Intro: The Monkey and the CrabEdit
Narrator: This is the tale of a monkey and a crab. A despicable monkey, and his defenseless victim.
[Background sound of waves breaking on the coast]
Narrator: This, is a tale of revenge.
Crab: Wow, a dumpling! Some absent-minded human must have dropped this. I bet the buns in the oven will love this!
Narrator: And so the crab took the yet fresh dumpling to feed her womb. But then…
Monkey: Yo Crabby!
You won’t believe what I found—
Monkey: I came when I saw, chica. How far along are you, by the way? It’s been forever
Crab: The babies, you mean? They’re still not due for about—
Monkey: That’s great, listen, I have a proposition. Trade you a persimmon seed for that dumpling hoo hoo hoo HA HA HA
Crab: I don’t know about that. I kind of had my heart set on it, you know?
Monkey: You’ve gotta think of the future, sweetums! Plant this seed now, and that’s a whole tree of nourishment for your newborns~ I don’t need it, I’m a swinging bachelor!!
Narrator: And as the monkey kissed his very long forearms and howled, the crab weighed her options. Finally…
Crab: I suppose you have a deal, Monkey old friend. But only if you promise to swing by and collect those persimmons for me once they’re ripe. I can’t climb trees to save my life!
Monkey: Rest those gams, honey! I promise when that days comes I’ll be a proper gentleman.
Crab: Pincer swear?
Monkey: Ehhh… sure. Ow. Owwww.
[Coast ambience fades to nothing]
Narrator: Little did the poor crab know that the monkey was crossing his filthy macho fingers, mouth watering at the chance to gorge itself of persimmons at only the cost of a friend. Many moons later, the crab was basking in the shade of her project, on the jungle outskirts. On that fateful day, she decided they were ready, and skittered sideways towards the monkey’s house.
[ukulele chords, followed by the ambience of a placid jungle]
Monkey: Well if it isn’t the prettiest carapace in the land. What can I do ya for?
Crab: Sweet serendipity, Monkey! If I’m not mistaken, the fruits got ripe just as the eggs started bumping! I think I might go into labor any moment now!
Monkey: Yeah huh wonderful where is it
Crab: I’ll guide you there. C’mon now
Monkey: EEE EEE EEE
Narrator: The moment they arrived, the monkey spared no time launching its impertinent feet right off the crab, his sheer greed almost beating him up the trunk to the bounty of persimmons above.
Monkey: [sounds of monkey gorging itself. I will be using real persimmons for this.]
Crab: MonkeeeeeyyyyYYYY!!!!!!! How could you!?!?
Monkey: That’s just what you hrmm get [gulp] for being gullible hoo hoo. What kind of mother falls for that, I mean really!!
Crab: The kind with pincers, that hurt.
Monkey: And that’s why you won’t be living much longer, honeybunch.
Crab: You… you wouldn’t…
Monkey: Hey, gotta use these unripe ones for something! They’re hard as stone, of course, and I might like to try imbuing one with essence of seafood!
Narrator: What the monkey lacked in precision he made up for with persistence. Within a minute or two, one of the fruits found its mark, and the crab came CRUSHED.
Crab: Kkkgh… you… you’ll pay for this…
Monkey: Send my regards to the land of the dead, Crabby dear. Teach them who bested you.
Crab: You monster
Monkey: No, it’s monkey. A mere monkey for mere fruit! Hoo hoo hoo HA HA HA!
Narrator: And with that the monkey left her for dead, certain she could not possibly budge her weak, pathetic crustacean legs from underneath her persimmonly prison. But the resolve of a woman scorned rivals the frosts of hell, especially when it comes to her children!
Crab: You’ll see, Monkey. For my final act, I’ll teach my children that they’ll be born in a world where no foul deed goes unpunished! GAK keho keho
Narrator: And, improbably—unbelievably!—the crab moved. And took a step. Then ten. Fueled by equal parts hatred and love, the crab scuttled ten thousand paces, all the while lugging the bastard persimmon that spelled her doom. Until at last, she reached the ocean, her ocean, and laid her offspring. Her avengers. Dyed blood red, the innocent eggs at once knew nature, tooth and claw.
general intro of Japanese folklore.
