Tag Archives: crab

The Crab and the Monkey

Informant: I got one. It’s a folktale from when I was younger.


Interviewer: Is it like, a Brazilian or a Japanese tale?


Informant: It’s Japanese… I don’t remember who told me the tale, it’s very common knowledge in Japan. It might’ve been in daycare. Does it matter?


Interviewer: Not really. What is it about?


Informant: Ok, so this is about a monkey and a crab. The crab has an onigiri and the monkey has a persimmon seed… onigiri is like, a rice ball. The monkey wants the crab’s onigiri, so he tells the crab to trade it for his persimmon seed. The crab doesn’t want to at first, but the monkey says that the seed is worth more, since if he plants it, it will grow into a persimmon tree. So they trade and then the crab goes back home and plants the seed… and the crab threatens the **** out of the seed by telling it that if it… if it doesn’t grow fruits it’s gonna cut it up with its pincers.


Interviewer: That’s not very nice (laughs).


Informant: No, but then the seed grows into a tall tree and gives fruits, so I guess it worked. Anyways, the monkey then goes to the crab’s house and climbs the tree and starts eating the fruit. The crab comes out and asks the monkey to pass him some fruit, but the monkey throws the unripe stinky fruit at ‘em and it ******* kills him, and the shock makes the crab give birth…


Interviewer: …Is that it?


Informant: No… It’s like halfway done, I’m trying to remember the rest… Ok so the kid crab is pissed that the monkey killed the mom crab, and wants revenge on the monkey. So he goes out and makes friends with like, other bullied guys like the chestnut, the bee… the rock mortar… thing, and cow poop. Then they break and enter the monkey’s house and hide… The chestnut hides in the hearth, the bee hides in a water pail, the mortar hides on the roof, and the cow poop hides on the floor, close to the entrance.


Interviewer: Is this like, a real folktale?


Informant: I swear, I can’t make this **** up.


Interviewer: Ok, ok. What happens next?


Informant: Ok so later, the monkey comes home and decides to sit by the fire. The chestnut tackles him and sets the monkey on fire. Monkey is inflicted with burn, so he runs to the water pail to put it out, but the bee comes out and stings the **** out of him, so the monkey tries to run out of the house and slips on the cow poop, and then the mortar jumps off the roof and onto the monkey and it ******* kills him… the end.


Interviewer: What? That’s it? … What even is the moral of the story?


Bystander: I think it’s about not scamming people or you’ll die. But what happened to the kid crab, what did it do?


Informant: Baby crab didn’t do ****. But yeah, that’s it, monkey died because he killed crab.



During one of my club’s meetings, I told the members about the collection project and the members started discussing about various folktales and other stories. This was amongst the ones that stood out.



To be completely honest I was dumbfounded that such a weird story was told to children, but upon further investigation it turns out that, it is in fact, a popular Japanese folktale. From what I gather, it teaches children to not scam or betray people, because it’ll come back to you in some shape or form.


Different Versions and Literary Works

The folktale has many different versions, usually changing the baby crab’s allies or the way that the monkey is attacked in its home. In one version, the monkey gets his butt snipped bald by the crab, which explains why some monkeys have bare bums.

Versions of this folktale can be found in Andrew Lang’s The Crimson Fairy Book (http://www.online-literature.com/andrew_lang/crimson_fairy/30/)


Or Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki


The Hermit Crab Story

The informant is a freshman at USC and grew up in Southern California.  He said he had a few stories that his dad used to share with him that he would do his best to remember.

There once was a grumpy old hermit crab who used to collect everything he possibly could get his hands on.  He was so greedy that he would go onto the beach sometimes to try and get the best human trash.  One day he saw something he really liked on the shore so he scurried up the beach, but before he could get his prize, a dog scooped him up in his teeth.  The hermit crab squirmed about but couldn’t break free of the dogs grasp.  When the hermit was about to give up and accept defeat, a boy came out of nowhere and demanded the dog to drop the crab.  As the crab went back into the ocean, he wished he could thank the boy but all he had was trash.  The next day, while wandering the ocean floor, the crab discovered a chest of buried treasure.  He knew at once that he must have all the gold coins inside for his cave, but he couldn’t carry the chest back because it was far too heavy.  For the next few weeks, the crab brought the gold coins back to his cave, two at a time but quickly ran out of space in his cave.  He decided that he had to start getting rid of some trash in his cave in order to make space for the gold.  Finally, after transporting all the gold to his cave he was left with no trash.  At first he was happy with all the gold but after a while he realized that he really wasn’t any happier than he was before.  So he came up with a plan to thank the boy who had saved his life.  He had a pelican hold gold coins in its beak and fly them to the boy’s house, where he dropped them down the chimney.  The crab was very pleased with himself and learned that sharing can make you happy.



“Every Christmas eve, we eat crab as a family. Generally there are about 8 to 12 of us. So either me or your mom goes out and gets four-six Dungeness Crabs. We then clean them up, put all the legs in one bowl, and cut the bodies in half, and put them in another bowl. Then everyone gets half a body and a few legs. We use special tools to pick out the crab meat. When everyone has “cleaned” as much crab as they like, we all make crab salads. Mimi (my grandmother) makes Thousand Island dressing using mayonnaise, ketchup, and relish. Then you put the crab on your salad, put dressing over that, and have yourself a meal!”

My father carried on this tradition from his family. He has eaten crab for dinner for as long as he can remember. He doesn’t know why or how the special food of choice became crab. He moved around a lot, but never lived anywhere coastal. For much of his life he lived in southern California.

I think crab developed as more of a specialty food than anything else. My family has never eaten a lot of seafood, and the only time we ever eat crab is on Christmas Eve. I think this exclusivity makes it a specialty food, at least for our family.

I don’t think there is a lot of symbolic meaning behind the fact that it is crab. I think the reason why it became a tradition is because it is more of social activity. It takes 20 or 25 minutes to clean all the crab out of the body and legs, and creates a good social environment instead of just sitting down and eating.