The Bamboo Cutter

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Glendale, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 7, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Japanese (as a child)

Context:

The informant–HO– is a third generation Japanese American 18 year old woman born in California who attended a weekly Japanese language school from age 7 to age 9. The tale was told to her by her grandmother (born in Japan) in English. I, the interviewer, am labeled as DJ.

Piece:

HO: So once upon a time, there was this little old man. He and his wife never had kids. So they were like very sad old people. And his job was to just like go out and cut bamboo all day, and then, like, sell it. So then one day he was like walking through the bamboo forest and was like, “Oh my God. Why does that bamboo look like the moon is shining directly on it?” Because it was. So he was like, “I’m gonna cut that bamboo down. It’s, like, I feel like it’s a sign.” And once the bamboo, like, falls down, he sees that, like where he cut it, there’s, like, a little tiny person like that big. Maybe, like, a few inches tall. And it’s just like a little lady. And she’s just, like, in there. And he’s like, whoa. You must have been sent from the gods cause you’re like a little child. And we never had kids. And then he takes it home to his wife. She’s like, “That’s a tiny kid.”

DJ: Wait, is it a kid or is it a woman?

HO: It’s like a tiny little girl, I would think. And then they’re like, “OK, well, we’re taking her in as our own.” And then- But then they don’t let anyone see her, obviously, because she’s, like, definitely smaller than the average baby. So several months later, she’s like the size of like a normal little girl, like a teen girl. Not 100 percent sure. And then they, like, have like a party where they, like, reveal her to the world. And everyone’s like, “Whoa. She’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.” And they’re like, “Yeah, we know.” And then, like, news spreads fast because Japan is, like, tiny. So then everybody, like every man on earth is like, “Whoah, whoah, whoah, whoah!” They like travel to their little bamboo house and they’re like, “What’s up? Can I marry your daughter?” And the dad’s like, “No,” he’s like, “I’m not even, like, technically her real dad. So that’s why I’m telling you no.”

DJ: Oh, he tell people that he’s not her real dad?

HO: Yeah. Which is, like, really suspicious. That sounds like you stole her. Whatever. And then… And then he talks to his daughter in is like, “So like what do we do about all these suitors?” And she’s like, “I’ll pick one if they can do all these crazy tasks. And I don’t remember what any of the tasks are. So that’s my bad. But. Then, obviously, none of the men can do any of them. So she’s like, “OK, you’re all, like, not going to marry me. Because you’re the worst.” And then, like, the emperor, like, comes to see her and he’s like, “Well, what about me?” And she’s like, “No.” And he’s like, really disturbed by it because he’s like,”How could she say no to me, the emperor?” So then she’s just, like, lonely all the time and the dad’s like, “Well, it’s kind of your fault. And then she’s like, “Yeah, I know, but like the moon was just talking to me, and it told me that, like, my moon family is, like, coming back for me. The dad’s like, “No. No.” So then he calls up the emperor and is like, “Hey, we need to, like, we need to literally get all your guards and we’re blocking our house off because that would work against moon people” And so they like, guard the house. And the daughters like, “This is stupid, like. We’re otherworldly.” And then the moon people just, like, descend on a cloud, like, they have like a chariot on a cloud. They just like come down and are like, “Get in the chariot.” And she’s like, “All right.”And then she gets in the chariot. And she’s like, “Just think of me when you look at the moon.” And the dad’s like, “OK.” And then she just, like, floats away. And that’s the end.

Analysis:

This tale carries on a theme in Japanese folk tales of supernatural children hatching from plants discovered in the wild and taken in by an elderly couple. The tale is also a pre-science fiction narrative features extraterrestrial beings from another planet visiting Earth.

For a similar tale in which a child is discovered in a giant peach rather than a bamboo stock, see Momotarō (Peach Boy)