The Story Spirits

Long ago, in a land near Japan called Korea, a rich husband and wife lived in a beautiful house with many rooms. Their one child, a boy, was so fond of stories that a man-servant told him a new one at bedtime every day.

Most of these were about ghostly foxes and tigers, who were terrible, and dragons and fairies, who were good.

An old leather bag hung on a nail in the corner of the rich boy’s room. The mouth of this bag was tightly tied with string, and it turned there year after year, entirely forgotten.

Every time a new story was told, the ghostly spirits from the story had to go into the bag. Because the boy was selfish and would never tell stories to anybody, the poor story spirits could never get out.

The story spirits had no room to move or breathe because the bag was full. The magic foxes and tigers who could turn themselves into people got angrier and angrier.

The boy’s parents died, and he grew into a man, but still, he had a story told to him every night. At last, the time came for him to marry, and his uncle found him a pretty wife.

The old servant heard whispering from the boy’s room the morning before the wedding. His young master was out with friends, and nobody else was there. “Who can be whispering and talking?” he thought. He crept closer and listened.

“We’ve been cramped up in the dark here for years, “the grumpy voice said. “It’s time we had our revenge.”

The servant went outside and peeped into the room through a window. The voices seemed to come from the old leather bag. It was swaying, and its sides were moving as if there was something alive inside.

“When he is riding on horseback to the bride’s house, he’ll get thirsty,” said a voice. “I’ll change into a well by the roadside with a drinking cup already on it. If he drinks, he’ll get very ill. “

There was a laugh, and another voice said, “If he doesn’t drink, I’ll be a field of poisonous strawberries..”

A squeaky voice said, “I know that when a bridegroom gets to the bride’s house, a big sack of rice husks is put on the ground. This makes it easy for him to get down from his horse. I’ll turn myself into a red hot poker, hide in the sack, and burn his foot.”

Then a deep voice said, “I’m going to be a snake hiding under the mat in the bedroom. If you all fail, I shall come out when everyone is asleep and bite him, “

All the voices called out, Agreed!” Then there was silence.

The old servant was shocked and sat on the mountainside to think about what to do. Nobody would believe him, so he decided to say nothing.

The following day, the wedding procession was ready. The servant saw a beautifully saddled horse for the bridegroom and another with red tassels for the uncle. There was a carriage with a crimson hood for the bride. In the end, was the uncle on his horse.

“Let me lead the young master’s horse,” pleaded the servant. The uncle agreed, and off they set.

After a while, the bridegroom said, “Here is a well of clear water with a cup floating on it. Fetch me a drink. “

“No, Sir,” the old servant shook his head. “We shall be late if we stop.” So, they were past the first danger.

A little later, the young man said, “Here is a field of strawberries. Pick me a few, will you?”

But the servant led the horse on faster. “They would be bad for you,” he said.

This made the uncle angry, and he rode up to the servant shouting, “How dare you disobey the young master? After the wedding, you will be punished. “

Still, the servant would not stop, and the second danger was passed. Many guests were waiting at the bride’s house when they arrived, and a great feast was ready. Two attendants ran forward with a sack of rice husks for the bridegroom to step on from his horse.

To everybody’s surprise, the old servant snatched the sack away so quickly that the young man lost his balance and fell. The uncle was furious and decided to punish the servant severely.

After the wedding ceremony and the wonderful feast, it was time for bed. No sooner were the bride and groom alone than the old servant rushed into their room with a sword in his hand.

Taking no notice of the bride’s screams, he pulled back the mat. Sure enough, under, there was a snake. The old servant cut the poisonous creature in pieces with a tremendous blow from his sword. The last danger was over.

“How did you know there was a poisonous snake under this mat?” the bridegroom asked with a gasp.

The servant felt he would be believed now, so he told him how he had heard the story- spirits plotting revenge for being shut up in the old leather bag.

“The story spirits cannot get out unless you tell the stories to others,” said the servant. “It is lucky that I heard them and could help you.”

When the bridegroom knew how the servant had saved him, he thanked him from the bottom of his heart and rewarded him.

“I am to blame,” he said. “From now on, I will tell stories to all who ask for them so that no story spirits shall ever again suffer from being crowded up in an old leather bag.”

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