THE SPIRIT OF THE TREE
Adapted from Lafcadio Hearn's A Living God
by Yuko Saito
nce upon a time, there was a little boy named Kyusaku in a village by the sea. His family lived in a big thatched farmhouse on a hill, and their rice fields stretched all the way around the house.
Kyusaku's father was the chief of the village. He was always very dedicated to his villagers, so everybody loved and respected him. Kyusaku's mother often said, "Kyusaku, you must become a good, respectable chief like your father when you grow up."
But Kyusaku was a timid, quiet boy. He could not climb trees, walk on stilts, spin a top, or swim in the sea like other children in the village. So, he always stayed around his house playing all alone.
n the woods behind his house, there was a big old tree. Kyusaku loved spending his time under it. Looking at the holes of ants and cicadas at the bottom of the tree, he imagined of a mysterious world under the ground. When he listened to the birds twittering in the tree, or the leaves rustling in the wind, he thought that he understood what they were saying. Sometimes when he sat still, rabbits or squirrels would come so close that he could almost touch them.
ne summer day, while dozing in the cool shade under the tree, Kyusaku heard a voice above his head:
He looked up. There was a little girl sitting on a bough high up in the tree, swinging her bare feet.
"Kyu-saku. Climb up," said the girl. Her voice was merry and clear like a brook.
"But I can't climb a tree," said Kyusaku sadly.
"Yes, you can. I'll teach you."
She climbed down quick and easily like a squirrel, lightly touched his forehead with her index finger, and climbed up again calling, "Look, Kyu-saku, look!"
Suddenly he felt as if the bark of the tree began to look very vivid and clear, and he could see and remember all the little hollows and gnarls of the trunk where the girl was putting her hands and feet. With a strange confidence he started climbing, and in no time he found himself sitting on a bough with her.
"Why, you are a strange girl!" he said. "I have never seen you before. Where do you live? How do you know my name?"
But she just laughed merrily in her brook-like voice.