The Crimson Fairy Book HTML version

The Magic Kettle
Right in the middle of Japan, high up among the mountains, an old man lived in his little
house. He was very proud of it, and never tired of admiring the whiteness of his straw
mats, and the pretty papered walls, which in warm weather always slid back, so that the
smell of the trees and flowers might come in.
One day he was standing looking at the mountain opposite, when he heard a kind of
rumbling noise in the room behind him. He turned round, and in the corner he beheld a
rusty old iron kettle, which could not have seen the light of day for many years. How the
kettle got there the old man did not know, but he took it up and looked it over carefully,
and when he found that it was quite whole he cleaned the dust off it and carried it into his
'That was a piece of luck,' he said, smiling to himself; 'a good kettle costs money, and it is
as well to have a second one at hand in case of need; mine is getting worn out, and the
water is already beginning to come through its bottom.'
Then he took the other kettle off the fire, filled the new one with water, and put it in its
No sooner was the water in the kettle getting warm than a strange thing happened, and
the man, who was standing by, thought he must be dreaming. First the handle of the
kettle gradually changed its shape and became a head, and the spout grew into a tail,
while out of the body sprang four paws, and in a few minutes the man found himself
watching, not a kettle, but a tanuki! The creature jumped off the fire, and bounded about
the room like a kitten, running up the walls and over the ceiling, till the old man was in
an agony lest his pretty room should be spoilt. He cried to a neighbour for help, and
between them they managed to catch the tanuki, and shut him up safely in a wooden
chest. Then, quite exhausted, they sat down on the mats, and consulted together what they
should do with this troublesome beast. At length they decided to sell him, and bade a
child who was passing send them a certain tradesman called Jimmu.
When Jimmu arrived, the old man told him that he had something which he wished to get
rid of, and lifted the lid of the wooden chest, where he had shut up the tanuki. But, to his
surprise, no tanuki was there, nothing but the kettle he had found in the corner. It was
certainly very odd, but the man remembered what had taken place on the fire, and did not
want to keep the kettle any more, so after a little bargaining about the price, Jimmu went
away carrying the kettle with him.
Now Jimmu had not gone very far before he felt that the kettle was getting heavier and
heavier, and by the time he reached home he was so tired that he was thankful to put it
down in the corner of his room, and then forgot all about it. In the middle of the night,
however, he was awakened by a loud noise in the corner where the kettle stood, and