2016-09-13

A Smart Woodcutter's Woman of the Snow

"Yuki Onna" (雪女), or "Woman of the Snow", is an old traditional Japanese tale.

Most Japanese tales seem to involve the supernatural to some degree or another, but, in Yuki Onna, one of the main characters is a supernatural being. And, while she is a bit scary, she is also a sympathetic character.

I often get a little miffed at traditional tales. If specific characters would only think ahead just a little, the outcome might be so much better.

Yesterday, I was reading Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan, in which this story appears in one form, and I decided to rewrite it with an ending that I like better.

Here it is, borrowing from a previous rewrite (http://joels-random-eikaiwa.blogspot.jp/2015/10/the-woman-of-snow-japanese-folk-tale.html):

雪女 (Yuki Onna)

Narrator: Two woodcutters from a remote village,
  an old man named Mosaku and a young man named Minokichi,
  were working hard on a mountain not far from their village
  one afternoon in late fall.

Mosaku: There's a snowstorm coming. We should go home.

Minokichi: Just a little more wood.

Narrator: But the wind picked up and the snow began to fall,
  hard and cold.

Minokichi: Okay, I think you're right. Let's go.

Narrator: Mosaku and Minokichi packed their wood
  and hurried down the mountain.
  At the foot of the mountain, there was a wide river.
  It was deep and cold and fast, because of the snow.


Minokichi: Where is the ferryman?

Mosaku: He was wiser than we and has crossed already.
  We should take shelter in his hut.

Narrator: It was very cold in the hut.

Mosaku: Help me fasten the door.

Minokichi: Oh, it's cold. There is no place to build a fire.
  And the wind is so loud! How can we sleep?

Mosaku: Cover yourself well and close your eyes.
  You need the rest.

Narrator: Mosaku went to sleep quickly.

Mosaku: Ohh, it's so cold.
  I'm afraid we'll freeze to death.

Narrator: Just as the winds died down
  and Minokichi was falling asleep,
  he was awakened by the sound of the door of the hut opening.
  A flurry of snow hit his face.

Minokichi: Ah!

Narrator: Minokichi woke up,
  but he could not move or make a sound.
  In the moonlight, he saw a strange woman enter the hut.
  He could not speak, but he thought to himself.

Minokichi: She is so strange, so scary.
  But how beautiful she is!
  Where did she come from? Who is she?

Narrator: The woman went first to Mosaku and bent over him.
  Then she breathed on him, her breath a stream
  of ice crystals flowing into Mosaku's nostrils.
  Minokichi tried to scream out:

Minokichi: Mosaku! Are you all right?

Narrator: But he still couldn't make a sound.
  Then the woman came to Minokichi and bent over him.
  She looked into his eyes.
  Minokichi was terrified.

Snow Woman: You are young. I like you.
  I will not take you now.

Narrator: Minokichi still could not speak.

Snow Woman: But if you ever tell anyone what you saw tonight,
  I will kill you.

Narrator: The woman left silently.
  Minokichi's strength returned
  and he got up and looked outside for the woman.

Minokichi: She's not there!

Narrator: Then he shut the door and he went to Mosaku.

Minokichi: Mosaku?

Narrator: Mosaku did not answer.
  His body was as cold as ice.

Minokichi: Mosaku!

Narrator: The ferryman came in the morning.
  Mosaku was dead, and Minokichi was just barely alive.
  He was very sick from the cold.
  The ferryman took him back to the village.

Villagers: Mosaku is dead!
  But Minokichi is alive!

Narrator: The villagers held a funeral for Mosaku
  and mourned for a long time.
  And they helped Minokichi's mother take care of Minokichi.

Mother: Be strong, Minokichi, and get well.
  I am a widow, and I need my son.

Narrator: The next spring,
  Minokichi was able to work again.

Minokichi: I'm lonely!

Narrator: One day, on his way home with his load of wood,
   he met a very beautiful young woman traveling alone.

Minokichi: Hello!

O-Yuki: Hello.

Minokichi: My name is Minokichi.

O-Yuki: Mine is O-yuki.

Minokichi: It's nice weather.

O-Yuki: Yes, it is.

Narrator: The young woman seemed to decide to trust Minokichi.

Minokichi: Are you new here?

O-Yuki: I'm traveling.

Minokichi: You should not be traveling alone.

O-Yuki: My parents are both dead.
  I'm going to Yedoh to find work.

Minokichi: You can rest at our village for a while.
  My mother has room, if you wouldn't mind.

Narrator: O-Yuki decided to stop to rest.
  Then she decided she liked the people of the village.
  The villagers liked her, too.

