Disclaimer: I wrote this story as part of a class project we had on Japan

Disclaimer: I wrote this story as part of a class project we had on Japan. We drew lots for the assignments, and whereas my teammates had to do stuff like population and geography, I got to "write a story in keeping with local folklore". I read a whole bunch of Japanese fairy tales for this project, and while I may have incorporated some elements from there into it, the story is original. It's a new traditional fairy tale J .

The Gift of the Air Spirits

Trent Roman

Many centuries ago, an old and humble fisherman by the name of Acuri lived on the small island of Tishubi, near the larger Japanese islands. He lived with his wife in a small straw hut that he had built with his own two hands in a secluded village. He lived of his fishing, but would occasionally go into the village's marketplace to sell his fished in order to buy meat and vegetables.

One fine day, as the fisherman was out on the waters in his small wooden boat, he spotted a bird that was thrashing near the surface of the sea. Because Acuri was a good man, he decided to save the bird. He threw his net of tight rope knots over the bird and brought it into his boat. Once the bird was released from the netting, it explained to Acuri that what the fisherman had just seen was a battle between the spirits of the air and the spirits of the sea. Thanks to Acuri's timely intervention, the spirits of the air had won. To thank the old fisherman, the bird handed him a small, carved locket. The locket, the bird had told him, had the power to turn however wore it into the noble prince of the airs: the falcon. But the bird warned him to be careful, because the locket could only be used once. Then it flapped its wings and flew away.

The fisherman returned to his home right away, and put the locket in a small chest that he locked. Acuri's wife, Moisha, was very jealous and possessive, and when she saw that the chest was locked, she immediately wanted to know what was in it. So she fixed up a wonderful supper for her husband, and complimented him greatly on the quality of this day's catches. Then, as he drifted off towards sleep, she asked him what was hidden in the chest.

Acuri was an honest man, and did not wish to hide anything from his wife. So he opened the chest in front of her. She found the little locket to be quite striking. She immediately wanted to put it on, too see if she would be able to make the other women in the village jealous with it. But Acuri told her that she must never touch the locket because it had the power to turn a man into a bird, and that power could only be used once. So she put the locket back in the chest and they went to bed.

Many weeks passed, and the locket remained in its chest. Acuri would think about it often as he fished, but found that he never had any use for it, because he was content with what he had. But Moisha found herself bothered by the fact that such a lovely locket had to stay at the bottom of a dusty old chest. She wanted to parade in it in front of the whole village, or sell it at a merchant's stall for a price of gold. With every passing day she spent more time in front of the open chest, gazing at the locket.

One day, while she was doing the groceries in the market she overhead two of the village's women talking in low voices. One told the other that her husband had discovered a rich vein of gold in the foothills of the mountain in the center of their small island. The other woman pressed the first for more information, but she had to confess that only the husband knew the exact location of the precious mineral.

Moisha returned home, groceries forgotten. She thought that this situation was the perfect opportunity for her to use the locket. She took it out of the chest and slipped it around her neck. Suddenly, the locket sunk into her skin. Her fingers changed into claws. Her arms and back became covered in feathers. Her nose and mouth stretched out to become a beak. In little time, she had turned into a falcon.

From the window, she launched herself into the airs. Since this was her first time flying, she made several attempts and training acrobatics before tentatively heading towards the mountain. After a few minutes of flight, he came upon the man who had found the gold. He had built a small tent for himself at the base of the exposed vein. Moisha waited until he had left to go hunt before descending.

Near the vein, she realized that she could not change back into her human form to take the gold. So, she used her sharpened beak to break off several pieces of gold from the mass. She took them in her beak, and took off for the village. But the man to whom the gold belongs to saw the falcon, and decided to shot her down to eat as supper. He sent up an arrow she flew straight into the feathers of the bird's soft underbelly, and Moisha tumbled down. But no matter how hard the man looked, he was unable to find the body.

When Acuri returned from his day of fishing, he found his wife to be absent. When he saw that the chest was empty and the locket was no longer in it, he concluded that she must have used it. For several days, Acuri searched the forest for either his wife or a falcon. When he finally found her, she was dead, an arrow piercing her chest, and several nuggets of gold clutched in her hands. After saying his good-byes to his wife, Acuri returned to the village with the nuggets, where the gold ensured that he would live out the remainder of his life in happiness.