A folktale of Fukushima

The Frog Bride
Japanese French Vietnamese chinese

A long, long time ago, an honest young man lived in a house deep in the mountains. "It's spring now – it has become warmer and the snow has disappeared. I must go and check to see when it will be time to plant rice," said the young man as he made his way down to the paddy fields.

He stopped in front of the village at the foot of the mountain and said, "The snow has disappeared here, too. I can start planting! I will come back in a week's time to plant rice seeds."

He was about to return home when he saw a snake on the embankment. "You have come out of the earth because the weather is warmer, haven't you, snake?" As he spoke, he realized that the snake carried a half-swallowed frog in its mouth.

As the snake was swallowing the frog backwards, the frog was peaking out of the snake's mouth and the young man fancied the frog said, "Please help me! Please help me!"

The young man took pity on the frog and said, "Hey, snake! You have no business swallowing that frog! Spit him out immediately" However, the snake refused to obey him.

The young man moved closer to the snake because the frog looked so pitiful. "Please split him out." Once again the snake ignored him and this time, the young man knelt on the ground. "I beg you, please let the frog go," he said.

The snake finally gave in and spit out his prey. The frog plopped out of the snake's mouth and glancing back at the young man, hopped away.

"That's probably the frog's way of saying thank you," the young man thought, feeling rather pleased with himself. "I did a good thing today. I saved a frog's life. I never realized how satisfying saving someone's life would feel." When the young man returned to his home, he drank some rice wine and fell asleep.

Towards evening of the next day, someone knocked on his door. "No one has ever come to visit me in the depths of these mountains," he said and he opened the door.

A beautiful young woman stood on the doorstep. "I am lost and will not make it home tonight. Could I stay here for one night, please?" she asked.

"I live alone, so I do not think it is appropriate for you to stay overnight. I suppose it cannot be helped, but I do apologize for the inconvenience. Please wait a moment. I will tidy the room for you. Feel free to stay," he replied, inviting the young woman to spend the night.

The next morning when he awoke, the young woman – with a handkerchief tied around her head – had already made the fire and was boiling some hot water. He thought she would have left at the crack of dawn. "What are you doing? Shouldn't you be on your way home? Be gone with you!"

"But I have no home. Please take me as your bride," the young woman replied.
"Marry you? But as you can see, I am very poor. If you come here, I cannot make you happy please leave," the young man retorted.
"Please do not say that! I want to stay. Take me as your bride." The young woman was adamant and as she was very beautiful, the young man began to think it wasn't such a bad idea.
"Very well, please be my bride," he said.

The young man's bride worked very hard. She found the loom that the young man's mother had used and began to weave. When she was finished she beckoned the young man over. "Please sell, this cloth I have woven." The young man followed his wife's orders and indeed they became very rich.

Before he knew it, it was the summer O-Bon Festival (the Festival of the Dead). "I have to attend a service for the dead. Will you grant me a holiday?" asked the young man's wife.

"You are attending a service for the dead? I thought you had no relatives. Have relatives or friends organized the service?" he asked.
"Yes, they have. I know many people attending the service. Please let me go," his wife replied.
"Please go. I will go with you. I would like to pay my respects to your relations and friends now that we are married."
"No, no. I am happy to go on my own," said his wife as she left.

In spite of his wife's protestations, the young man did not feel it right to let her go to the gathering of relatives and friends on her own. Keeping out of sight, he followed his wife. She made her way even further into the depths of the mountain. "Why is she going so far?" her husband thought. Progressing a little further, he arrived at an old temple.

"This is a very old temple. The people who lived here must have abandoned it and now it is out of business," the young man said. He looked around the temple to see one large frog perching on a large leaf in an overgrown pond.
"Oh, look. There's a frog," he said. And as he continued to watch, many tiny frogs appeared. "Ribbit," said the large frog. "Ribbit," the tiny frogs responded. The large frogs and tiny frogs then continued to take it in turns to "ribbit."
"Is this frog music," the young man mused. "This really isn't very interesting. I should go."

He turned to leave and kicked a stone that lay in front of his foot. The stone hit the large frog in the middle of the pond and he began to sink. The little frogs also sank.

"Oh, never mind," said the young man and he returned home to find that his wife had not yet come back. "She's very late," he said. He ate alone and was about to go to bed when his wife returned.
"How were your relatives?" he asked his wife.

"They were very well, except in the middle of the ceremony, someone threw a stone at the priest and he sustained a very bad injury. That is why I am so late," she replied.

It was then that the young man realized his wife was a frog. "I have to confess that it was me who kicked the stone that hit the priest. You are a frog, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am. I am a frog, but when you saved me from being been eaten by the snake in the springtime, I wanted to repay your kindness somehow. So I transformed into a human and came to help you. But now that you know my true identity, I must leave," she said and hopped – as a frog – out of the backdoor.

This old tale tells us never to forget a kindness and also reminds us to be kind to frogs!