The Monkey-Crab War
The Monkey-Crab War
Once upon a time a kind crab was walking along sideways when she found a delicious rice ball. She picked it up with her large pincer to take home to her family. A monkey perched high on top of a persimmon tree spotted the crab. He wanted her rice ball, even though he was full from the meal of persimmons he'd just finished.
“Hello!” the monkey called, “Do you want to trade your rice ball for a persimmon?”
“Okay,” the crab replied.
Well, this is almost too easy, thought the monkey. So, he said, “I'm almost out of persimmons. Will you take a persimmon seed instead?”
“Sure,” the crab replied.
The monkey slid down the tree and picked off a persimmon seed that was stuck in his fur. He dropped it in front of the crab, stuffed her rice ball greedily in his mouth, and then ran to sit on a rock to sun himself.
“Thank you, Saru-don,” the crab called to him. She took the seed back to her hole and planted it. Every day the crab tended the seed and before long a sprout popped up, and it quickly grew.
Some time later, when the sprout had become a tree and was covered with blossoms, a bee pollinated them. When the blossoms fell, they left behind the start of fruit that grew into shiny green balls, and by late fall many of them had become delicious orange persimmons.
The crab realized she had a problem — the fruit was far beyond the reach of her pincers. She was too short! Just then, the monkey came by.
“Saru-don, Saru-don,” the crab called. “Do you remember the seed you traded for a rice ball? It's grown now, and the fruit is ripe. Will you help me pick some?”
The monkey scampered up the tree, and stuffed a juicy orange persimmon in his mouth. “Almost ready,” he called down, and stuffed in two more. “These aren't too bad,” he said as he moved up to the next branch, “delicious, in fact.”
As the monkey continued to eat one persimmon after another, the crab called up to him, “Saru-don, please save me one!”
“Don't nag so much,” the monkey growled. He plucked a hard, green persimmon and threw it down so hard that it cracked the poor crab's shell.
The bee found the crab at the foot of the persimmon tree. He helped her back to her home and then flew off to find the rice-flour mortar.
“Usu-don, Usu-don! The monkey has injured the crab!” the bee said.
The mortar, cut from a tree stump years before, rolled out of the kitchen. They hurried back to the crab's home, but on the way they met the chestnut.
“Kuri-don, Kuri-don!” the mortar said. “The monkey has injured the crab!”
When the three friends arrived, the crab told them the whole story. The mortar advised her not to worry, and the friends devised a plan.
“This monkey is a real threat, Usu-don,” the chestnut said. “Someone has to do something.”
“There is no one to do it but us, Kuri-don,” the mortar replied.
The bee flew off a little before dawn, leaving the others to watch over the crab. He returned late in the morning and reported that the monkey was out taking a walk and swinging through trees. The three left the crab in the care of her three sons and hurried to the monkey's home.
“I'll wait here in the back of the fire pit,” the chestnut said. “Perhaps you could wait in the water barrel, Hachi-don.”
The bee flew into the water barrel, and the mortar went up into the eaves.
Finally, late in the afternoon, the monkey returned. He puffed on the coals in the fire pit until they began to glow. The chestnut found himself growing hotter and hotter as he thought about the monkey's rude manner. Finally he burst with rage and flew out of the fire pit, striking the monkey in the eye with tremendous force and great heat.
In agony, the monkey leaped to the water barrel. Once he removed the lid, the bee stung his nose. The monkey rushed to the door to escape. Just then, the heavy mortar dropped from the eaves and pinned the monkey to the dirt floor. They remained there while the chestnut explained how angry everyone was about the monkey's wild deeds.
In the end, the monkey went with the others back to the crab's home. They stopped by the persimmon tree, and the monkey, accompanied by the bee, climbed up and selected four shiny, ripe, orange persimmons.
Once inside the crab's home, the monkey pushed the fruit forward and apologized. “Kani-san, I'm sorry for being so rude and nasty to you. I won't do it again.”
The monkey was true to his word. After that, the monkey visited the crab often. He helped to pick persimmons, and he helped protect the crab and her family from other rude characters, such as he himself had once been!