Many things are considered lucky. Four leaf clovers are considered lucky, even though they don't really serve much purpose for humans. Horseshoes are considered lucky, and many people hang them above doorways, even though they could fall and cause serious injury if someone were underneath them. Old and dirty pennies found in parking lots are considered lucky, even though pennies are hardly worth much at all.
In a not so far away land called Nippon, bees are considered lucky, even though they sting people. Some of you are objecting right now because you have never heard of a place called Nippon. Actually, you have, you are just used to it being called a different name than Nippon. That name is Japan. Some of you are now pointing out that despite what I said earlier, Japan is in fact quite far away. Those of you should be quiet and listen.
Anyway, this is not so much a story of bees as it is the story of a man. Some of you (likely those who questioned Nippon and its location) will want to know his name. You are causing me a great deal of embarrassment. I actually do not know his name. But that doesn't matter. Since he had a wife, we will call him "the husband".
Every day the husband and his friend (who also did not have a name) would go to the hills to gather cedar brush to sell for firewood. One day, they got tired and decided to take a nap. It isn't good to sleep on the job, but since they were self-employed, they knew they would not get fired. However, if I were to get caught sleeping while I write this…bbzzzzzzzzz…what? No, I was not asleep! I was just describing the sound the friend heard in his sleep.
The reason he would hear a sound like bbzzzzzzzzz is because he dreamt that bees were flying out of his nose. Look, I didn't make the story up, I just wrote it down. If you ever dream of bees flying out your nose, you are either very lucky or about to wake up screaming. But the friend did not wake up screaming. Instead, he decided to follow the dream bees and see where they lead to. He followed them to the home and into the garden of the richest man in all of Nippon. It is not wise to venture into someone's garden without permission (preferably the permission of the person who owns the garden) unless you are in a dream. Anyway, he saw that the bees were flying around a camellia tree and into a hole in the ground. He followed them around the tree and into the hole…and then woke up.
This is often how dreams work. Just as you reach the interesting part, you wake up. But he decided that he would share his dream with his friend.
After hearing the dream, the husband told the friend that when you dreamt of a bee flying out your nose, it was good luck, and that he should follow the bees and find the house of the rich man. One must wonder where the husband got this idea. I once had a dream about purple flying monkeys changing the tires of a car under the Eiffel Tower, but you didn't see me going to France with a car looking for monkeys. Apparently, the friend thought the same way, because he told the husband he was nuts. But people stick to their ideas, and the husband insisted he would buy the dream.
I am not exactly sure how to buy a dream, so all I can tell you is that the husband came home with a dream and less gold. Actually, he was hardly home at all, because he was so eager to start his journey. He was only home long enough for his wife to tell him he was nuts before he packed and left.
He wandered for hours until he was all alone on a trail in the forest. Then he stopped to have lunch and ponder about the fact that he didn't know which way he was going. It was then that he noticed a small band of travelers coming down the road towards him. Glad to have some company, he decided to grab their attention and ask them which way to go.
If you are all alone in the forest, the last thing you want to encounter is a band of robbers posing as a band of travelers. Of course, this idea never occurred to the husband as he jumped up and down on the side of the road. It was at the back of his mind as the band of travelers stopped to talk to him. It was halfway through his mind as he asked them which way to go. In any case, it had definitely occurred to him by the time they pulled their knifes out and demanded money.
The husband did the only thing he could think of. Since he had no money on him, he instead pointed over the shoulders of the robbers, and when they turned to look, took off running. He ran and ran and ran until at last he found himself at the top of a mountain. When he glanced far below, he could see the robbers running through the forest after him. He had a comfortable head start, though.
Unfortunately, things did not get much better. Not only was he still all alone, but it began to rain. At first it was actually pleasant, just a light drizzle. But then it became a downpour with howling winds. Of course, it slowed down his pursuers, but it also slowed him down, since the rock at the top of the mountain was slippery and wet. Then the lightning started.
The higher up you are, the more likely you are to be struck by lightning. By this time, the husband's situation had gone from bad to worse. He was all alone on slippery footing several thousand feet in the air in the midst of a raging storm with a band of robbers chasing after him. In this situation, the only thing any mortal could do is find shelter from the storm and a hiding place from the robbers. It was not long before he decided on a cave hidden between two large boulders.
The husband was at last comfortable again. He was safe from the rain and robbers. Not only that, but the surface of the dark cave was soft, warm, and fuzzy. He decided that this would be and ideal place for a nap.
A cave, as I'm sure you know, should never be soft, warm, and fuzzy. Of course, he soon found out he was not laying on the floor of a cave. He was lying on top of a large, hungry bear with a grudge against humans. The bear roared loudly and attempted to pitch him off, but the husband bravely held on. Actually, he wasn't being brave. It was the only thing he could think to do. The bear became very upset and ran outside the cave at top speed, bowling the robbers over, still trying to shake off the poor husband.
