There’s this really old couple, they’ve been married for years and years, and they haven’t been able to have a baby. And so, they’ve been praying to the gods, whatever japanese gods there are, and finally one day, as the woman goes to the river to do her laundry, she finds a giant peach floating in the river. She was like, “wow! It’s not the season for peaches! This will be great to take to my husband!” So she takes the peach home and brings it home to her husband for dinner. It’s like, keep in mind, it’s a giant peach. The husband, the old japanese husband, goes to cut the peach, and all of the sudden, the peach breaks in half, and there’s a child in the peach, and he goes, “Stop! I am the child you’ve been praying for! Sent by the gods!!!” And at first the old couple were in shock. And then realized they were blessed, and raised the child as if it were their own son.
The son grew up to be a very strong and handsome young man, and he turned out to be a great warrior. All of the sudden, the town criar, or the emperor’s messenger, came and announced that the princesses and their maidens had been captured and now they’re on an evil island. So peach kid goes to his mom and dad and is like, “Hey! I can do that! Will you let me go on this journey to rescue the princesses and their maidens? It would bring great honor to our family.” The mom doesn’t really want to let her son go, but… So she says “Son, I’ll sleep on it.” So the son wakes up in the morning and finds a travelling pack filled with rice cakes and other supplies and a note from his mother allowing him to go but telling him to find some friends along the way.
So, in sequential order, and the abridged version of this, he befriends a dog, a monkey, and a sparrow by giving them rice cakes! And they all are brave animals and want to help him in this noble quest. They like… for some reason got a boat, and sailed to the island where there’s a giant castle guarded by demons. With the sparrow’s quick wit, because he was able to fly around the top of the castle, and the monkeys intelligence, and the dogs strength, they were able to get into the caste and rescue the princesses! And before they killed the king demon, they held a sword to his throat and forced him to tell them where he kept all his treasures. So after they found the treasures, they killed the king demon, put his head on a stick, and sailed away with the head of the king demon, the princesses, and all the treasures. They came back and presented to the emperor his returned princesses, um gold, and the head of the king demon. The emperor let the boy take the gold home for his family, and the parents were very grateful. They were really poor, by the way. They lived in a hut. And so they never had to go one day hungry ever again. All from a peach, you know? You never know. So the son and the parents and all the animals lived together happily ever after with all their money.
Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):
I heard it from my grandmother and she lived in Korea during the time that Japan was in control of Korea. In her culture, there were a lot of both Korean and Japanese influences, so she used to tell all these weird fantasy fairy tales to me as a kid. It’s symbolic to me because it ties me to my grandmother and the memory of her.
Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):
It’s a kids tale. It’s like found in japanese fairy-tale books. My grandma told me when she was babysitting me. I was really sick and had nothing better to do but she didn’t want me watching any more tv.
Despite having attended an immersion school with both Spanish and Japanese programs, I have never heard this story before. It incorporates the importance of honor and valiance in many Asian cultures. The most interesting component of this retelling was that the informant said it was a traditional Japanese folktale, though her heritage is Korean and Chinese. This statement leads me to believe that although it may be associated with Japanese culture, the tale may have been dispersed throughout Asian culture as a whole. Despite how isolated the country of Japan was until the twentieth century, the informant’s Korean grandmother knew the tale and could recount it with confidence. However, it was never claimed as Korean by the informant- the credit was given to Japan. It makes me wonder why, as Asian cultures are known for taking pride in their country’s heritage, this tale wasn’t immediately accredited to the grandmother’s country of origin.
Annotation: This story is a retelling of the classic Japanese fairy tale, Momotaro. The story can be accessed through classic Japanese folktale storybooks, or individual published retellings. Below is a link to the “Peach Boy” folktale.