Friday, September 16, 2016

The Rabbit In The Moon

The Rabbit In The Moon

A Traditional Folktale from Japan



A Note on the Translation: 
I made the Moon-with-rabbit above as a contribution to the birthday present for a friend, and wanted an authentic version of the story of The Rabbit In The Moon to go with it. 
Variations of the story of the Rabbit in the Moon exist in many Asian cultures. In some versions the Old Man of the Moon is replaced by the Jade Emperor (Chinese) or Sankra the God of the Heavens (Indian). In some versions the additional animals change, for example a monkey, an otter and an jackal. A version of the story is included in the  Konjaku Monogatarishū, a collection of Japanese stories from the Helen period. 
As is often the case with historical folk tales and fairy stories, contemporary translations and retellings have often been altered or sanitized to fit better with modern sensibilities and ideals. Despite extensive research, I was not able to find a modern translation of the story which satisfactory captured the original intent. Consequently I have provided a new translation which attempts to better capture the spirit of the earliest Japanese versions of the story.


Long ago in Japan a monkey, a fox and a rabbit all lived together and were best friends.

Now the Old Man in the Moon looked down from the sky and wondered at how kind and gentle the three animals were, and he wondered which of the animals is the kindest. One day he determined to find out, and so he came down to earth and disguised himself as a beggar.

“Please help me,” said the beggar to the three animals, as they gathered around a fire, “for I am very hungry.”

“Certainly we’ll help you,” said the monkey, the fox and the rabbit.

First the Monkey went and gathered all kinds of good fruits and nuts from the trees and laid them at the feet of the beggar. “I can offer you these fruits and nuts,” he said.

Then the fox went and caught a large, tasty fish and laid it and the feet of the beggar. “I can offer you this fish,” he said.

But the rabbit could only gather grass which the beggar could not eat, and had nothing to offer.

When the rabbit’s turn came, the beggar looked at him expectantly, then at the fire, and then back at the rabbit. The fox licked his lips. The monkey started to chatter excitedly.

“No Way! That’s fucking bullshit!” said the rabbit. “Screw you, I’m getting the hell out of here!”

Before the beggar, the monkey or the fox could do anything, the rabbit hopped the the rocket-ship that the beggar had arrived in and took off. (Foolishly the Old Man of the Moon had left the keys in the ignition.) The rabbit flew straight to the moon where he lived for ever afterwards. The Old Man was stranded on earth, and was devoured by wolves a short time later.




Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Armadillo and the Porcupine

Once there was an armadillo named Arnold. He had a shell of tough armoured scales. He had armoured scales on his head and tail. He could also jump very high. He lived in a dark and mysterious forest. There were jaguars who lived in the forest, who liked to sit on tree branches and drop on animals as they walked underneath. But they never dropped on Arnold because they were afraid to bruise their noses on his hard scaly shell.
armadillo.jpg
In the same forest there lived a porcupine named Pieter. He had spikes on his back. Sharp pointy spikes. Lots of sharp pointy spikes. The jaguars didn’t drop on Pieter either.

porcupine.jpg

Now in the forest there was a lake. The animals would come to the lake to drink water. Some would come to have baths. The jaguars would sit in branches of the trees by the lake hoping to drop on the other animals as they went to get a drink of water.

One day Arnold was walking along the trail at edge of the lake when he heard the sound of of crying from a small hole in the bank. He went up close to have a look, and saw a mouse, sitting in the hole and weeping.

“What’s the matter?” asked Arnold in a kindly way. “Why are you crying?”

“I’m crying because I miss my wife and baby,” said the mouse. “They’re trapped in a hole in the bank a little up past that tree, and I can’t reach them because there’s a jaguar in the tree waiting to drop on me.”

Arnold thought a little. “I’m going in that direction along the trail,” he said. “Why don’t you walk underneath me? You’re small enough that the jaguar wouldn’t even see you and he wouldn’t drop on me because of my scaly shell.”

So Arnold continued his walk along by the edge of the lake with the mouse scurrying underneath him.

Now a little further along, Pieter the porcupine was walking along trail by the edge of the lake in the opposite direction, when he heard the sound of crying from another small hole in the bank. He stopped to have a look and saw a mother mouse and her baby hiding in the hole and weeping.