It was at the point that the bear decided to stop that the husband's situation went from worse to awful. You see, the bear decided it was going to stop right at the edge of a massive cliff (which was good for it, but bad for the husband). The husband let go and, still clutching his basket of food and drink, fell hundreds of feet over the edge of the cliff. But instead of meeting his end at the sharp rocks at the bottom of the cliff, the husband was caught by a large bird of prey that happened to be swooping overhead.
However, the bird quickly found the husband to be of no interest, and dropped him even further down a muddy hill. The husband found himself bouncing along quite rapidly and curled himself up into a ball. He rolled faster and faster and faster until at last he came flying out over an even surface until he smashed into a gate.
The husband stood up carefully and dusted himself off. Then he surveyed the gate he had crashed into. It was dark now, but the husband could still see that the gate belonged to a massive home. The massive home, he thought, surely must belong to the richest man in all of Nippon!
As it turned out, the husband got lucky. The richest man in all of Nippon (who also did not have a name, so we will call him "the rich man" ) had heard the noise and was coming out at that very second.
After hearing the husband's story, the rich man decided there must be some truth to it. Unfortunately, the rich man was not very honest. He treated the husband quite generously to some hot food and a bath and a futon - a Japanese bed - upon which to sleep.
While the husband was sleeping, the rich man called his servant to him. He gave the servant a shovel and ordered him to go out and dig underneath the camellia tree. So the servant ventured out and dug. And he dug. And he dug some more. At last, he discovered an earthen jar. Very excited, he unscrewed the lid and discovered…gold! Lots and lots of gold! So he took the gold back to his master, who took the gold and told him to bury the jar out in the garden again.
Meanwhile, the husband's wife was lying down to sleep on her own futon. She was a little concerned that her husband had not come back yet, but she figured he was probably off playing and pretending to have found treasure somewhere. As she fell asleep, she felt a very curious sensation around her nose. And then came a sound that has been heard in this story before. That sound is bbzzzzzzzzz. She, too, was dreaming of bees flying out her nose! She was very curious as to how the bees had gotten in, so she followed them until she found that they were coming from a small hole in the tatami (a Japanese floor mat). But there was no hole in the floor - was there?
Then she woke up. Seeing that her husband was not back yet, she decided to go looking for the hole in the floor. And, sure enough, there it was! She stunk her pinky in the hole, pulled, yanked, and tugged until up came a secret trapdoor! So she climbed down inside…
Well, we'll find out what she found later. Right now we must go back to the husband, who was just waking up. The rich man handed him a shovel and invited him to go dig in the garden. So the husband dug. And he dug. And he dug some more. At last he found the earthen jar. So he very carefully unscrewed the lid and found…gold! Lots and lots of gold! Except that the gold was moving. And making a strange sound. Why on earth, he thought, would gold be going bbzzzzzzzzz? And then he realized that it was actually a swarm of bees. The husband dropped the jar and ran for his life away from the bees, only stopping briefly to thank the rich man for his hospitality.
The husband ran and ran and ran from the bees until at last he found the cliff he had fallen down. He began to climb as fast as he could. Oh well, he thought. At least it isn't raining. No sooner had he thought that then it began raining just as bad as the night before. And the wind moaned and howled as the rain soaked him to the bone. A freak gust of wind blew him off the cliff. He flew up on the draft…up…up…up…until he was dodging lightning bolts in the sky. Then the wind let go of him and he fell down…down…down…until he landed with a soft plop on a very familiar soft, fuzzy lump.
When someone talks about lightning striking twice, they are generally referring to something highly unusual happening twice. Thus it may be said that lightning struck twice when the husband encountered the exact same bear in the exact same spot. And maybe it struck three times when the bear chased him into a camp that belonged to the very same band of robbers.
Just as he was about to make his escape from the robbers, another freak gust of wind blew them all down the hill again. They tumbled apart from each other until the husband was traveling on his own, tumbling down the rough, rocky hillside. Fortunately, he built up enough momentum that when the hill ended, he rolled straight to his front door. Dejected, he went to find his wife.
Before he could even begin his story, his wife dragged him off to some corner of the house and showed him a hole in the floor he had never seen before. Now he was very upset. Not only had he encountered trouble and difficulties, he would now have to pay to get his floor fixed! But he did not remain in sour spirits for long. When his wife jumped down the hole, he decided that he would try and jump down as well. And when he did, he discovered… books! Lots and lots of books. And along with those books was lots and lots of gold! Thus they became not just the richest, but also the wisest people in all of Nippon.
And in light of that, it may be said that perhaps bees are very lucky indeed.
~ The End
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About the Story
@ Your Library
Look for more Japanese folktales at your library. Look in the 398 section if your library uses the Dewey Decimal System.
- The Bee and The Dream adapted by Jan Freeman Long, illustrated by Kaoru On
- Urashima Taro
- The Fisher Lad
- The Adventures of Kintaro
- The Golden Boy
- The Story of Princess Hase
- The Bamboo Cutter and the Moon-Child
- Momotaro - Podcast direct download: Momotaro.mp3