The Tanuki and the White Snake

Translated from Edo Tokyo Kaii Hyakumonogatari

In front of the gate of Yanaka Ten-O temple, there was a barber named Hokkoshi Junto who was very fond of birds.  Juno kept a great variety of birds, both large and small. But recently, when he went to feed them in the morning, he found that the birds were disappearing one-by-one.  Someone must be stealing his precious birds, Junto thought. So he hid himself in the dark one night to catch the culprit in the act.

But he saw nothing. Well, if there was no human thief, Junto thought, surely this must be the handiwork of some rouge dog or cat.  He resolved to shoot the beast if he ever caught it feeding on his birds.

With this occupying his thoughts, Junto returned home to his bed and lay down to sleep.  No sooner had his head touched his pillow than a beautiful and elegant lady of courtly bearing, no more than twenty years old, appeared before him.  She spoke to Junto.

“I am the White Snake who has lived in the five-storied pagoda in Yanaka Ten-O temple, and protected this district for more than a hundred years.  I have many grandchildren who also live in the temple and protect the people.  But recently a Great Tanuki has come down from Dokan Mountain and taken up residence in the temple.  He has been feasting on my family, on the small white snakes. Soon will come to eat me too.  We have lived here for over a hundred years in peace, and our fear of this Great Tanuki is such that it cannot be expressed.  When all the baby snakes have become his food, and when he has finished with me, there will be no more white snakes in Yanaka Ten-O. “

“Not only my family is in peril. This Great Tanuki has also been gorging himself on the birds that you keep.  He has escaped you unseen and unnoticed.  So I have come to you in your dreams that I may show you your true enemy.  We are helpless, and need the power of humans to rid us of this Great Tanuki.  If you find it difficult to believe what I say, go to the temple graveyard in the morning and you will find the aftermath of your bird-thief.  I beg of you, please hurry and destroy this evil tanuki.”

With that said, Junto opened his eyes and found himself in his own room, alone.

A strange dream indeed, thought Junto, and worth investigating.  The following morning he went with all possible speed to the graveyard of Yanaka Ten-O temple, and found ample evidence of the Great Tanuki’s deeds.  The feathers and bones of his beautiful birds were scattered carelessly about.

The dream was proved true beyond a shadow of a doubt, and Junko gathered the young men of the village to deliver the White Snake’s vengeance. The Great Tanuki was discovered lurking in the temple grounds and destroyed.

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