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Farmer and the badger.
From Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki.
Start of Story
Long, long ago, there lived an old farmer and his wife who had made
their home in the mountains, far from any town. Their only neighbor was
a bad and malicious badger. This badger used to come out every night
and run across to the farmer's field and spoil the vegetables and the
rice which the farmer spent his time in carefully cultivating. The
badger at last grew so ruthless in his mischievous work, and did so
much harm everywhere on the farm, that the good-natured farmer could
not stand it any longer, and determined to put a stop to it. So he lay
in wait day after day and night after night, with a big club, hoping to
catch the badger, but all in vain. Then he laid traps for the wicked
The farmer's trouble and patience was rewarded, for one fine day on
going his rounds he found the badger caught in a hole he had dug for
that purpose. The farmer was delighted at having caught his enemy, and
carried him home securely bound with rope. When he reached the house
the farmer said to his wife:
"I have at last caught the bad badger. You must keep an eye on him
while I am out at work and not let him escape, because I want to make
him into soup to-night."
Saying this, he hung the badger up to the rafters of his storehouse and
went out to his work in the fields. The badger was in great distress,
for he did not at all like the idea of being made into soup that night,
and he thought and thought for a long time, trying to hit upon some
plan by which he might escape. It was hard to think clearly in his
uncomfortable position, for he had been hung upside down. Very near
him, at the entrance to the storehouse, looking out towards the green
fields and the trees and the pleasant sunshine, stood the farmer's old
wife pounding barley. She looked tired and old. Her face was seamed
with many wrinkles, and was as brown as leather, and every now and then
she stopped to wipe the perspiration which rolled down her face.
"Dear lady," said the wily badger, "you must be very weary doing such
heavy work in your old age. Won't you let me do that for you? My arms
are very strong, and I could relieve you for a little while!"
"Thank you for your kindness," said the old woman, "but I cannot let
you do this work for me because I must not untie you, for you might
escape if I did, and my husband would be very angry if he came home and
found you gone."
Now, the badger is one of the most cunning of animals, and he said
again in a very sad, gentle, voice:
"You are very unkind. You might untie me, for I promise not to try to
escape. If you are afraid of your husband, I will let you bind me again
before his return when I have finished pounding the barley. I am so
tired and sore tied up like this. If you would only let me down for a
few minutes I would indeed be thankful!"
The old woman had a good and simple nature, and could not think badly
of any one. Much less did she think that the badger was only deceiving
her in order to get away. She felt sorry, too, for the animal as she
turned to look at him. He looked in such a sad plight hanging downwards
from the ceiling by his legs, which were all tied together so tightly
that the rope and the knots were cutting into the skin. So in the
kindness of her heart, and believing the creature's promise that he
would not run away, she untied the cord and let him down.
The old woman then gave him the wooden pestle and told him to do the
work for a short time while she rested. He took the pestle, but instead
of doing the work as he was told, the badger at once sprang upon the
old woman and knocked her down with the heavy piece of wood. He then
killed her and cut her up and made soup of her, and waited for the
return of the old farmer. The old man worked hard in his fields all
day, and as he worked he thought with pleasure that no more now would
his labor be spoiled by the destructive badger.
Towards sunset he left his work and turned to go home. He was very
tired, but the thought of the nice supper of hot badger soup awaiting
his return cheered him. The thought that the badger might get free and
take revenge on the poor old woman never once came into his mind.
The badger meanwhile assumed the old woman's form, and as soon as he
saw the old farmer approaching came out to greet him on the veranda of
the little house, saying:
"So you have come back at last. I have made the badger soup and have
been waiting for you for a long time."
The old farmer quickly took off his straw sandals and sat down before
his tiny dinner-tray. The innocent man never even dreamed that it was
not his wife but the badger who was waiting upon him, and asked at once
for the soup. Then the badger suddenly transformed himself back to his
natural form and cried out:
"You wife-eating old man! Look out for the bones in the kitchen!"
Laughing loudly and derisively he escaped out of the house and ran away
to his den in the hills. The old man was left behind alone. He could
hardly believe what he had seen and heard. Then when he understood the
whole truth he was so scared and horrified that he fainted right away.
After a while he came round and burst into tears. He cried loudly and
bitterly. He rocked himself to and fro in his hopeless grief. It seemed
too terrible to be real that his faithful old wife had been killed and
cooked by the badger while he was working quietly in the fields,
knowing nothing of what was going on at home, and congratulating
himself on having once for all got rid of the wicked animal who had so
often spoiled his fields. And oh! the horrible thought; he had very
nearly drunk the soup which the creature had made of his poor old
woman. "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!" he wailed aloud. Now, not far away
there lived in the same mountain a kind, good-natured old rabbit. He
heard the old man crying and sobbing and at once set out to see what
was the matter, and if there was anything he could do to help his
neighbor. The old man told him all that had happened. When the rabbit
heard the story he was very angry at the wicked and deceitful badger,
and told the old man to leave everything to him and he would avenge his
wife's death. The farmer was at last comforted, and, wiping away his
tears, thanked the rabbit for his goodness in coming to him in his
The rabbit, seeing that the farmer was growing calmer, went back to his
home to lay his plans for the punishment of the badger.