[Go over how we covered youkai folkloric spirits in a 2L episode and a general overview of Japanese religion in the State Shinto episode. This time we’ll be recounting specific myths and legends.]
With the aid, of course, of my new, trusty ukulele—courtesy of one Emu McLaughlin
This is my favorite of all of them, and I’m going to pause to have Emma try to pronounce the main character’s name every time it comes up in a sentence. mwahahaha
One day, a hapless old bamboo-cutter spotted one of the shoots in the thicket glowing with an otherworldly light. Inside slept a tiny baby girl, barely the size of his thumb! Overjoyed, he took her as his daughter and, together with his wife, named her KAGUYAHIME. One wonders how one goes about caring after a baby the size of a thumb, but soon enough she grew to normal size, rendering the fun size nipple funnel no longer necessary. In fact, KAGUYAHIME blossomed into one of the most beautiful ladies the land ever laid eyes upon!
This was not the end to the old couple’s fortunes, either, for with KAGUYAHIME cooing in the household, the bamboo cutter thereafter discovered a nugget of gold each time he whacked a shoot down! Wealth was sure to follow, and it did. Why couldn’t that blissful glowing bamboo have touched down sooner!?
And so the day came when five princes, regal and handsome, traveled far to ask the bamboo cutter for KAGUYAHIME’s hand in marriage. The choice came down to her, though she was a bit cool to the whole idea. She determined to set impossible, Herculean tasks for the princes to carry out for her favor. The Stone Begging Bowl of the Buddha. A jeweled branch from the mythical idyll of Mt. Penglai. The flameproof fur robe of a Chinese fire-rat, a gem snatched from the neck of a dragon, and finally a cowry sea snail that was born from swallows. If I were in her shoes, I’d have asked them to just dig a hole to America, but I guess she was too nice for that. Emma, say KAGUYAHIME KAGUYAHIME.
Sure enough, each prince failed—some even mustering the nerve to attempt deceiving her with fakes—though one, the fifth, lost his life in the goose chase. Just how damn hot was KAGUYAHIME? Her preternatural poon appeal attracted even the Emperor himself, whom she also turned down. Emma?
Emma: [as her] “You see, Your Amazingness, I’m not from this country. I cannot enter Your palace.”
Joe: Pretty please?
Emma: No you hang up
Not from this country? What in heavens could she mean? Her adoptive parents furrowed their wrinkled brows with worry. Why was it that whenever KAGUYAHIME gazed up to the night’s pale disc, her lovely eyes similarly shined with sorrow? After much insisting, she finally spilled the beans—she was in fact the Princess of the Moon Palace!!
Emma: You see, my honored caretakers, all that gold you found in the thicket, that was all a stipend for your raising me…
Joe: Huh!?!? I… I can’t believe it!
Emma: I could not remain in the capital once the War of the Stars broke out. It wasn’t safe. So my true parents, the King and Queen of the Moon, sent me up through the distant clouds of the blue heaven, Earth! But now I must return. A royal entourage will soon descend for me. I love you all very much, but there’s simply no delaying my departure!
The Emperor stationed guards at the bamboo cutter’s home to beat back her abductors, but it was no use; with a flash of brilliant light, the guards were blinded and made ineffectual. The Heavenly Beings had arrived. KAGUYAHIME tearfully paid her respects:
Emma: I apologize for the suddenness of it all! I must imbibe the Elixir of Life, and forget my life on Earth. But as a token of my love, I have left you all letters with my true feelings written for posterity. And to you, my parents, I give my robe. Farewell. Once I don this robe, I will forget.
Joe: Noooo!! Kaguyahime!! Don’t leave us!! All alone…
But KAGUYAHIME had but tasted the Elixir. The rest of the bottle, as the Emperor would soon discover, was left to him.
Joe: Which mountain is the closest to her!? To the Moon!? Burn on the peak of that mountain a message to her, for the beauty of that mountain is as nothing compared to her!! And burn also this damned Elixir, for immortality in a world without her is useless to me.
