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The Enchanted Waterfall

Page 1, Enchanted Waterfalls

In 1885 Takejiro Hasegawa published the first six volumes of his Japanese Fairy Tale Series. He employed American Presbyterian missionary Rev. David Thomson as his translator. This series became quite profitable, which led Hasegawa to add other translators beginning with James Curtis Hepburn for the seventh volume. These books were illustrated by Kobayashi Eitaku until his death in 1890. In 1903, the series had reached twenty-eight volumes in two series.  Most of the stories were based on well-known Japanese folk tales. The fairytale Enchanted Waterfall was produced with ink and color in woodblock and letterpress on crepe paper. 

The fairytale Enchanted Waterfall is about a young woodcutter who lived with his mother and father. He worked diligently to increase his income. The young woodcutter did not have any wants, and was very easily pleased. His mother was always cheerful and contented, but his father was selfish. The young woodcutter wanted to help his parents. One day as the woodcutter was working on the wooded hills, he heard the sound of running water. He had worked in the same exact spot before, but there was no water. The water was smooth and clear. The young woodcutter bent down to taste the water, but when he did, he realized that it was sake. He filled up a container of the sake to give to his poor, old father. His father was overjoyed with his son’s discovery. Neighbors began to find out about the body of water that was filled with sake. When the young woodcutter went to work at the same spot the next day, he saw his neighbors there before him. The neighbors tasted the substance from the stream, and it was water. They were outraged at their discovery.  The young woodcutter hid behind a rock because he did not want the neighbors to see him. After the neighbors had left, the young woodcutter tasted the water again. It was the excellent sake that he had tasted the day before. The Emperor had found out about the good deeds the young woodcutter was doing for his father and rewarded him.  

This story is based on “Ko Wa Shimizu,” a legend that appeared in collections such as Kokon Chomonju, Profane Folktales and Jikkinsho, Folktales. Tales of water turning into milk are found in the Occident, and the tale had a familiar link to Mrs. T.H. James, who translated it into English.

Enchanted Waterfall is essentially about a young man who wanted to provide for his parents. The young man had pure intentions, and had the desire to help other, but specifically his parents. He wanted to give his father something that he loved. The values that the young man represented in the fairy tale, Enchanted Waterfall, were the values of many people in the Japanese culture.

Exhibit Created by: Lauren Braverman and Youyang Wang