1. The Young Head of the Family (China)
There was once a family consisting of a father, his four sons, and his three daughters-in-law.The three daughters-in-law, that is, the wives of the three elder sons, were recently brought into the house, and were all from one village a few miles away. Having no mother-in-law with them in their new home, and being lonesome and homesick for their former families, they constantly bothered the old man by asking permission to visit their former village. Vexed by these continual pleas, he set himself to invent a method of putting an end to them, and at last gave the young women permission in this way: "You are always begging me to allow you to go and visit your mothers, and thinking that I am very hard-hearted because I do not let you go. Now you may go, but only upon condition that when you come back you willeach bring me something I want. One of youshall bring me some fire wrapped inpaper, the other shall bring me some wind in apaper, and the third shall bring me some musicin wind. Unless you promise to bring me these,you are never to ask me to let you go home;and if you go and fail to get these for me,you are never to come back." Theold man did not suppose that these conditions would be accepted, as theywere difficult to understand, much less to fulfill, but the girls were young andthoughtless, and in their anxiety to get away did not consider any of that. Sothey made ready with speed, and in great glee started off on foot to visittheir mothers. After they had walked a long distance; chatting about whatthey should do and whom they should see in their native village, the highheel of one of them slipped from under her foot, and she fell down. Owing tothis mishap they all stopped to adjust the misplaced footgear, and whiledoing this the conditions under which alone they could return to theirhusbands came to mind, and they began to cry. While they sat there crying by the roadside a young girl cameriding along on a water buffalo. She stopped and asked them what was thematter, and whether she could help them. They told her she could do themno good; but she persisted in offering her sympathy and inviting their confidence, till at lastthey told her their story. At once, she said that if they would go home with her she wouldshow them a way out of their trouble. Their case seemed so hopeless, and the girl on thewater buffalo seemed so sure of her own power to help them, that they finally went with her toher fathers house, where she showed them how to comply with their father-in-laws demand. 2. How can the first daughter-in-law bring back fire wrapped in paper? How can the second daughter-in-law bring back wind in a paper? How can the third daughter-in-law bring back music in wind? For the first, a paper lantern would do. When lighted, it would be a fire, and itspaper surface would encompass the blaze, so that it would truly be "some fire wrapped inpaper." For the second, a paper fan would suffice. When flapped,wind would issue from it, and the "wind wrapped in paper" couldthus be carried to the old man. For the third, a set of chimes wouldprovide music in the wind. The three young women thanked the wise child, and went on their way rejoicing. After a pleasant visit to their home village, they took a paper lantern, a fan and a set of chimes, andreturned to their father-in-laws house. As soon as he saw the mapproach he began to vent his anger at their light regard for his commands, but they assured him that they had perfectly obeyedhim, and showed him that what they had brought fulfilled the conditions required. Much astonished, he inquired how it was that they had suddenly become so clever, and they told him the story of their journey, and of the girl that had so fortunately come to their relief. He inquired whether the girl was already betrothed, and finding that she was not, he engaged a go-between to see if he could arrange for the girl on the water...
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