The next day the weather was fine, and the rabbit went out to find the
badger. He was not to be seen in the woods or on the hillside or in the
fields anywhere, so the rabbit went to his den and found the badger
hiding there, for the animal had been afraid to show himself ever since
he had escaped from the farmer's house, for fear of the old man's wrath.
The rabbit called out:
"Why are you not out on such a beautiful day? Come out with me, and we
will go and cut grass on the hills together."
The badger, never doubting but that the rabbit was his friend,
willingly consented to go out with him, only too glad to get away from
the neighborhood of the farmer and the fear of meeting him. The rabbit
led the way miles away from their homes, out on the hills where the
grass grew tall and thick and sweet. They both set to work to cut down
as much as they could carry home, to store it up for their winter's
food. When they had each cut down all they wanted they tied it in
bundles and then started homewards, each carrying his bundle of grass
on his back. This time the rabbit made the badger go first.
When they had gone a little way the rabbit took out a flint and steel,
and, striking it over the badger's back as he stepped along in front,
set his bundle of grass on fire. The badger heard the flint striking,
"What is that noise. 'Crack, crack'?"
"Oh, that is nothing." replied the rabbit; "I only said 'Crack, crack'
because this mountain is called Crackling Mountain."
The fire soon spread in the bundle of dry grass on the badger's back.
The badger, hearing the crackle of the burning grass, asked, "What is
"Now we have come to the 'Burning Mountain,'" answered the rabbit.
By this time the bundle was nearly burned out and all the hair had been
burned off the badger's back. He now knew what had happened by the
smell of the smoke of the burning grass. Screaming with pain the badger
ran as fast as he could to his hole. The rabbit followed and found him
lying on his bed groaning with pain.
"What an unlucky fellow you are!" said the rabbit. "I can't imagine how
this happened! I will bring you some medicine which will heal your back
The rabbit went away glad and smiling to think that the punishment upon
the badger had already begun. He hoped that the badger would die of his
burns, for he felt that nothing could be too bad for the animal, who
was guilty of murdering a poor helpless old woman who had trusted him.
He went home and made an ointment by mixing some sauce and red pepper
He carried this to the badger, but before putting it on he told him
that it would cause him great pain, but that he must bear it patiently,
because it was a very wonderful medicine for burns and scalds and such
wounds. The badger thanked him and begged him to apply it at once. But
no language can describe the agony of the badger as soon as the red
pepper had been pasted all over his sore back. He rolled over and over
and howled loudly. The rabbit, looking on, felt that the farmer's wife
was beginning to be avenged.
The badger was in bed for about a month; but at last, in spite of the
red pepper application, his burns healed and he got well. When the
rabbit saw that the badger was getting well, he thought of another plan
by which he could compass the creature's death. So he went one day to
pay the badger a visit and to congratulate him on his recovery.
During the conversation the rabbit mentioned that he was going fishing,
and described how pleasant fishing was when the weather was fine and
the sea smooth.
The badger listened with pleasure to the rabbit's account of the way he
passed his time now, and forgot all his pains and his month's illness,
and thought what fun it would be if he could go fishing too; so he
asked the rabbit if he would take him the next time he went out to
fish. This was just what the rabbit wanted, so he agreed.
Then he went home and built two boats, one of wood and the other of
clay. At last they were both finished, and as the rabbit stood and
looked at his work he felt that all his trouble would be well rewarded
if his plan succeeded, and he could manage to kill the wicked badger
The day came when the rabbit had arranged to take the badger fishing.
He kept the wooden boat himself and gave the badger the clay boat. The
badger, who knew nothing about boats, was delighted with his new boat
and thought how kind it was of the rabbit to give it to him. They both
got into their boats and set out. After going some distance from the
shore the rabbit proposed that they should try their boats and see
which one could go the quickest. The badger fell in with the proposal,
and they both set to work to row as fast as they could for some time.
In the middle of the race the badger found his boat going to pieces,
for the water now began to soften the clay. He cried out in great fear
to the rabbit to help him. But the rabbit answered that he was avenging
the old woman's murder, and that this had been his intention all along,
and that he was happy to think that the badger had at last met his
deserts for all his evil crimes, and was to drown with no one to help
him. Then he raised his oar and struck at the badger with all his
strength till he fell with the sinking clay boat and was seen no more.
Thus at last he kept his promise to the old farmer. The rabbit now
turned and rowed shorewards, and having landed and pulled his boat upon
the beach, hurried back to tell the old farmer everything, and how the
badger, his enemy, had been killed.
The old farmer thanked him with tears in his eyes. He said that till
now he could never sleep at night or be at peace in the daytime,
thinking of how his wife's death was unavenged, but from this time he
would be able to sleep and eat as of old. He begged the rabbit to stay
with him and share his home, so from this day the rabbit went to stay
with the old farmer and they both lived together as good friends to the
end of their days.