The Pink Fairy Book HTML version

The Slaying of the Tanuki
Near a big river, and between two high mountains, a man and his wife lived in a cottage a
long, long time ago. A dense forest lay all round the cottage, and there was hardly a path
or a tree in the whole wood that was not familiar to the peasant from his boyhood. In one
of his wanderings he had made friends with a hare, and many an hour the two passed
together, when the man was resting by the roadside, eating his dinner.
Now this strange friendship was observed by the Tanuki, a wicked, quarrelsome beast,
who hated the peasant, and was never tired of doing him an ill turn. Again and again he
had crept to the hut, and finding some choice morsel put away for the little hare, had
either eaten it if he thought it nice, or trampled it to pieces so that no one else should get
it, and at last the peasant lost patience, and made up his mind he would have the Tanuki's
So for many days the man lay hidden, waiting for the Tanuki to come by, and when one
morning he marched up the road thinking of nothing but the dinner he was going to steal,
the peasant threw himself upon him and bound his four legs tightly, so that he could not
move. Then he dragged his enemy joyfully to the house, feeling that at length he had got
the better of the mischievous beast which had done him so many ill turns. 'He shall pay
for them with his skin,' he said to his wife. 'We will first kill him, and then cook him.' So
saying, he hanged the Tanuki, head downwards, to a beam, and went out to gather wood
for a fire.
Meanwhile the old woman was standing at the mortar pounding the rise that was to serve
them for the week with a pestle that made her arms ache with its weight. Suddenly she
heard something whining and weeping in the corner, and, stopping her work, she looked
round to see what it was. That was all that the rascal wanted, and he put on directly his
most humble air, and begged the woman in his softest voice to loosen his bonds, which
her hurting him sorely. She was filled with pity for him, but did not dare to set him free,
as she knew that her husband would be very angry. The Tanuki, however, did not despair,
and seeing that her heart was softened, began his prayers anew. 'He only asked to have
his bonds taken from him,' he said. 'He would give his word not to attempt to escape, and
if he was once set free he could soon pound her rice for her.' 'Then you can have a little
rest,' he went on, 'for rice pounding is very tiring work, and not at all fit for weak
women.' These last words melted the good woman completely, and she unfastened the
bonds that held him. Poor foolish creature! In one moment the Tanuki had seized her,
stripped off all her clothes, and popped her in the mortar. In a few minutes more she was
pounded as fine as the rice; and not content with that, the Tanuki placed a pot on the
hearth and made ready to cook the peasant a dinner from the flesh of his own wife!
When everything was complete he looked out of the door, and saw the old man coming
from the forest carrying a large bundle of wood. Quick as lightning the Tanuki not only
put on the woman's clothes, but, as he was a magician, assumed her form as well. Then
he took the wood, kindled the fire, and very soon set a large dinner before the old man,
who was very hungry, and had forgotten for the moment all about his enemy. But when
the Tanuki saw that he had eaten his fill and would be thinking about his prisoner, he
hastily shook off the clothes behind a door and took his own shape. Then he said to the
peasant, 'You are a nice sort of person to seize animals and to talk of killing them! You