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Sakura-ko, Flower of the Cherry

People say I am the most beautiful dancer in Yedo. My father was a samurai, but after he died, my mother and I had no food to eat, so I sold myself into bondage. The money that bought me is called Namida no Kané, which means “the money of tears.” I dwell in the narrow...

Iron Sandals

We're a tough pair! We are made of iron and forged in fire. We have been made to slog through every kind of terrain. We have been scoured by desert sand and scraped by mountains of flint. We have been frozen on ice and scorched in the lava flows. We were worn by a...

Doctor Upon Whom Everyone Depends

I never make house calls. I can afford to stay home and see my patients here. The only exception I ever made was for a king who offered me a great sum of money to come to his court. A thorn in his foot had become infected. I told him the wound could not be healed, not...

Count in Hiding

Under the light of a full moon, I could see the old woman coming down to the well. The light from the orb of the moon over the mountain was so bright that you could have found a needle in the grass. I watched from the tree as the old woman knelt before the well. She...

Ancient Oak

I am hundreds of years old, and so gnarled and twisted that you will think I am monstrous. I am not a monster, but there is a demon under my tree roots. He is trapped in a bottle, and whenever someone approaches, he starts crying, "Let me out! Let me out!" He'll...

King of the Golden Mountain

I found a huge, coiled snake in the most remote room of an enchanted castle. The snake spoke and said, "Have you come, oh, my deliverer?" She was a maiden, rejoicing to see me. "I have waited twelve years for you," she said. "My kingdom is bewitched, and you must set...

Tired Old Griffin

I live by the Red Sea, and I've had a peaceful life over the last couple of centuries. Recently, however, my peace has been disturbed by a battle that has been raging between a lion and a dragon. They are royals, of course. The lion is a prince, and the dragon is a...

Peter the Hermit

The queen found me in my forest hut. She and her two little sons came to live with me, and, before long, she found my blood-stained shirts. I knew she would. She scrubbed them until they were white again and hung them out to dry. Now she wants to know why I come home...

Swallow Freezing to Death

Winter has come and I've stayed too long. I'm freezing to death in the cornfield, but I can't leave the tiny maiden. I'm pleading with her. "Don't stay underground with the mice and the moles. Fly with me to the flowers and the sun. That's where you belong. Come on,...

Wounded Lion

In my human form I am not as vulnerable as I am in my animal form. When I go out in the morning as a lion, I get wounded. The attacks have become more serious, and now this wound is too deep to be healed. I must not forget that my injuries have been tended before, and...

Bloody Knife

My blade shines brightly as long as everything is going well for the ones who keep me. However, if something happens to any one of them, my blade will run with blood. I am not just made of steel, you see. If my relations suffer, I bleed. The Bloody Knife in The Water...

Gon the Cat

I have fur as soft and shiny as silk, and green eyes. I can see in the dark. I once belonged to a music teacher who loved me, but she did not love me enough to let me go and live with Koma, the cat I adore. Now Koma and I have been separated for a long time, and I...

Udea

I approached the terrifying man-eater who crouched before the fire. "Peace be with you, grandfather," I said, and then I asked him for a burning coal. I had to ask. I had no choice. My own fire had gone out. "Do you want a big lump or a little lump?" he asked. "Why,...

Nightingale

No, please, your Majesty, do not tie your golden slipper around my neck to commend me for my performance. The tears that I see in your eyes when I am singing are the only reward I would ever wish to receive! Do you not understand the weight of your praise around my...

Beaten-Up Irishman

Some thanks I get! After three horrific nights in the castle, I broke the spell on the princess, and woke everybody up. Many of the men had been asleep for over a decade. I gave them a meal, filled their pockets with silver and gold, and watched them leave. When I...

Bobino

My father, who is a rich merchant, sent me off to learn from a great master who could teach me foreign languages. I spent quite a few years with him, and now I've returned home. My father is not proud of me. He's furious because I've learned the language of the birds...

Labyrinth of Despair

Woe to those who pass the dragons at my gate and come into this desolate wood! Here, human hands reach out of the ground, and miserable people roam the cypress wood. They have cords tied around their necks, and when they meet, they become attached and fall to the...

Crab Prince

I meet my twelve friends in an underground palace, and we dine together at a long table. Then we raise a glass, and we each make a toast to the health of our mothers and fathers. When I raise my glass, I make a different kind of toast. A health to my dearest lady....

Youngest Swan Brother

After we had been turned into swans, our only hope was our sister. Only she could break the spell. She would have to make shirts for the six of us--spin the thread from the asters in the forest, weave the thread into cloth, and sew the cloth into shirts--all without...

Old Jam Seller

Good jam to sell! Good jam to sell! To hell with the jam. I'm too old for this. My knees hurt and my back hurts, and besides that, I'm furious. I just climbed three flights of stairs with my heavy basket to reach a tailor who called me from his window. Once I got up...

Jealous King

My messenger returned saying that the princess had refused to marry me. Then my dearest friend declared that if I had sent him to woo her instead of the messenger, he would have won her heart. How dare he! I was so angry that I threw him in prison, and by God, I made...