Long,long ago, there lived a man in the province of Shinsyu in Central Japan, who earned his living by showing off around a monkey and other animal’s tricks.
One evening, the man came home in a very bad temper and told his wife to send the monkey to the butcher the next morning.
The wife was very bewildered and asked her husband,
“Why do you wish me to sell him to the butcher?”
“The monkey is too old and forgets his tricks. I beat him with my stick, but he does not dance properly. I must now sell him to the butcher.”
The wife felt very sorry for the poor little animal, and pleaded for her husband to spare the monkey, but her pleading was all in vain, the man was determined to sell him to the butcher.
Now the monkey was in the next room and overheard every word of their conversation.
He soon understood that he was to be killed,and he said to himself,
“Barbarous,indeed,is my master! Here I have served him faithfully for years, and instead of allowing me to end my days comfortably and in peace, he is going to let the butcher kill me, and my poor body is to be roasted and stewed and eaten. Woe is me! What am I to do? he thought for a while.”
“Ah! a bright idea has struck me! There is, I know, a wild boar living in the forest nearby. I have often heard of his wisdom. Perhaps if I go to him and tell him the story I am in, he will give me his counsel. I will go and try.”
There was no time to lose. The monkey slipped out of the house and ran as quickly as possible to the forest to find the boar.
Fortunately the boar was at home and the monkey began his tale of woe at once.
“Mr.Boar. I have heard of your excellent wisdom. I am in great trouble. You alone can help me. I have grown old for the service of my master, and because I can’t dance properly now, he intends to sell me to the butcher. What do you advise me to do? I know how clever you are!”
The boar was pleased at the flattery and determined to help the monkey.
He thought for a little while and said:
“Doesn’t your master have a baby?”
“Oh,yes. He has one infant son.”
“Doesn’t your mistress let the baby lie by the door in the morning when she begins the work of the day?”
“Yes, she does.”
“Well,I’ll wait for a good chance and seize the child and run off with it.”
“Then?” said the monkey.
“The mother will be in tremendous scare, and before your master and mistress know what to do,you must run after me and rescue the child and take it home safely to its pa rents,and you will see that when the butcher comes, they won’t have the heart to see you butchered.”
The monkey thanked the boar many times and went home.
He did not sleep much that night.
His life depended on whether the boar’s plan succeeded or not.
He got up first, waiting anxiously for what was to happen.
It seemed to him a very long time before his master’s wife began to move about and open the shutters to let in the light of day.
The mother placed her child near the porch as usual while she tidied up the house and got the breakfast ready.
The child was crooning happily in the morning sunlight, dabbing on the mats at the play of light and shadow.
Suddenly there was a noise in the porch and a loud cry from the child.
The mother ran out from the kitchen to the spot and saw the boar disappearing through the gate with her child in its arms.
She cried desperately and rushed into the inner room where her husband was still sleeping soundly.
He sat up slowly and rubbed his eyes, and crossly asked why his wife was so noisy.
Her husband at once was aware of what had happened, and they both got outside the gate, the boar had got well away, but they saw the monkey running after the thief as hard as his legs would carry him.
Both the man and wife were moved with admiration at the courageous conduct of the clever monkey, and they were beside themselves with joy when the faithful monkey brought the child safely back to their arms.
“There” said the wife.
“This is the animal you want to kill. If the monkey hadn’t been here, we would have lost our child forever.”
“You are right, wife, for once,” said the man as he carried the child into the house.
“You may let the butcher go back when he comes, and now give us all a good breakfast and to the monkey too.”
When the butcher arrived, he was driven back with the order for some boar’s meat for the evening dinner, and the monkey was petted and lived the rest of his days in peace.
His master never struck him again.