The Violet Fairy Book
The Maiden With The Wooden Helmet
In a little village in the country of Japan there lived long, long ago a man and his wife.
For many years they were happy and prosperous, but bad times came, and at last nothing
was left them but their daughter, who was as beautiful as the morning. The neighbours
were very kind, and would have done anything they could to help their poor friends, but
the old couple felt that since everything had changed they would rather go elsewhere, so
one day they set off to bury themselves in the country, taking their daughter with them.
Now the mother and daughter had plenty to do in keeping the house clean and looking
after the garden, but the man would sit for hours together gazing straight in front of him,
and thinking of the riches that once were his. Each day he grew more and more wretched,
till at length he took to his bed and never got up again.
His wife and daughter wept bitterly for his loss, and it was many months before they
could take pleasure in anything. Then one morning the mother suddenly looked at the
girl, and found that she had grown still more lovely than before. Once her heart would
have been glad at the sight, but now that they two were alone in the world she feared
some harm might come of it. So, like a good mother, she tried to teach her daughter all
she knew, and to bring her up to be always busy, so that she would never have time to
think about herself. And the girl was a good girl, and listened to all her mother's lessons,
and so the years passed away.
At last one wet spring the mother caught cold, and though in the beginning she did not
pay much attention to it, she gradually grew more and more ill, and knew that she had not
long to live. Then she called her daughter and told her that very soon she would be alone
in the world; that she must take care of herself, as there would be no one to take care of
her. And because it was more difficult for beautiful women to pass unheeded than for
others, she bade her fetch a wooden helmet out of the next room, and put it on her head,
and pull it low down over her brows, so that nearly the whole of her face should lie in its
shadow. The girl did as she was bid, and her beauty was so hidden beneath the wooden
cap, which covered up all her hair, that she might have gone through any crowd, and no
one would have looked twice at her. And when she saw this the heart of the mother was
at rest, and she lay back in her bed and died.
The girl wept for many days, but by-and-by she felt that, being alone in the world, she
must go and get work, for she had only herself to depend upon. There was none to be got
by staying where she was, so she made her clothes into a bundle, and walked over the
hills till she reached the house of the man who owned the fields in that part of the
country. And she took service with him and laboured for him early and late, and every
night when she went to bed she was at peace, for she had not forgotten one thing that she
had promised her mother; and, however hot the sun might be, she always kept the
wooden helmet on her head, and the people gave her the nickname of Hatschihime.
In spite, however, of all her care the fame of her beauty spread abroad: many of the
impudent young men that are always to be found in the world stole softly up behind her
while she was at work, and tried to lift off the wooden helmet. But the girl would have
nothing to say to them, and only bade them be off; then they began to talk to her, but she