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The Story Finder

Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

Story finder - Curly

Click the image above to fetch a new random story.

Golden Comb

I had been placed at the bottom of an ancient chest, a bride box, lovingly prepared by the mother of two girls, Aiko and her sister Aiyamé.  On a languid summer afternoon, the cover was opened and the ladies started to dig things up.

Aiko said, “My mother, I pray you give me this length of violet silk, it will make fine undersleeves for my new grey gown! And oh, mother, let me have the crimson for a petticoat! And surely, mother, you do not need this little bit of brocade?”

“And what an obi,” cried Aiyamé. “It is green as grass, and silver!”

“Arah! Arah! Little pirates!” their mother said, laughing.

Suddenly, Aiko grabbed the little casket where I was hidden. “Here is something hard,” she murmured. She unwrapped the silken handkerchief that covered me. “It smells of orris and ancient spices!—now what may it be?”

She opened my lid. Bright light and air fell on me. “A golden comb!” She picked me up and lay me on her knee.

“Give it here, child,” said her mother. “It is not for your eyes.”

With delicate fingers, she stroked me. She felt and saw my gold lacquer, my fine workmanship, and all my little golden dragon-flies.

A deadly quiet fell on the room. I felt their troubled minds.

“Mother, what is the story of this golden comb?” said Aiko at last.

“My sweet, it is the love-token between you and Konojo, the son of Saito, for you two were betrothed in your cradles. But now it is fifteen years since Saito left Sendai. He went in the night, he and all his household, and left no trace behind.”

“Is my love dead?” asked Aiko.

“I do not know. But he will never come. So I beseech you, think no more of him, my pretty bird. There, get your fan, and dance for me and for your sister.”

Aiko placed me in the sweet nest of her hair. Then she flung open her fan and danced. She moved like a wave of the sea, or a cloud of the sky, or the wild bamboo grass in the wind. Then all of a sudden, she dropped the fan. With a long cry, she fell her to the ground. From that hour on, she sickened and lay in her bed sighing. I was put on the table beside her. I thought, if only she hadn’t discovered me! She would never have remembered Konojo. But his very name had conjured a love whose loss could not be borne. She could not eat nor sleep. She took no pleasure in life. The sunrise and the sound of rain at night were nothing to her any more. Not her father, nor her mother, nor her sister were able to give her any ease.

Presently she turned her face to the wall. “It is more than I can understand,” she said, and she died.

I was buried with her, and she wore me when she went to Yomi, the land of the dead.

Golden Comb, The Strange Story of the Golden Comb, Japanese Fairy Tales. Illustration by Warwick Goble.