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Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

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Rai-Taro, Son of Thunder

In the cool of the evening, my father and I walked upon the ramparts of the Castle of Cloud as we often did. My father was a great and mighty god of Thunder and all the Elements.

From the ramparts we viewed the doings of men upon the Land of Reed Plains. North and South and East and West we looked. Often we laughed—and our thunder rolled across the sky.  Sometimes we sighed and wept. I would lean far over the castle walls to watch what went on upon the earth.

One night my father said: “Child, look well this night upon the doings of men!”

From the northern rampart I looked, and I saw great lords and men-at-arms going forth to battle. From the southern rampart I looked, and I saw priests and acolytes serving in a holy temple where the air was dim with incense. Images of gold and bronze gleamed in the twilight. From the eastern rampart I looked, and I saw a lady’s bower where a fair princess sat. A troop of maidens in rose-colored garments made music for her while children played with a little cart of flowers. I was enchanted by the children.

From the western rampart I looked, and I saw a peasant toiling in a rice-field. He was weary and his back ached. His wife labored by his side, and she was more weary still. I could see they were very poor in their ragged clothes.

“Have they no children?” I asked my father. He shook his head. After a few moments, he said, “Have you looked well, Rai-Taro? Have you looked well this night upon the doings of men?”

“Indeed, I have looked well, father,” I said.

“Then choose, my son, choose, and I will send you to take up your habitation upon the earth.”

“Must I go among men?” I asked.

“My child, you must.”

“I will not go with the men-at-arms,” I said. “Fighting makes me very ill.”

“Oho, so you say, my son. Will you go, then, to the fair lady’s bower?”

“No. I am a man and do not wish to be a lady. Neither will I have my head shaved to go and live with priests.”

“What, then? Do you choose the poor peasant? You will have a hard life and scanty fare, Rai-Taro.”

I said, “They have no children. Perhaps they will love me.”

“Go, go in peace,” said my father; “for you have chosen wisely.”

Rai-Taro Son of Thunder, The Good Thunder, Japanese Fairy Tales. Raijin by Revoltech Takeya.