old, some even from hundred of years ago, and provide Japanese and Japanese Americans with something that reminds them of their heritage, culture, and values.