While I’m sure one of his retainers might have liked not to die, they did as he commanded. The essence of “immortality”—Fuji—was etched into the mountain that day. And to this day, the smoke of that burning, billowing from the volcano’s caldera, soothes KAGUYAHIME
Now let me tell you something, climbing Mt. Fuji ain’t fucking easy so that the Emperor was able to do it with an army in tow speaks volumes to his love. They say you’re adventurously romantic to climb Fuji once, and plain foolish to subject yourself to the climb a second time. Unless you love clutching the side of the rockface until the insanely fast winds blow over, hoping you don’t slip and fall and grace the evening news.
Also, holy shit this story is 10th century science fiction.
Next up is the tale of Momotarou, or Peach Boy!
Momotarou and KintarouEdit
Momotarou was born from a peach and cared after by an old couple. After coming of age, he heroically tackled the marauding ogres of the Island of the “Oni,” Onigashima… and slaughtered them all, but not without the help of his friends, the monkey, the pheasant and the hound.
The story dates back to the eighteenth century, though the original had it that the magic river peach turned the couple young again, and the hero boy was the product of their lovemaking that night. The peach, you see, is a fertility symbol, due to its resemblance to a big butt. When the West forcibly opened Japan’s harbors and they felt pressured to develop rapidly on the world stage in order to match the West gun for gun, the new Meiji Government had to excise all mention of impropriety and scandalous sex from their official stories when crafting textbooks. And so Momotarou now emerged from the peach itself. In any case, Momotarou is now a role model for children for his courage, kindness, and filial piety.
In World War II, the story took a rather unfortunate nationalistic tinge as Onigashima became an allegory for the U.S. Japan’s first feature length animated motion picture was Momotarou: Sacred Sailors, strictly created as a propaganda film for the navy. However, no matter the consummate cuteness of the bear cub, monkey and pheasant naval cadets, they ultimately could not convince the rest of Asia they needed to be “liberated” through Japanese hegemony, and the American ogres put an end to that ambition. Maybe we’ll do a riff of the movie one day. Probably not, though.
I once homestayed in a town called Inuyama, and they hold a Momotaro Shrine Festival every year with tons of colored statues of characters from the story. The title card is a picture of me with one of those statues.
Similar to Momotarou is Kintarou, the Golden Boy. He was a super strong boy who was raised by a mountain hag, befriending the animals and growing up to slay a powerful oni lord. I bring him up because there’s a traditional Kintarou candy that looks like a cylinder, and Kintarou’s face is always on the inside.
And now back to your regularly scheduled revenge.
The Monkey and the Crab, Part 2Edit
Narrator: The monkey was a solitary creature in more ways than one, priding himself on riding the deceptions that, to him, constituted life. The crabs, on the other hand, had community. It was not long before the crablings grew old enough to echo their progentor's dying curse, and the crabkin inflamed with the knowledge that it was no stray persimmon that put an end to her charity and honesty. Together, they hatched a plan.
Monkey: Whaddya want.
Crabling 1: We're collecting for our mother's memorial monument!
Crabling 2: We heard you were one of her good friends! Could you let us in?
Crabling 1: Tell us stories of her!
Monkey: Uhhh... uhhh... your mother? Uhhhh... Yes, I, uh, was terribly broken up when I heard she passed. Terrible, just terrible. But to think...
~door creaks open~
Monkey: How many of you are there?
Crabling 1: Four! The other two don't speak yet though.
Monkey: Wouldn't stories fall on deaf ears, then?
Crabling 2: It's okay, Mr. Monkey! We'll tell them later. They're just late bloomers.
Narrator: No choice now, Monkey. No choice but to try to impress the crablings, and come off as unsuspicious as possible. Now for crocodile tears.
Monkey: Come in, and I'll try to, geh, choke through the story of when we first met. Goohaaaa!
Narrator: It was expedient for the crabs that, as a species, they were not very expressive. The two supposedly dumb and mute crablings set to work while the other two held the monkey's attention, secretly seething.
Monkey: You see, I'd do anything, anything to help your mother! Everything I had was hers to use. But now... I've fallen on hard times. I didn't visit her grave because... I was ashamed I still don't have anything to offer!! I'm poor!
Crabling 2: Poor?