“What’s the matter?” asked the kindly porcupine. “Why are you crying?”

“We’re crying because we miss our daddy mouse,” said the mother mouse. “He’s trapped in a hole in the bank past that tree over there, and we can’t reach him because we’re afraid the jaguar in that tree will drop on us.”

Pieter stopped and thought. “I’m going in that direction along the lake,” he said, “and the jaguar won’t drop on me because of my spikes. Why don’t you come with and walk underneath me.”

So Pieter continued along the bank of the lake, with the mother mouse scurrying along underneath him, carrying her baby.

A little while later Pieter and Arnold passed each other going in the opposite directions. They said “Good morning,” to each other. The jaguar watched from its tree, feeling hungry.

Arnold came to the second hole in the bank. The mouse scurried out from between his legs and into the hole. He cried “Where are they? They’ve gone!”, and put his little head between his paws and sobbed.

“Well, I didn’t see any mice on the way,” said Arnold the armadillo, trying to comfort him “so they must have gone on this way. You wait here and I’ll carry on round the lake to see if I can find them”. The mouse was thanked him profusely as he set out on his way.

Meanwhile Pieter the porcupine had reached the first hole. The mother mouse and her baby ran eagerly into the hole. “He’s not here!” she cried, and the baby started to wail.

“We didn’t see him on the way,” said Pieter sympathetically. “Maybe he went round the lake the other way. I’ll keep going and look for him.” The two mice waved to him gratefully as he set out on his way.

So Arnold the armadillo walked round the lake in one direction, while Pieter walked around in the opposite direction. Eventually they met on the opposite side of the lake.

map.jpg

“Excuse me, but have you seen a mouse?” they both asked at exactly the same time.

“I’m sorry,” they both said, again at the same time.

“I was looking for a mouse,” they both said.

Arnold held up a paw. Pieter paused. Arnold explained about the mouse in the first hole, and how he had helped him reach the second hole, and now was looking for the mother and baby mouse.

When he’d finished, Pieter explained about the mother and baby mice in the second hole, and how he was now looking for the daddy mouse.

Of course they both saw immediately what had happened. They walked around the lake together till they reached the second hole.

The daddy mouse was pacing up and down inside the hole. Arnold and Pieter told him what had happened, and the three of them set off together, with the mouse scurrying beneath Arnold.

At last they reached the first hole again. The daddy mouse raced out from underneath the armadillo and into the arms of the mother mouse, while the baby gurgled happily. The mouse family were overjoyed to be together again.

They offered to share their cheese with Arnold and Pieter who politely refused. (Neither armadillos nor porcupines like to eat cheese.)

Pieter and Arnold walked off together chatting about the adventure they had had, and from that day forth they were always the best of friends.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Wicked What

The Wicked What

A bed-time story for Sophie

© 2016, Anthony Kosky

Once upon a time there was a Wicked What.

Now a Wicked What is a bit like a Wicked Which only even more more wicked and unpleasant.

In fact, this Wicked What was especially bad because she hated it when people mistook her for a Wicked Which. She would travel around the magical kingdom where she lived, and whenever she met someone who would say “Excuse me but are you a Which,” she would turn them into a Newt. Or, if they were already a Newt, she would turn them into an Artichoke, or something even worse.

And wherever she went, she would cast spells to make people grow warts on the end of their noses. Or, for those who already had warts, she would cast spells to make them grow noses on the end of their warts. Either way, it was very Wicked and made people very unhappy.

Now one day she was walking through a forest (as her broomstick was being repaired) when she came to a bridge crossing a shallow stream. Just as she started to cross the bridge an Ugly, Hairy Troll jumped out from underneath and bared her way.

“Who dares to cross my bridge?” said the Ugly, Hairy Troll.

“Out of my way,” said the Wicked What, “or I shall turn you into a troll.”

The Ugly, Hairy Troll gave her an ugly, hairy smile. “I’m already a troll,” he said.

“Very well then,” said the Wicked What, “I’ll turn you into a Handsome Prince,” and she took her wand from her pocket and zapped him.