Villagers: We are glad you came.
  You can stay in our village, if you want to.

O-Yuki: Thank you. Maybe I won't go to Yedoh.

Narrator: Minokichi and his mother liked her a lot.

Mother: Minokichi likes you.

O-Yuki: I like him, too.

Minokichi: Will you be my wife, O-Yuki?

Narrator: So they got married.
  The villagers all celebrated.

Villagers: Congratulations!

Narrator: One night, O-Yuki was sewing.
  Minokichi was watching her work
  while he fixed some of his tools.

Minokichi: O-Yuki-san, we have five wonderful children.

O-Yuki: Of course.

Minokichi: They have a wonderful mother.

O-Yuki: They have a good father, too.

Minokichi: They are beautiful, like you.

O-Yuki: They are handsome, like their father.

Minokichi: You know, it's strange.

O-Yuki: What's strange?

Minokichi: I've only ever seen one woman
  as beautiful as you.

O-Yuki: Oh? Who was that?


Minokichi: I don't know if it was a dream or real.

O-Yuki: Sometimes reality seems like a dream.
  Tell me more.

Narrator: But Minokichi remembered the snow woman's threat.
 Minokichi: I'm sorry I brought it up.
  I don't want to make you jealous.

O-Yuki: Should I be jealous?

Minokichi: You are as beautiful as she was.  More beautiful, because I know you.
  I never knew her.
  You don't need to be jealous.

Narrator: They continued working in silence for a while.

O-Yuki: Where did you see her?

Minokichi: I was sick and delirious.
  There's nothing more I can say.

O-Yuki: Were you scared of her?

Minokichi: Women can be scary sometimes.

O-Yuki: Did she look like me?

Minokichi: Sometimes you remind me of her.

O-Yuki: Oh? Is that good or bad?

Minokichi: That's hard to say.
O-Yuki: Can't you tell me about her?

Minokichi: No, I can't.
  I only saw her once, just for a moment.
  I never saw her again.
 Narrator: Minokichi had a strange thought.

Minokichi: At least, if I did, I didn't know her.

Narrator: O-Yuki suddenly threw her sewing on the floor
  and grabbed Minokichi.

O-Yuki: Tell me more!


Minokichi: Look at me in the eyes, O-Yuki-san.

Narrator: O-Yuki drew back and wouldn't look him in the eyes.

Minokichi: Please look at me.


O-Yuki: I can't, Minokichi.

Minokichi: Then I must suppose it was just a dream.
  Maybe I had a prophetic dream about you when I was sick.

O-Yuki: Was that when you were on the mountain?

Minokichi: I was very sick. I was delirious.
  I don't remember much after Mosaku died.

O-Yuki: How did he die?

Minokichi: He was an old man.
  He died of the cold.

  It was so cold that I almost died, too.

O-Yuki: Was there any other reason?

Minokichi: Not that I could say.

Narrator: O-Yuki picked up her sewing.

O-Yuki: If you can't tell me more, I think I'll die.

Minokichi: Are you jealous of a dream?

O-Yuki: Can't you tell me your dream?

Minokichi: I was sick and delirious.
  There's nothing more to tell.

Narrator: For some time, they worked in silence.
  Then Minokichi stood up and put his tools away.
  He knelt by O-Yuki and put one arm around her shoulders.

Minokichi: I would never do anything to lose you, O-Yuki-san.

Narrator: She turned and looked him in the eyes.

O-Yuki: Why can't you tell me more?

Minokichi: But you have no need to ask me that.

O-Yuki: Oh? Why?

Minokichi: Because you have my heart, and no one else.

O-Yuki: But you broke your promise.

Minokichi: I made no promise.

O-Yuki: Aren't you afraid of me?

Minokichi: I'll never be afraid of you.

O-Yuki: But I told you, ...

Minokichi: I've never given you any reason to be angry.

O-Yuki: But you know.

Minokichi: I know? What do I know?

Narrator: O-Yuki laid her finger in Minokichi's lips.

O-Yuki: Promise.

Minokichi: I promise.
 
O-Yuki: And you are not just a good father,
  you are a good husband, too.

Narrator: And they had five more children,
  and all their children grew up to be good people.
  And when Minokichi was seventy-five years old, 
  he and O-Yuki said goodbye to all their children.
  Then they left on a trip and were never seen again.

Minokichi: So, can you tell me now?

O-Yuki: I'll show you.
  You've been a good father and a good husband.
  It won't hurt.
  Don't be sad.

Minokichi: Will we be together?

O-Yuki: You've been a good father and a good husband.
  We'll be together.

Minokichi: Then show me.

Narrator: And, of course, no one can tell what happened after that.

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