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The Story Of The Picture On The Vase

Source: The Book Of Nature Myths

On some of the beautiful vases that are made in Japan there is a picture
of a goddess changing a dragon into an island. When the children of
Japan say, "Mother, tell us a story about the picture," this is what the
mother says:--

"Long, long ago there was a goddess of the sea who loved the people of
Japan. She often came out of the water at sunset, and while all the
bright colors were in the sky, she would sit on a high rock that
overlooked the water and tell stories to the children. Such wonderful
stories as they were! She used to tell them all about the strange fishes
that swim in and out among the rocks and the mosses, and about the fair
maidens that live deep down in the sea far under the waves. The children
would ask, 'Are there no children in the sea? Why do they never come out
to play with us?' The goddess would answer, 'Some time they will come,
if you only keep on wishing for them. What children really wish for they
will surely have some day.'

"Then the goddess would sing to the children, and her voice was so sweet
that the evening star would stand still in the sky to listen to her
song. 'Please show us how the water rises and falls,' the children would
beg, and she would hold up a magic stone that she had and say, 'Water,
rise!' Then the waves would come in faster and faster all about the
rock. When she laid down the stone and said, 'Water, fall!' the waves
would be still, and the water would roll back quickly to the deep sea.
She was goddess of the storm as well as of the sea, and sometimes the
children would say, 'Dear goddess, please make us a storm.' She never
said no to what they asked, and so the rain would fall, the lightning
flare, and the thunder roll. The rain would fall all about them, but the
goddess did not let it come near them. They were never afraid of the
lightning, for it was far above their heads, and they knew that the
goddess would not let it come down.

"Those were happy times, but there is something more to tell that is not
pleasant. One of the goddess's sea-animals was a dragon, that often used
to play in the water near the shore. The children never thought of being
afraid of any of the sea-animals, but one day the cruel dragon seized a
little child in his mouth, and in a moment he had eaten it. There was
sadness over the land of Japan. There were tears and sorrowful wailing.
'O goddess,' the people cried, 'come to us! Punish the wicked dragon!'

"The goddess was angry that one of her creatures should have dared to
harm the little child, and she called aloud, 'Dragon, come to me.' The
dragon came in a moment, for he did not dare to stay away. Then said the
goddess, 'You shall never again play merrily in the water with the
happy sea-animals. You shall be a rocky island. There shall be trees and
plants on you, and before many years have gone, people will no longer
remember that you were once an animal.'

"The dragon found that he could no longer move about as he had done, for
he was changing into rock. Trees and plants grew on his back. He was an
island, and when people looked at it, they said, 'That island was once a
wicked dragon.' The children of the sea and the children of the land
often went to the island, and there they had very happy times together."

This is the story that the mothers tell to their children when they look
at the vases and see the picture of the goddess changing a dragon into
an island. But when the children say, "Mother, where is the island?
Cannot we go to it and play with the sea-children?" the mother answers,
"Oh, this was all a long, long time ago, and no one can tell now where
the island was."

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