The troll, who was now a Handsome Prince, looked at his reflection in the stream and screamed. “Waaaaah,” he wailed. “How can I go back to my Ugly, Hairy Troll Wife, and my Ugly, Hairy Troll Children. They’ll scream when they see how un-ugly I’ve become.” And he ran into the forest crying and gnashing his perfect, white teeth together.

Now, a little way away, in the forest there was a clearing, and in that clearing a beautiful Princess was having a picnic. She was singing cheery songs to the birds and little woodland creatures, and eating dainty cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches.

Suddenly the Troll stumbled into the clearing. “Oh, a Handsome Prince,” thought the Princess. “Would you like to join my picnic?” she asked politely.

The Troll (or Handsome Prince) looked startled, but by then he was very hungry so he approached the Princess’ picnic blanket warily and sat down. Of course, though he looked like a handsome prince, he still had the table manners of a troll. So, pretty soon, he was shoveling the cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches into his mouth with both hands at once and chewing noisily with his mouth wide open. Then, when there were no more sandwiches left, he took the elegant cup of tea that the Princess had kindly poured for him, emptied the entire contents of the sugar bowl into the cup, drank it down in a single gulp, and let out a large and exceptionally smelly burp.

“You do seem a little unusual for a prince,” said the Princess politely.

“I’m a troll,” grunted the Troll.

“You don’t look like a troll,” said the Princess. “Though you do rather act like one,” she conceded.

The Troll explained sadly how he’d been transformed.

“It must be that Wicked What causing mischief again,” said the Princess thoughtfully. “I’ve heard about her. I think it’s time to teach her a lesson.” And she set off into the forest looking for the Wicked What.

She spotted her a short while later, trudging along the path through the forest and muttering wicked things to herself. The princes ran ahead and then stepped onto the path in front of the Wicked What just as she rounded a corner.

“Excuse me,” said the princess in her most innocent voice, “but are you a Which?”

“I’m not a Which, I’m a What,” shrieked the Wicked What, “and I’ll turn you into a Newt!”

But, just as the Wicked What drew her wand and sent a blue-green spell fizzling towards the Princess, the Princess took a mirror from behind her back. The spell bounced off the mirror and hit the Wicked What square on the chin.

A bewildered Newt lay on the ground at the Princess’ feet. Before it could collect its thoughts and run away, the Princess picked it up by the tail and dangled it in front of her face. “Oh no,” said the dismayed Newt. “Serves you right,” said the Princess.

“Now,” continued the Princess, “I happen to have with me a de-newting spray from the royal wizard. I might turn you back into a What, if you promise to turn this poor Handsome Prince back into a troll and then leave my kingdom and never bother us again.”

“Or,” said the Princess in a menacing voice, “I could just sit on you.”

The Newt gulped, and promised to do as it was told.

“Pinky promise?” asked the Princess. The Newt nodded again.

So the  Princess took a small aerosol can from her purse. She sprayed the Newt from its nose to the tip of its tail, and took a step backwards. After a few seconds there was a soft hissing noise and the Newt seemed to unfold into a rather sorry-looking What.

The What muttered a spell pointed her wand at the Handsome Prince who had just come out from hiding behind a tree. With a puff of smoke, the Prince transformed back into an Ugly, Hairy Troll.

The Ugly, Hairy Troll was so happy to be returned to his normal form that he tried to give the Princess a hug and a big, slobbery kiss, but she declined politely and the troll of ran off dancing and singing happily to himself.

Then the What reluctantly handed her wand over the princess, shuffled away in a subdued manner, and was never seen again.

THE END

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Mouse and the Moon


© 2015, by Anthony Kosky. All rights reserved.


A long time ago, in a land far away, there lived a small mouse.

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “That’s not a very interesting start to a story. After all there are mice in almost every place on earth, and mice, or their ancestors, have been around for a hundred million years or more1.”

guinevere.jpg

But this mouse was unusual. Her name was Guinevere and she liked cheese.

Of course now you’re probably saying to yourself “But all mice like cheese,” and you’re right. At least most of them do.

