Kintaro Or The Wild Baby
Source: Japanese Fairy World
Long, long ago, when the tallest fir trees on the Hakone mountains were
no higher than a rice-stalk, there lived in that part of the range called
Ashigara, a little ruddy boy, whom his mother had named Kintar[=o], or
Golden Darling. He was not like other boys, for having no children to
play with, he made companions of the wild animals of the forest.
He romped with the little bears, and often when the old she bear would
come for her cubs to give them their supper and put them to bed,
Kintar[=o] would jump on her back and have a ride to her cave. He also
put his arms around the neck of the deer, which were not afraid of him.
He was prince of the forest, and the rabbits, wild boars, squirrels and
martens, pheasants and hawks were his servants and messengers.
Although not much more than a fat baby, Kintar[=o] wielded a big axe, and
could chop a snake to pieces before he had time to wriggle.
Kintar[=o]'s father had been a brave soldier in Ki[=o]to, who through the
malice of enemies at court, had fallen into disgrace. He had loved a
beautiful lady whom he married. When her husband died she fled eastward
to the Ashigara mountains, and there in the lonely forests in which no
human being except poor woodcutters ever came, her boy was born.
She lived in a cave, nourishing herself on roots and herbs. The
woodcutters soon learned about the strange pair living wild but
peacefully in the woods, though they did not dream of her noble rank. The
boy was known among them as "Little Wonder," and the woman as "The old
nurse of the mountain."
Thus, all alone, the little fellow grew up, exercising himself daily, so
that even though a child he could easily wrestle with a bear. Among his
retainers were the tengus, though they were often rebellious and
disobedient, not liking to be governed by a boy.
One day, an old mother-tengu, who had always laughed at the idea of
obeying a little dumpling of a fellow like Kintar[=o], flew up to her
nest in a high fir tree. Kintar[=o] watched to see where it was, and
waited till she left it to go and seek for food. Then going up to the
tree, he shook it with all his might, until the nest came tumbling down,
and the two young squabs of tengus with it.
Now it happened that just at that time the great hero and imp-killer,
Raik[=o], was marching through the mountains on his way to Ki[=o]to.
Seeing that the ruddy little fellow was no ordinary child, he found out
the mother and heard her story. He then asked for the child and adopted
him as his own.
So Kintar[=o] went off with Raik[=o] and grew up to be a brave soldier,
and taking his father's name, he was known as Sakata Kintoki. His mother,
however, remained in the mountains, and living to an extreme old age, was
always known as "The old nurse of the mountains."
* * * * *
To this day, Kintaro is the hero of Japanese boys, and on their huge
kites will usually be seen a picture of the little black-eyed ruddy boy
of the mountains, with his axe, while around him are his wild playmates,
and the young tengus rubbing their long noses, which were so nearly
broken by their fall.
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