It’s about a bamboo cutter. He basically just cuts wood all day. Him and his wife and they don’t have any kids. One day he cuts open a bamboo… and inside there is a female baby. And it is glowing and majestic, so he takes it home and shows his wife. And he tells his wife “oh we gotta take care of it”. And he starts to cut down more bamboo and bits of gold come from it. The baby grows up to be a beautiful young woman and all of Japan finds out about her. A group of noblemen try to get her hand in marriage and she has an impossible task for them. Then the emperor hears about it and the woman just rejects him, without a task. He continues to ask her to marry him and she keeps rejecting him. One night it is a full moon and she is staring at the moon, crying at it, and she can’t tell her father and mother why. Then she tells her parents that she is actually from the moon and one day she will have to return soon. Word spreads and the emperor hears. One night, these … people from the moon just come down from the moon, sometimes they are on horses or clouds, and the emperor has his army to protect the woman but the people from the moon take her. Her father writes a letter to her and burns it at the highest mountain in hopes that she will read it. Some believe the mountain is actually Mount Fuji.
This performance was done when the speaker, a college student who grew up in Japan, was sharing Japanese fairy tales that they knew. When asked how the speaker knew of this, they explained that this tale is thousands of years old and is commonly known in Japan, as there have even been cartoons and adaptations of it. The speaker also makes a point that many Japanese stories are not about virtues or sins, but about contemplating random topics such as death or one’s role in society.
This fairytale is quite interesting as it uses a lot of moon imagery throughout the story. One can gather that this story focuses on love as well as the woman’s role in society, just as the speaker mentioned was a theme in some fairy tales. The speaker mentions during their rendition of the story that sometimes the people from the moon ride on horses or clouds, which demonstrates well how this story is passed down with different versions, and even telling it today there can be different versions that are mentioned at the same time. Upon hearing this story, it also sounded quite familiar, which is due to the fact that it was adapted into a Studio Ghibli film, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, giving a prime example of how folklore can enter authored literature and into mainstream media. Because Studio Ghibli is such a well-known film company, this allows for the fairytale to have a much more global audience. That being said, the tale also becomes authored literature rather than a folk tale that is passed down, ultimately changing it from versions that are performed, such as the one here.
For another version of this fairytale, refer to:
“Taketori Monogatari”. Ohio State University.