But here’s the thing: Guinevere Really Liked Cheese. I mean she really, really, REALLY liked it. Even other mice thought she was pretty fanatical about it. She had a large burrow with many rooms and tunnels, and it was always full of cheese. There was Havarti in the hallways, Chevre in the cellars, Brie in the bedrooms, Compté in the cupboards an Tomme on the tables. And of course there was chedder: chedder was everywhere. Guinevere collected all the cheese she could find. Once she rolled a whole wheel of mimolette all the way home only to find it was too big to fit in her hole, and it sat outside her front door for a month before she ate enough that she could fit it inside.

But it wasn’t just that she liked to collect and eat cheese - she also studied it. Her thesis on Sheep Cheeses of the Eastern Himalayas was considered by many to be the definitive work on the subject, and her paper entitled “On the Benefits of Washed Rinds” had lead to a small revolution in the manufacture of goat cheese. She had served not once but twice as the keynote speaker at the annual conference of International Mouse Association’s Special Interest Group on Blue Cheese.

One warm, summer evening Guinevere was lying in a field of grass looking up at the sky -- she’d just finished her dinner of Fioré Sardo with a little fresh sheep’s milk cheese for dessert, and was feeling pleasantly drowsy -- when she noticed the moon hanging in the sky. It was aperfect, round, silvery disk, against a backdrop of black pricked with thousands of glittering st ars.
moon.jpg

She remembered a nursery rhyme that her mother had sung to her when she was little.

The moon’s a great big ball of cheese
Hanging in the starry sky
It hangs upon a great cheese tree
Please don’t ask me why.

“But I wonder,” she thought, “what kind of cheese is it.”

At first she thought it might be a giant chevrot. “But surely,” she said to herself, “there aren’t enough goats.” She wondered if the craters might be the holes in a Swiss-cheese; perhaps a huge Gruyere. “But the colour is wrong,” she thought. The more she thought about it, the more puzzled she became, until she decided she just had to find out for herself.
guinevere-moon-1.jpg

First she tried to reach up and grab a piece of the moon, but, even standing on tip toes she couldn’t reach it. “Oh well,” she thought, “I am a mouse after all”. She tried jumping as high as she could. She went to fetch a big block of Jarlsberg from her larder, another of Cheshire, and one of Camembert;  piled them on top of each other, and climbed  to on top of them, but the moon didn’t seem to get any closer. When eventually, tired and frustrated, she gave up, it was nearly morning. “Tomorrow,” she said, “I will get a step ladder’.


The next night Guinevere borrowed a step ladder; she dragged it to the top of the tallest hill she could find; she stood on tip toes; she put a cardboard box on the top step of the ladder; she stood on tip toes again, this time on top of the cardboard box. And yet, try as she might, the moon seemed just as far out of reach as ever.
guinevere-stepladder.jpg


“It’s odd,” she thought as she balanced on the edge of the box one last time, stretching out her paws as far as she possibly could, “but the moon seems a little smaller than it did yesterday”.


The following night Guinevere borrowed a trampoline from a friend.

She jumped. She bounced. She leaped. She went up …
guinevere-up.jpg

and down …
guinevere-down.jpg

and up and down and up and down, getting higher and higher and higher. And yet, she still could not reach the moon.

By the time she was finished she felt quite queasy and dizzy. So much so that she had to make herself a midnight snack - a little Roquefort on a toasted breadcrumb - to settle her tummy. As she nibbled she thought to herself, “The moon really does seem a little smaller tonight, but how could that be?”


The night after that Guinevere went to the forest. She searched for the tallest tree she could find, an ancient, towering oak. She climbed to the very top, and clutching tightly to the topmost branches with her hind paws, she reached up as high as she possibly could.
guinevere-tree.jpg

This time there was no doubt. Where the moon had been a perfect round circle, it was now an oval, as if someone had been eating away at one side of it, while leaving the other side alone.

“Someone,” she said in shocked disbelief, “is stealing the cheese.”


In the nights that followed Guinevere tried everything she could think of to try to reach the moon. She climbed mountains and towers. She took the biggest ladder she could find and balanced it in the high branches of the oak tree. She even asked a bird to pick her up and fly her there, but the bird said she was too busy looking after her eggs. I’m sure if rocket ships had been invented then, she would have tried one of those too. But she still could not reach the moon.
guinevere-bird.jpg

And yet clearly someone else was able to reach it. For, night after night, it got smaller and smaller, until half the moon had disappeared, like a Crotin that had been chopped straight down the middle.


