狼の眉毛 — The Wolf’s Eyebrow

It was harder than I thought it would be to find an unaltered version of this tale online. Most people seem to feel the main character needs a happier ending. I translated the version below from this site, where the author clearly points out what parts they have altered to make a happier story. I have omitted the altered points to preserve the integrity of the tale as I’ve heard it told before, so if you check the Japanese you will see the translation below diverges on those points, but it is intentional.


An elderly man and his wife lived in a village surrounded in all four directions by mountains. The old man worked very hard every day to earn money. His wife used up his money and never worked herself.

The old man noticed that no matter how hard he worked, he never had any time to himself and his wife cared very little about him. He felt he had just been getting older all these years.

He decided “If this is how it’s going to be, I’d rather be eaten by a wolf.”

Saying this he went to the eastern mountain.

“Wolf of the East! Wolf of the East! Please come and eat me!”

As he called the wolf, he saw small rocks tumbling around him. He looked up to the small knoll in front of him and saw a great wolf looking down at him.

“Please, wolf, please eat me,” he said clasping his hands in supplication.

“You are a hard worker. I cannot eat you,”

Saying this, the wolf turned back to the knoll and vanished.

The old man turned and headed towards the western mountain.
In the western mountain, there was a thick bamboo grove.

“Wolf of the West! Wolf of the West! Please come and eat me!”

A great wolf slowly emerged from the bamboo. It looked fixedly at the old man.

“Please, wolf, please eat me,” he said clasping his hands in supplication.

“You are an honest person. I cannot eat you.”

Saying this, the wolf turned back to the bamboo grove and vanished.
The old man turned and headed towards the southern mountain.

The southern mountain was covered in a field of densely growing reeds.

“Wolf of the South! Wolf of the South! Please come and eat me!”

A wind rose up and the reeds swayed. A great wolf slowly emerged from the reeds. It looked fixedly at the old man.

“Please, wolf, please eat me,” he said clasping his hands in supplication.

“You have done nothing wrong. I cannot eat you.” Saying this, the wolf turned back towards the reeds and vanished.
The old man turned and headed towards the northern mountain.

The northern mountain was a great mountain covered in jagged rocks.

“Wolf of the North! Wolf of the North! Please come and eat me!”

After a while, a white wolf appeared on the rocks and looked fixedly at the old man. Behind it was the Wolf of the East, the Wolf of the West, and the Wolf of the South.

“Please wolf, won’t you eat me?” The old man was nearly in tears.

“You are a hard worker, you are honest, and you have done nothing wrong. I cannot eat a good person.” The wolf pulled out one of its white eyebrow hairs and gave it to the old man.

“Hold up this hair and look at the people in your village.”
Saying this, all the wolves turned back to the rocks and vanished.

The old man took the white hair and went back to his village. It was almost nightfall when he arrived. His wife was in front of his house screeching in anger.

The old man held up the hair he had received from the wolf and looked at his wife. As he did this, his wife’s face changed into a chicken’s face. Even her voice became a chicken’s clucking.

The old man was shocked and went to look at the other villagers. Their faces all turned to animal faces. Wild boar faces, raccoon dog faces, fox faces, frog faces, snake faces, even centipede faces. Their voices all changed into animal sounds.

The old man became terrified and ran away to live alone in the mountains.

 

 

 

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