'The Funny Little Woman'

STORY TIME

August 05, 1998

Editor's note: In this Japanese myth, a lively little woman who likes to laugh pursues her runaway dumpling straight into the clutches of evil monsters. Sniff, sniff, sniff. "Jizo Sama," cried the wicked oni, "I smell the smell of humankind!"

"Oh," said Jizo, "you only smell the breeze off the river."

"No, no," said the wicked oni. "I smell the-"

"Tee-he-he-he." The little woman could not keep from laughing. "Tee-he-he-he."

Then the wicked oni put one large arm behind Jizo and pulled the little woman out!

"What are you going to do with the little woman?" asked Jizo. "You won't hurt her, will you?"

"Hurt her! I should say not," said the wicked oni. "I'm going to take her home and have her cook for all of us."

"Tee-he-he-he," laughed the little woman as the wicked oni took her down the road to a wide river. He put her into a boat and took her across the river to a strange house.

In the kitchen he gave her a large wooden paddle.

"Now this is how you must cook our rice," said the wicked oni. "First put one, just one grain of rice in this pot. Stir it with this magic paddle and you will soon have a potful."

"Tee-he-he-he," laughed the little woman. "That's easy."

And soon after the wicked oni left she tried it out. One grain of rice and then stir! And as she stirred the one grain became two, two became four, then eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four, one hundred and twenty-eight, two hundred and fifty-six - and the pot was full!

"Tee-he-he-he," she laughed. "What fun I shall have making rice dumplings."

The weeks and months passed as the little woman kept busy cooking rice for the wicked oni. (For oni eat more rice than most people!)

One afternoon she grew lonely for her little house and decided to return. First she tucked the magic paddle in her belt, then she went out the door. She looked to left and right - there were no oni to be seen. She ran to the river, stopped, and looked behind - still there were no oni. Now, quietly she got into the boat; then away she went.

Since the river was wide, she had only reached the middle when the oni returned and found her missing. Soon the oni were all on the bank watching her.

Now, because oni do not swim, they thought of a plan to stop her. All of them got on their knees and drank the water from the river!

When the little woman found the boat stuck in the mud, she was too frightened to laugh, so she jumped from the boat and began running. Her feet stuck in the mud, her hands stuck in the mud, and she fell in the mud!

"Tee-he-he-he, tee-he-he-he, tee-he-he-he," roared the oni. The little woman made a funny sight! Of course, when they laughed, all the water fell from their mouths back into the river, so the little woman jumped in the boat and away she went.

After that, the little woman was very happy, for, with her magic paddle, she could make more rice dumplings faster than ever. So she sold them and soon became the richest woman in all of Japan.

"Tee-he-he-he-he!"

THE FUNNY LITTLE WOMAN Retold by Arlene Mosel, illustrations by Blair Lent. Text Copyright Arlene Mosel, 1972. Illustration Copyright by Blair Lent, 1972. Published by arrangement with Dutton Children's Books division of Penguin Putnam Inc.

Pub date: 8/05/98

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