Guinevere decided she must find out who was stealing the moon, and put a stop to it. She asked everyone she knew. She tried a private detective, Philip Micelow, who promised to investigate but came back empty pawed. She asked all the cheese industry insiders she had as contacts, but she could find no clue.
guinevere-pi.jpg

By now the moon was almost gone, only a thin sliver remained, and Guinevere was getting so worried that she almost lost her appetite. Even a particularly pungent Gorgonzola did little to calm her nerves.

“Perhaps it is the cats,” she thought to herself. “After all, they love to taunt us mice.” But no, she knew that cats had no interest in cheese.

“Maybe it’s the rats,” she thought. “But no: the rats are greedy, and some of them are evil, but none of them are very smart.” No rat would be be able to steal the moon.2

“So it must be a mouse,” she concluded. “But it’s much too much cheese for one mouse to eat, so they must planning on selling it or giving it to other mice.”

And then Guinevere came up with a plan.

“Maybe I can’t find out who stole the moon, or even how they did it. But if I can convince the Mouse Who Stole The Moon, and all the other mice that might want some of it, that it isn’t made of cheese at all, perhaps he will put it back. After all,” she thought, “I do have some influence.”
guinevere-radio-show.jpg
The next morning she phoned a radio talk show. “I’ve just found out,” she said, “that the moon isn’t made out of cheese at all”. Then she typed a long letter and sent it to all the major newspapers.

That night the remaining sliver of moon looked a little bit wider.

The next morning the New Mouse Times published Guinevere's letter in their editorial column. The headline read “Shocking New Scientific Discovery: Composition of the Moon Mostly Rock”.

That night the sliver of moon was a bit wider. “It’s working,” Guenevere thought, “but I must make it stick”. She stayed up late that night trying to come up with a new rhyme. The next morning she went to the school playground and taught it to the little mice playing there.

The moon is just a ball of rock
It’s not a tasty treat
If you bite it you will break your teeth
It isn’t good to eat.

guinevere-playground.jpg
All day the children sang the song to each other. That evening they went home and sang it to their parents and grandparents.

The next day the parents called their  nephews and nieces, cousins, and uncles and aunts. Soon mice everywhere were singing it to their children at bedtime, and the children were singing it to their friends at school next day.
guinevere-bedtime.jpg

In the mean time many important mouse scientists and scholars chimed in, agreeing with Guenevere. They didn’t want to seem left out, so they cited new evidence, trying to pretend they had also been part of the great discovery, or that it was what they had thought all along.
guinevere-lecture.jpg

And every day the moon got a little bigger.

Soon mice everywhere believed that the moon was not made of cheese, and, of course, all the other animals, and the humans, learnt it from the mice. And soon the moon was a full round circle once again.

In fact Guinevere’s plan worked so well that, in a little while people forgot that they’d ever believed that the moon was made of cheese, and started to think it was just a silly story for children. And so it is that, even today, if you were to ask your parents, or your teacher, or a scientist from NASA, what the moon is made of, they’ll probably start talking about rocks, ice and mineral compositions. And, if you tell them it's actually made of cheese, they won't even believe it.
guinevere-moon-2.jpg

But You and I and Guinevere know the truth.




1 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/1949644.stm



2 The author would like to emphasize that these are the opinions or the character Guinevere and are in no way condoned by the author. Rats are not evil: they are highly misunderstood creatures and are, for the most part, good natured and kind. Now squirrels on the hand...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Octopusses




These are some paintings I just finished for Rose and Sophie to have in their rooms.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Turtle who was Pink and the Turtle who was Blue

This morning Sophie asked for a poem and I asked which one she wanted, expecting it to be The Jumblies or something else from Edward Lear. Instead she threw me by asking for a poem about a pink turtle and a blue turtle. I was pretty pleased with what I came up with on the spot, and tried to write it down as soon as I had a chance. I was already having trouble remembering it all, but this was as close as I could get.

Once there was a turtle
and she was very blue
She swam down to the ocean floor
and wondered what to do.


