THE STORY OF THE AGED MOTHER
A Japanese Folktale
Long, long ago there lived at the foot of the mountain a poor farmer and hisaged, widowed mother. They owned a bit of land which supplied them withfood, and their humble were peaceful and happy.Shinano was governed by a despotic leader who though a warrior, had agreat and cowardly shrinking from anything suggestive of failing health andstrength. This caused him to send out a cruel proclamation. The entireprovince was given strict orders to immediately put to death all agedpeople. Those were barbarous days, and the custom of abandoning oldpeople to die was not common. The poor farmer loved his aged mother withtender reverence, and the order filled his heart with sorrow. But no one everthought a second time about obeying the mandate of the governor, so withmany deep hopeless sighs, the youth prepared for what at that time wasconsidered the kindest mode of death. Just at sundown, when his day’s work was ended, he took a quantity of unwhitened rice which is principal food for poor, cooked and dried it, andtying it in a square cloth, swung and bundle around his neck along with agourd filled with cool, sweet water. Then he lifted his helpless old mother tohis back and stated on his painful journey up the mountain. The road waslong and steep; the narrowed road was crossed and reclosed by many pathsmade by the hunters and woodcutters. In some place, they mingled in aconfused puzzled, but he gave no heed. One path or another, it matterednot. On he went, climbing blindly upward towards the high bare summit of what is know as Obatsuyama, the mountain of the “abandoning of aged”. The eyes of the old mother were not so dim but that they noted the recklesshastening from one path to another, and her loving heart grew anxious. Herson did not know the mountain’s many paths and his return might be one of danger, so she stretched forth her hand and snapping the twigs frombrushes as they passed, she quietly dropped a handful every...
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