One night the sweet child O’Yoné stole into the bamboo grove behind the garden. Weeping, she told her story to the forest. Her mother had died and her father had remarried a beautiful woman with a jealous heart. O’Yoné knew she would to kill her at her first opportunity.
O’Yoné father had announced that he was going to the city of Kioto on a business trip. It would be many moons before he returned. O’Yoné had pleaded with him to stay, or if he must go, take her, but he had all kinds of reasons for not being able to do that. He asked her what she would like from the city, but she wanted nothing. Instead, she decided, she would make him a flute.
She searched for a straight bamboo plant and found me. With a clean cut, she separated me from my stalk and brought me inside. She polished me and drove several holes in me that would release the voice of her spirit.
At sunrise, when her father was packing to go she brought me to him.
“I made it myself,” she said. “I made it for you. As you cannot take me with you, take the little flute, honorable father. Play on it sometimes, if you will, and think of me.” Then she wrapped me in a soft handkerchief of white silk, lined with scarlet. She wound a scarlet cord around me and passed me to her father, who tucked me into a pocket in his sleeve.
He spent three moons in Kioto. I didn’t hear him come in until late at night, and then he slept soundly. He never once reached for me. I felt the chill of O’Yoné grief rising in my hollow pipe but I could not sound it.
One night O’Yoné’s father happened to find me in the sleeve of his travelling dress while rooting around in his trunk for the silken hakama he intended to wear to a feast.
He drew me forth from the red and white handkerchief, and an icy chill crept through his heart. He hung over the live charcoal of the hibachi to warm us both. Then he put me to his lips, and I let out O’Yoné’s voice, a long-drawn wail.
He dropped me, clapped his hands for his servant, and told him he would not be going out that night. He wanted to be alone with me. He reached for me again, and heard O’Yoné’s melancholy cry. “Come back to Yedo … come back to Yedo…. Father! Father!”
The quavering voice of the child rose to a shriek and then broke.
Flute of O’Yone in The Flute. Japanese Fairy Tales. Illustration by Warwick Goble.
if you have been moved by the poignant story of O’Yoné’s flute, rewrite it as a poem. Or write it as a haiku, a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, consisting of three lines of five, seven, and five. What do you find most piercing or interesting about the story?