Tales of Old Japan
The Ape and the Crab
IN the land where neither the monkeys nor the cats have tails, and the persimmons grow to be as large as apples and with seeds bigger than a melon's, there once lived a land Crab in the side of a sand hill. One day an Ape came along having a persimmon seed, which he offered to swap with the Crab for a rice-cake. The Crab agreed, and planting the seed in his garden went out every day to watch it grow. And so fertile is that country, that soon a fine tree had grown up from the seed.
By and by the Ape came to visit the Crab, and seeing the tree laden with the yellow-brown fruit, he begged a few persimmons. The Crab, asking pardon of the Ape, said he could not climb the tree to offer him any, but agreed to give his visitor half, if he would mount the tree and pluck them.
So the Ape ran up the tree, while the Crab waited below, expecting to eat the ripe fruit. But the Ape sitting on a limb first filled his pockets full, and then picking off all the best ones, greedily ate the pulp, and threw the skin and stones in the Crab's face. Every once in a while, he would pull off a green sour persimmon and hit the Crab hard, until his shell was nearly cracked. At last the poor Crab thought he would get the best of the Ape. So when his enemy had eaten his fill until he was bulged out, he cried out,
"Now, Ape, I dare you to come down head-foremost. You can't do it."
The other would not take a dare, and at once began to descend, head downward. This was just what the Crab wanted, for all the finest persimmons rolled out of his pockets on the ground. The Crab quickly gathered them up, and with both arms full ran off to his hole. The Ape was very angry at this trick. He kindled a fire, and blew the smoke down the hole, until the Crab was nearly choked and had to crawl out to save his life. Then the wicked Ape beat him soundly, and left him for dead.
The Crab had not been long thus, when three travelers, a Rice-Mortar, an Egg, and a Wasp found him lying on the ground. They carried him into the house, bound up his wounds and while he lay in bed they planned how they might destroy his enemy. They all talked of the matter over their cups of tea, and after the Mortar had smoked several pipes of tobacco, a plan was agreed on.
Taking the Crab along, stiff and sore as he was, they marched to the Ape's castle. The Wasp flew inside, and found that their enemy was away from home. Then all entered and hid themselves. The Egg cuddled up under the ashes in the hearth; the Wasp flew into the closet; the Mortar hid behind the door; the Crab sat beside the fire; and here they waited for the Ape to come home.
Toward evening the Ape arrived, and throwing off his coat (which was just what the Wasp wanted) he lighted a match and kindling a fire hung on the kettle for a cup of tea, and pulled out his pipe for a smoke. Just as he sat down by the hearth to salute the Crab, the Egg in the fire burst and the hot yolk flew all over him and in his eye, nearly blinding him. He rushed out to the bathroom to plunge in the tub of cold water, when the Wasp flew at him and stung his nose. Slipping down, he fell flat on the floor, when the Mortar rolled on him and crushed him to death. Then the victorious party congratulated the Crab on their victory. Grateful for the friendship thus shown, the whole company, Crab, Mortar and Wasp lived in peace together.
The Crab married the daughter of a rich crab that lived over the hill, and a great feast of persimmons was spread before the bride's relatives who came to see the ceremony. By and by a little crab was born which became a great pet with the Mortar and Wasp. With no more apes to plague them, they lived very happily ever afterward.
The text came from:
Fairy Tales of Old Japan. London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1911.