There was another turtle
and she was very pink
She swam into a deep dark cave
so she could have a think.


All the other turtles
who saw them said “Who knew
there are turtles who are pink
and others who are blue.”


The blue turtle went swimming
along the coral reef
The turtle who was pink
came swimming underneath.


The turle who was pink said
to the turtle who was blue
“It’s very good to meet you,
and tell me, how are you?”


The turtle who was blue said
to the turtle who was pink,
“You’re a very pretty turtle,”
and she gave a turtle wink.


The turtles said “Let’s marry
and swim to far away”
And the pink and blue turtles
are happy to this day.
turtles-blue-and-pink.jpg


Monday, June 9, 2014

Tygers - Chapter 3

I started wrote this in my journal a while ago, after Rosie wanted another Tiger story at bed time. I intended to add more to it, but never thought of anything good to add, so I figured I'd just throw in some illustrations and leave it as it is.

It was a sunny morning in early Spring. The streams were burbling happily to themselves, glad to be free of the winter ice, and feeling important because they were taking the melted snow water down to the river. The squirrels emerged, bleary eyed, from their tree trunks and tried to remember where they had hidden their nuts. And high in the branches a robin cautiously cleared its throat and tested its voice before commencing its morning song. It was on a morning such as this that two young tigers set out to explore the sights and sounds of Spring.

They had been been walking for about fifteen minutes when the older tiger, Rosie, noticed a scufflement at the base of a moss-covered bush. They went a little closer to investigate a saw a small brown animal snuffling among the roots. It had a black, twitchy nose, two black twinkly eyes, and, covering its back were prickles. The animal paused to look at the two approaching tigers.


"What kind of animal are you?" asked Sophie, the younger tiger, curiously.

"Ah," said the animal impressively, "I is an Erinaceus Europaeus, of the order Erininaceomorpha." Then, as the tigers look confused, it added "What is commonly called an 'edge 'og. And what might you two stripey young ladies be, if I might be so bold as to ask?".

"We're Tigers," said Rosie proudly. "I'm Rosie."

"And I'm Sophie," said Sophie.

"Bernard Tiggiewinkle Esquire. Delighted to make your aquaintance," said the hedge hog."I was named after Saint Tiggiewinkles 'edge 'og 'ospital where I was born," he explained. "Bernard is after Saint," he added.

"Oh," said Rosie. "Why do you keep scratching yourself with your hind leg?"

"Ah," said Bernard Tiggiewinkle, "that would be on account of these 'ere fleas itching something terrible. We 'edge 'ogs 'ave an awful lot of fleas."

Both the tigers took a few steps back.

"Not to worry missies," said the hedgehog. "'Edge 'og fleas is most particular. Not interested in other sorts of animals."

"What are you doing?" asked Sophie curiously.

"Looking for slugs," said Bernard Tiggiewinkle. "They're delicious," he said. "Look here's one."

Bernard held up a large, semi-translucent, wriggling slug that seemed to ooze slime. The two tigers, who had moved closer after hearing that they were safe from hedgehog fleas, took a step back again.

"Would you like to try one?" the hedgehog asked Rosie.

"No thank you," Rosie said politely.

"Are you sure? They're fresh. This one looks especially juicy."

"No thank you," said Rosie again.

"What about you, Miss?" said Bernard Tiggiewinkle turning to Sophie. "Very good for you slugs is. Highly nutritious."

"No thank you," said Sophie as politely as she could manage.

"Mighty fine slug this. Don't recall seeing better."

"It's very kind of you," said Sophie, "but I'm really not hungry."

"Ah well," said the hedgehog. "Suit yourself."

"There was a loud slurping noise as the slug disapeared into Bernard Tiggiewinkles mouth. The two twitching antennae were the last part to vanish. There followed by a few minutes of munching and swallowing noises, and then a the hedgehog emitted a soft "burp".

"As I thought," he said to himself. "Mighty fine slug that."

"Well," said Rose politely, "it was a pleasure meeting you Mister Tiggiewinkle."

The hedgehog nodded his head towards them in a formal manner before turning back to the bushes to search for more slugs, and the two tigers continued on their way.