Many hundred years ago there lived an honest old woodcutter and his wife. One fine morning the old man went off to the hills with his billhook, to gather a faggot of sticks, while his wife went down to the river to wash the dirty clothes. When she came to the river, she saw a peach floating down the stream; so she picked it up, and carried it home with her, thinking to give it to her husband to eat when he should come in.
The old man soon came down from the hills, and the good wife set the peach before him, when, just as she was inviting him to eat it, the fruit split in two, and a little puling baby was born into the world. So the old couple took the babe, and brought it up as their own; and, because it had been born in a peach, they called it Momotaro, or Little Peachling.
By degrees Little Peachling grew up to be strong and brave, and at last one day he said to his old foster parents: “I am going to the ogres’ island to carry off the riches that they have stored up there. Pray, then, make me some millet dumplings for my journey.”
As he was journeying on, he fell in with a monkey, who gibbered at him, and said: “Kia! kia! kia! where are you off to, Little Peachling?”
“I’m going to the ogres’ island, to carry off their treasure,” answered Little Peachling.
“What are you carrying at your girdle?”
“I’m carrying the very best millet dumplings in all Japan.”
“If you’ll give me one, I will go with you,” said the monkey.
So Little Peachling gave one of his dumplings to the monkey, who received it and followed him. When he had gone a little further, he heard a pheasant calling: “Ken! ken! ken! where are you off to, Master Peachling?”
Little Peachling answered as before; and the pheasant, having begged and obtained a millet dumpling, entered his service, and followed him.
A little while after this, they met a dog, who cried: “Bow! wow! wow! whither away, Master Peachling?”
“I’m going off to the ogres’ island, to carry off their treasure.”
“If you will give me one of those nice millet dumplings of yours, I will go with you,” said the dog.
“With all my heart,” said Little Peachling. So he went on his way, with the monkey, the pheasant, and the dog following after him.
When they got to the ogres’ island, the pheasant flew over the castle gate, and the monkey clambered over the castle wall, while Little Peachling, leading the dog, forced in the gate, and got into the castle. Then they did battle with the ogres, and put them to flight, and took their king prisoner. So all the ogres did homage to Little Peachling, and brought out the treasures which they had laid up. There were caps and coats that made their wearers invisible, jewels which governed the ebb and flow of the tide, coral, musk, emeralds, amber, and tortoise shell, besides gold and silver. All these were laid before Little Peachling by the conquered ogres.
So Little Peachling went home laden with riches, and maintained his foster parents in peace and plenty for the remainder of their lives.
This charming story teaches the importance of parents in Japanese society. Little Peachling set out on a dangerous journey in order to take care of his aging parents. He had little thought of collecting the wealth for himself. In fact, he was generous with his only possession: millet dumplings. His generosity collected him a monkey, a pheasant, and a dog. They followed him out because of his selflessness and allowed him to fight the ogres and win.
Little Peachling even took the king of the ogres prisoner. All the other ogres paid him homage, but instead of staying and ruling as the new king of the ogres, he returned home to make sure his foster parents would be taken care of for the rest of their lives.
Momotaro is one of Japan’s most well known stories. Momotaro is considered a good role model for boys: he is kind, generous, and strong enough to fight against demons (or ogres). He also takes care of his parents and respects them. Other stories of Momotaro have him traveling to Onigashima (ghost island) upon request by people being tormented by demons. He only uses his abilities to protect people. He reminds me of Superman in many ways because of his character.
A. B. Mitford, Tales of Old Japan, (London: Macmillan, 1871), vol. 1, pp. 267-269.
Momotaro. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momotar%C5%8D
Momotaro. Project Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33051/33051-h/33051-h.htm