Monkey: In fact, that's how we met. Your mother was on the verge of starvation when I handed her my very hard won dumpling. I'd snatched that precious dumpling from a human warzone! It was my last resort! But upon spotting another creature in need, I could but avert my eyes and grimace as I dropped it in her many laps. Somehow, we made it through that winter. Together. I couldn't remember much because of the hunger, the delirium, but the hard times we shared are etched in my bones. And now I don't have anything remaining to share with her except those keepsake bones... Waaaaahhhh! If she were here, I just know it would all work out somehow!
Narrator: It was true that the shack was quite bare, but judging by the smell, it definitely wasn't hunger that erased those memories. More like moonshine. The monkey's eyes darted towards the jugs on the hearth's mantle.
Monkey: She was a teetotaler, she was. Hoo hoo. Wouldn't appreciate alcohol on her grave.
Crabling 1: What's teetotaler.
Monkey: Forget I said anything. Anyway, I'm sure this fire isn't doing you cold-blooders any favors, and isn't it past your bedtime? I know I'm getting tired, huwaaaa (yawns).
Crabling 2: Mr. Monkey, I think there's something you could give Mommy in this fire! Come see!
Monkey: What? What are you--
Narrator: At that moment, a chestnut they'd placed in the fire exploded, searing straight into the monkey's groin.
Monkey: YOOOWWWWLLL!! Water! Water!!!!
Narrator: But it wasn't just any water that now poured from the other two crab's mouths onto the monkey's wound.
Crabling 3: Sulfur water.
Crabling 4: You're done.
Crabling 1: We're going to make dumplings out of you.
Crabling 2: But don't worry, we won't devour all of you. Your bones will litter her grave, just like you wanted.
Monkey: Nooooo!! I'll gie you anything you want! Anything!!
Crabling 1: I thought you didn't have anything left to give?
Crabling 3: Nothing you steal could suffice, you fiend. Unless you can give us back our mother.
Monkey: NOOOOOOOOOO!!! AHHHHHHH!!!!
Narrator: And as the monkey's anguished rattle haunted that canopy that evening, the mortal moral could not have rung clearer to human and animal alike: Like breeds like.
Of course that's just my particular spin on the tale. There are as many versions as there are tellers, and the diversity of ways that monkey gets it is delightful. Of course these days the story's violence is toned down for the kiddies. Sometimes it was that the monkey left the crab for dead but she held on and then executed her revenge by destroying his house or something. I like mine better though.
Revenge stories are always the most fun, and there are, of course, a ton of them. Favorites include the legend of the old pilgrim whose moneybag offering to the temples was robbed from him by an innkeeper, who thereafter was afflicted by a curse of fireflies, relentlessly flying at him from the pilgrim`s grave and assaulting him for twenty straight days. It's amazing the dude survived that long! I bet Owl City isn't so whimsical to him now.
Then there's the fantastic entertainment that is the feud between the rabbit and the tanuki or raccoon dog. Tanuki are essentially real animals whose mythical counterparts have comically huge testicles and can shapeshift, though practically every Japanese mythical animal can shapeshift. Anyway, one day some dude catches one and ties it to a tree to be killed and cooked later. The tanuki manages to persuade the dude's wife to set it free, promising to help with her chores from then on out. However, the tanuki gleefully kills her instead. I guess you just don't have that size balls hang down like punching bags for all the forest animals to see for hours on end, and come down from that unchanged. And, as if death by scrotum meat weren't bad enough, the tanuki then proceeds to take on her appearance and trick the hapless hunter into drinking soup of dearly beloved. Good luck getting rid of that aftertaste, too.
Luckily for the couple, they had a loyal friend in a local rabbit--why is not important--and that rabbit pledged to wreak a suitable revenge. Under the guise of the tanuki's fawning friend, the rabbit perpetrated dirty trick after dirty trick to make its life hell, from dropping a bee hive on it to treating its wounds with chili pepper, always with a well-timed "oops." Particularly memorably, the rabbit set fire to a mound of kindling the tanuki was shouldering for their campfire, and when the tanuki obliviously commented on the strange crackling sound, the rabbit insisted that it was merely hearing the nearby Fire Mountain. When the flames reached its back, it was not a very pleasant surprise.
