Märchen – Japanese

Japanese Märchen

“The Crab and the Monkey
So one day a girl crab finds a rice ball (onigiri) and runs into a monkey who found a persimmon seed. The monkey bullies her until she agrees to trade the rice ball for the persimmon seed. The crab plants the persimmon tree and years later it matures and bears fruit. The problem was that the crab couldn’t climb the tree to eat the fruit. The monkey comes along and says “I’ll help you,” climbs up the tree and eats all the persimmons. The ones he didn’t eat, he threw at the crab until she died. She so happened to be pregnant. When she died, all her little baby crabs come out and vow to avenge her death. They get their friends – a mortar (I know weird), a bee and a couple chestnuts – to help them. They all invaded the monkey’s house and waited for him to come home. The monkey comes home and tries to warm himself over the fire and the chestnuts that were sitting in the flames jump out and burn him. He goes for the ointment jar and when he opens it, the bee flies out and stings him. He jumps in a tub of water and all the baby crabs are inside that pinch him mercilessly. As the monkey runs out the front door, the mortar jumps off the roof and crushes him to death.  The End.”

This particular märchen is very similar in concept to a lot of typical American children’s stories, except clearly features Japanese animals and rituals.  Like most Japanese märchen, this story has a moral embedded in it.  The story describes a hero (the crab), whose descendants eventually beat the villain (the monkey.)  While it is a bit of a crude story because it involves a lot of smashing and physical violence, it sends the messages that do-gooders win out in the end, just as the crab did.

This also is characteristically Japanese because of the items involved in the story.  Ayano told me that the discussion of crabs, monkeys, persimmons, and onigiri is true to Japanese tradition in culture.  In many Japanese tales, the subjects they describe are talking animals rather then human beings.  Though this may seem peculiar because involving human beings would give children something to relate to, involving animals is something that would provide kids with better entertainment.

The story is, in fact, entertaining to kids on a variety of levels.  First of all, as mentioned, the talking animals prove to be an attractive factor to children. Secondly, the use of physical violence may be attractive to little boys as they grow up, attempt to assert their masculinity and find more interest in these types of subjects.  Lastly, it has a lot of action and suspense.  Since Japanese tales tend to be very unique and unpredictable, kids are drawn into the plot and are entertained as they wait to find out what happens.

This story is also very effective for adults because it teaches children about traditional morals and encourages them to behave well.  Ayano explained Japanese culture tends to be very rigid about right action and right thought, and tales like this provide parents with a way to teach their children about right action in a way that they will be enthused by.  In disguising teaching in a story, parents can successfully raise their children well.

This tale is also representative of Japanese culture.  Japanese citizens are very proud of their culture because it has grown for ages.  Stories like these give people a way to convey their sense of pride and remind them about the culture they descend from, whether they are living in Japan or anywhere else in the world.  For parents like Ayano’s who move to a new country, they are reminded of back home and their culture as they tell and retell the märchen to their children.