The Old Man and The Devils
“The Old Man & The Devils” (or Kobutori) is about an old man with a large lump on the right side of his face and his eventul night on a mountain. The man becomes trapped on the mountain during a storm and seeks shelter in a tree. During this time, he hears a group of devils dancing and drinking. To the surprise of the devils, the old man is inspired by the music and thus comes out of the tree and begins to dance! Impressed by his dancing, the devils request he come back, taking his lump as collateral should he not return. He returns to the village lump-free and tells the townsfolk of his adventure. His tale catches the ear of another old man with a large lump on the left side of his face. This man wishes to remove his lump as well and goes to find the devils. Unfortunately, since his intentions are less sincere (and his dancing less skillful), the disappointed devils punish him by giving him the first man’s lump, resulting in one on either side of the second man’s face.
Like many of the books in Hasegawa’s collection, this story is a moralist tale, warning of the dangers of being insincere in one’s actions. This is a theme that has appeared in stories throughout all throughout history from the tales of Aesop to those of the Grimm Brothers. Although the story is Japanese, the ideal itself is universal and has thus appealed to a wide audience. Translated into English, German, and French, as well as infused with ideas many readers could appreciate, this story is a foundational piece of the collection.
Exhibit Created by: Josh Lee and Peter Miner