With the cat finally out of the bag, their death match began in earnest, the tanuki challenging the rabbit to a contest of wits and strength. The idea was simple--build a boat, then reach the other side of the river first. The problem was that the tanuki was a bit too simple, attempting to hack it with a boat made of mud. It was only as the tanuki sank to its death that the rabbit revealed his relationship to the human couple, gloating with the ecstasy of just desserts. Why didn't the tanuki just transform into a fish or something? Well, how dumb do you have to be to be a shapeshifter and get caught in the first place?
The Sparrow's TongueEdit
Take it away, Emma. As a speech pathologist, you know all about tongue injuries, and birds are your specialty in the subject of religious history.
Emma: Up in the mountains, thriving with both brush and thrush, subsisted a diligent old wood cutter and his less than ideal wife. When the old man happened across a fallen sparrow cheep cheeping with pitiable cheeps, he cradled it home and fed it some rice to convalesce--his greedy wife nagging him all the while. Eventually, he had no choice but to return to work, and leave the helpless sparrow in her care.
Joe: "Every creature is precious, dear. You never know what blessings may come with just a moment of kindness."
Emma: "Be kind to me and shut the fuck up. Go cram some timber down your gross piehole."
Joe: "Yes, dear."
Emma: "You may have proven birds don't actually explode with rice, but it's not too late to experiment with how much wood could you can chuck before you finally pratfall back into whatever tomb you escaped from."
Joe: "Got it, dear."
Emma: "I'd say I only married you for the view, but then your ceaseless ass exhalations cloud the autumn vista far more than anyone could have ever anticipated."
Joe: "I'll get right on that, dear. Hnnngrrh."
Emma: So the wife left the sparrow to do some fishing, and when she got back and discovered that the sparrow had helped itself to a heap of starch, she took a knife to its tongue--perhaps a tad irrationally. The husband, upon hearing this, dashed on the lookout, and, with the aid of the other sparrows of the land, was lead to the secret sparrow inn and showered with gifts and dance. And then...
Emma: [As sparrow] Cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep!
Joe: "Ah, so I am to choose between the small basket and the large basket?"
Emma: Cheep cheep!
Joe: "In that case, the small one, please, and thank you. I'm sure whatever's inside the big one is tremendously wonderful, but I lack the strength to carry it, and besides, I don't deserve that much anyway. Bye now!"
Emma: Cheep. Cheep cheep cheep.
Emma: When the husband showed the wife the small fortune of jewels the sparrows had imparted t him, her eyes were replaced with extra large yen signs and she rushed towards the sparrow inn to claim the larger basket.
Emma: Cheep cheep, don't open the basket until you're home, cheep cheep.
Emma: "What, you can talk now?"
Emma: Cheep cheep, don't be a bitch cheep cheep!
Emma: "I see I should've entered the sparrow tongue business long ago."
Emma: Tongue or no, a beak in the eye is not a trip to the hot springs cheep cheep!
Emma: "Save it for when I use all this money to pioneer tiny bows and arrows specifically for sparrow tongues. PEACE!!"
Emma: Of course, the basket was unchanted so that if the husband was not around when it was opened, all the money within would transform into venomous vipers and creepy crawlies determined to see her to her demise. Sure enough...
Emma: <muttering< "Fucking pathetic old man, can't even carry this much? What the fuck, did all his muscles travel up to his brain? I'm going to buy four husbands with all this swag, fufufufufu. By the way, how much is all this, anyway?"
<violent hissing, snake attack sounds>
Joe: <as snake> Don't count your chickens before they've hatched, loser!!
Emma: And so she tumbled down the side of the mountain, tormented by every last nasty living thing short of fireflies, who were busy elsewhere.
<a grab bag of sound effects of various horrible lethal creatures biting her everywhere + a random chicken buckAWing> <this combined with her smashing against rocks on her way down>
Emma: " EECH! OW! FUCK!! OW!! OH GOD! NOT THERE!! MY MASCARA'S RUNNING! FUCK OFF! OW! I'LL HAVE YOU ALL KNOW I WENT TO A SAFARI ONCE AND IT SMELLED LIKE SHIT!! OW! YOWCH!!" <doppler tapering off>
Emma: The first body part they ripped out, to great celebration, was her tongue.
We round out our super extremely non-exhaustive episode on Japanese folktales with Urashima Tarou.