Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Legend of Ubasuteyama....a famous Japanese folktale

The story of Ubasuteyama has been used to enforce morals of taking care of the elderly and to be a dutiful son (or daughter). In one story, the dutiful son from a poor family took his aging mother to a mountain on a snowy day, but decided to bring her home despite local customs of leaving aging mothers on a mountain to die alone. In the story, the local Daimyo heard of the incident and asked everyone to come up with an idea of taking care of their aging mothers.

Long time ago in a poor remote village, elderly on their past sixty has to be taken to the mountain and be abandoned. A mother on her sixties said to her son " My son, I'm already sixty. It's time for me to be thrown away in the mountain". Hearing what his mother said, there was bitterness on his face. It's such a great courage to take her to the mountain and desert her. " I can't be cruel to you, mother" he said. " The old woman next door and the old man next block were already taken to the mountain, so you have to take me also. It is a regulation in this village that old people had to be taken to the mountain." Upon hearing that he was forced to do what was asked of him.

He carried his mother on his back, trudged through hills and valleys until he was deep in the mountain, far away from all human habitation. He brought her down under the shades of trees. At the moment of parting, the son was hesitant to leave his mother alone until the sun started to sink. "It will soon be dark, she said. “All the time you’ve been carrying me here. Hurry and get home safe". Saying so, she bid him farewell, bowing with her palms together. Left alone in the mountain, the old mother had no means of returning home over fields and hills.

The son can hardly take a step away from his mother feeling so guilty of letting her die there. Not far from the place where he left her, it began to get darker and he lost his way. While looking for the way home, he stepped on twigs scattered on his way. He eventually thought that his mother dropped them one after another to serve as signs on his way home. There was so much pain in his heart after knowing that even in such a difficult situation and facing her own death, his mother has not abandoned him even if he has abandoned her. The son hurried back to his mother, took her back home and hid her in his barn.

Several days later

The lord ordered his villagers to make a rope out of ash.
The son told his mother "The lord ordered us to make a rope out of ash. We tried it but it's impossible. If somebody can't do it, we will have to pay more tribute to him."
"My son. It's a piece of cake. I'll teach you." The young man made a ring of straw rope, put it into salt water, dried it and burned it as he was told to do. Then, he carefully brought it to the lord.

"You are a skillful man. It's wonderful. I'll give you a more difficult question.
This is a stick. You must tell me which end of this is the root and which end is the bough in a few days."
He took the stick back to his house.
The young man was at a loss with the stick and asked his old mother for advice.
"It's a very piece of cake. You only have to bring a basin full of water."
The young man prepared the basin and put it into the water.
"Look! One end in the water is the root and the other end up the water is the bough."

The young did the same thing in front of the lord and he was admired.
But the greedy lord did not give up to give a more difficult question.
"You're a very clever man. I will give you the most difficult problem. You must make a drum that will make a sound without being beaten by a man."

He came home pale with a drum and went to his mother for help.
"That's very simple. You only have to get a few bees in the mountain.
The mother loosened the leather of the drum a little, put the bees into it and fastened it again. The drum began to produce sound without being beaten.

The young man handed the sound drum to the lord.
"You are great, young man! Did you solve the three difficult problems by yourself?"
"My lord, forgive me for cheating. The truth is... it's not me but my old mother who solved them. I know that you gave an order to throw away the elderly in our village, but I couldn't do such a cruel thing to the person who had loved me more than herself. After trying to leave her in the cold depth in the mountain, I found the twigs she dropped one after another to serve as my guide home and so I got back to her, brought her home and hid her in my barn. She solved all the difficult problems you gave me. It is to say that the elderly know more things than the young, though they cannot work harder."
The lord silently thought a second and said "Young man, you are right. I was wrong to misjudge the elderly. From now on no more taking the old in the mountain to die and instead, I want everybody to take good care of the old very well."


1 comment:

  1. This is a very good story and thankfully the lord had realized his mistakes and void his order for leaving elderly to die deep inside the forest on the mountain.

    Thanks for sharing such a touching story bro Richard.

    And next time please don't be too humble when what you know are surely more than anyone of us who are much younger :-)

    Please allow us to pay respect to you too. You gain our respect not that you asked for it, alright?