A Tale from Japan
As retold by Alton Chung
“Once upon a time there was a very kind old man and his wife living in a certain village. Next door to them lived a very mean old man and his wife. The kind old couple had a little white dog named Shiro. They loved Shiro very much and always gave him good things to eat. But the mean old man hated dogs, and every time he saw Shiro he threw stones at him.
One day Shiro began barking very loudly out in the farmyard. The kind old man went out to see what was the matter. Shiro kept barking and barking and began digging in the ground. “Oh, you want me to help you dig?” asked the kind old man. So he brought out a spade and began digging. Suddenly his spade hit something hard. He kept digging and found a large pot full of many pieces of gold money. Then he thanked Shiro very much for leading him to so much gold, and took the money to his house.
Now the mean old man had been peeping and had seen all of this. He wanted some gold, too. So the next day, he asked the kind old man if he could borrow Shiro for a while. “Why, of course you may borrow Shiro, if he’ll be of any help to you,” said the kind old man.
The mean old man took Shiro to his house and out into his field. “Now find me some gold, too,” he ordered the dog, “or I’ll beat you.” So Shiro began digging at a certain spot. Then the mean old man tied Shiro up and began digging himself. But all he found in the hole was some terrible smelling garbage-no gold at all. This made him so angry that he hit Shiro over the head with his spade and killed him.
The kind old man and woman were very sad about Shiro. They buried him in their field and planted a little pine tree over his grave. And every day they went to Shiro’s grave and watered the pine tree very carefully. The tree began to grow very fast and in only a few years it became very big. The kind old woman said, “Remember how Shiro used to love to eat rice-cakes? Let’s cut down that big pine tree and make a mortar. Then with the mortar we’ll make some rice-cakes in memory of Shiro…”
To continue reading this story on the wonderful Spirit of Trees website, click here.
Photo credit: Tim Evanson