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From Japanese Fairy Tales
Start of Story
by Yei Theodora Ozaki.
Many, many years ago there lived in Nara, the ancient Capital of Japan,
a wise State minister, by name Prince Toyonari Fujiwara. His wife was a
noble, good, and beautiful woman called Princess Murasaki (Violet).
They had been married by their respective families according to
Japanese custom when very young, and had lived together happily ever
since. They had, however, one cause for great sorrow, for as the years
went by no child was born to them. This made them very unhappy, for
they both longed to see a child of their own who would grow up to
gladden their old age, carry on the family name, and keep up the
ancestral rites when they were dead. The Prince and his lovely wife,
after long consultation and much thought, determined to make a
pilgrimage to the temple of Hase-no-Kwannon (Goddess of Mercy at Hase),
for they believed, according to the beautiful tradition of their
religion, that the Mother of Mercy, Kwannon, comes to answer the
prayers of mortals in the form that they need the most. Surely after
all these years of prayer she would come to them in the form of a
beloved child in answer to their special pilgrimage, for that was the
greatest need of their two lives. Everything else they had that this
life could give them, but it was all as nothing because the cry of
their hearts was unsatisfied.
So the Prince Toyonari and his wife went to the temple of Kwannon at
Hase and stayed there for a long time, both daily offering incense and
praying to Kwannon, the Heavenly Mother, to grant them the desire of
their whole lives. And their prayer was answered.
A daughter was born at last to the Princess Murasaki, and great was the
joy of her heart. On presenting the child to her husband, they both
decided to call her Hase-Hime, or the Princess of Hase, because she was
the gift of the Kwannon at that place. They both reared her with great
care and tenderness, and the child grew in strength and beauty.
When the little girl was five years old her mother fell dangerously ill
and all the doctors and their medicines could not save her. A little
before she breathed her last she called her daughter to her, and gently
stroking her head, said:
"Hase-Hime, do you know that your mother cannot live any longer? Though
I die, you must grow up a good girl. Do your best not to give trouble
to your nurse or any other of your family. Perhaps your father will
marry again and some one will fill my place as your mother. If so do
not grieve for me, but look upon your father's second wife as your true
mother, and be obedient and filial to both her and your father.
Remember when you are grown up to be submissive to those who are your
superiors, and to be kind to all those who are under you. Don't forget
this. I die with the hope that you will grow up a model woman."
Hase-Hime listened in an attitude of respect while her mother spoke,
and promised to do all that she was told. There is a proverb which says
"As the soul is at three so it is at one hundred," and so Hase-Hime
grew up as her mother had wished, a good and obedient little Princess,
though she was now too young to understand how great was the loss of
Not long after the death of his first wife, Prince Toyonari married
again, a lady of noble birth named Princess Terute. Very different in
character, alas! to the good and wise Princess Murasaki, this woman had
a cruel, bad heart. She did not love her step-daughter at all, and was
often very unkind to the little motherless girl, saving to herself:
"This is not my child! this is not my child!"
But Hase-Hime bore every unkindness with patience, and even waited upon
her step-mother kindly and obeyed her in every way and never gave any
trouble, just as she had been trained by her own good mother, so that
the Lady Terute had no cause for complaint against her.
The little Princess was very diligent, and her favorite studies were
music and poetry. She would spend several hours practicing every day,
and her father had the most proficient of masters he could find to
teach her the koto (Japanese harp), the art of writing letters and
verse. When she was twelve years of age she could play so beautifully
that she and her step-mother were summoned to the Palace to perform
before the Emperor.
It was the Festival of the Cherry Flowers, and there were great
festivities at the Court. The Emperor threw himself into the enjoyment
of the season, and commanded that Princess Hase should perform before
him on the koto, and that her mother Princess Terute should accompany
her on the flute.
The Emperor sat on a raised dais, before which was hung a curtain of
finely-sliced bamboo and purple tassels, so that His Majesty might see
all and not be seen, for no ordinary subject was allowed to looked upon
his sacred face.
Hase-Hime was a skilled musician though so young, and often astonished
her masters by her wonderful memory and talent. On this momentous
occasion she played well. But Princess Terute, her step-mother, who was
a lazy woman and never took the trouble to practice daily, broke down
in her accompaniment and had to request one of the Court ladies to take
her place. This was a great disgrace, and she was furiously jealous to
think that she had failed where her step-daughter succeeded; and to
make matters worse the Emperor sent many beautiful gifts to the little
Princess to reward her for playing so well at the Palace.
There was also now another reason why Princess Terute hated her
step-daughter, for she had had the good fortune to have a son born to
her, and in her inmost heart she kept saying:
"If only Hase-Hime were not here, my son would have all the love of his
And never having learned to control herself, she allowed this wicked
thought to grow into the awful desire of taking her step-daughter's