A Walk Through Life: The Story of the Aged Mother

Published August 8, 2011 by hikarujean0618

A touching story of a mother and son based on a Japanese Folklore.  Hope you enjoy it.

Disclaimer:  I do not own the following stories and pictures on this post.

THE STORY OF THE AGED MOTHER

 

 Long, long ago there lived at the foot of the mountain a poor farmer and his aged, widowed mother.They owned a bit of land which supplied them with food, and their humble were peaceful and happy.
Shinano was governed by a despotic leader who though a warrior, had a great and cowardly shrinkingfrom anything suggestive of failing health and strength. This caused him to send out a cruelproclamation. The entire province was given strict orders to immediately put to death all aged people.Those were barbarous days, and the custom of abandoning old people to die was not common. Thepoor farmer loved his aged mother with tender reverence, and the order filled his heart with sorrow.But no one ever thought a second time about obeying the mandate of the governor, so with many deephopeless sighs, the youth prepared for what at that time was considered the kindest mode of death.
Just at sundown, when his day’s work was ended, he took a quantity of unwhitened rice which isprincipal food for poor, cooked and dried it, and tying it in a square cloth, swung and bundle around hisneck along with a gourd filled with cool, sweet water. Then he lifted his helpless old mother to his backand stated on his painful journey up the mountain. The road was long and steep; the narrowed road wascrossed and recrossed by many paths made by the hunters and woodcutters. In some place, theymingled in a confused puzzled, but he gave no heed. One path or another, it mattered not. On he went,climbing blindly upward Â ever upward towards the high bare summit of what is know as Obatsuyama,the mountain of the Âabandoning of agedÂ.
The eyes of the old mother were not so dim but that they noted the reckless hastening from one path toanother, and her loving heart grew anxious. Her son did not know the mountainÂs many paths and hisreturn might be one of danger, so she stretched forth her hand and snapping the twigs from brushes asthey passed, she quietly dropped a handful every few steps of the way so that they climbed, the narrowpath behind them was dotted at frequently intervals with tiny piles of twigs. At last the summit wasreached. Weary and heart sick, the youth gently released his burden and silently prepared a place of comfort as his last duty to the loved one. Gathering fallen pine needle, he made a soft cushion andtenderly lifting his old mother therein, he wrapped her padded coat more closely about the stoopingshoulders and with tearful eyes and an aching heart said farewell.
The trembling motherÂs voice was full of unselfish love as she gave her last injunction. ÂLet not thineeyes be blinded, my son.Â She said. ÂThe mountain road is full of dangers. LOOK carefully and followthe path which holds the piles of twigs. They will guide you to the familiar way farther downÂ. ThesonÂs surprised eyes looked back over the path, then at the poor old, shriveled hands all scratched andsoiled by their work of love. His heart smote him and bowing to the grounds, he cried aloud: Âoh,Honorable mother, thy kindness thrusts my heart! I will not leave thee. Together we will follow the pathof twigs, and together we will die!Â
Once more he shouldered his burden (how light it seemed no) and hastened down the path, through theshadows and the moonlight, to the little hut in the valley. Beneath the kitchen floor was a walled closetfor food, which was covered and hidden from view. There the son his mother, supplying her witheverything needful and continually watching and fearing. Time passed, and he was beginning to feel safewhen again the governor sent forth heralds bearing an unreasonable order, seemingly as a boast of hispower. His demand was that his subject should present him with a rope of ashes. The entire provincetrembled with dread. The order must be obeyed yet who in all Shinano could make a rope of ashes?
One night, in great distress, the son whispered the news to his hidden mother. ÂWait!Â she said. ÂIwill think. I will thinkÂ On the second day she told him what to do. ÂMake rope twisted straw,Â shesaid. ÂThen stretch it upon a row of flat stones and burn it there on the windless night.Â He called thepeople together and did as she said and when the blaze and died, behold upon the stones with everytwist and fiber showing perfectly. Lay a rope of whithead ashes.
The governor was pleased at the wit of the youth and praised greatly, but he demanded to know wherehe had obtained his wisdom. ÂAlas! Alas!Â cried the farmer, Âthe truth must be told!Â and withdeep bows he related his story. The governor listened and then meditated in silence. Finally he lifted hishead. ÂShinano needs more than strength of youth,Â he said gravely. ÂAh, that I should haveforgotten the well-know saying, Âwith the crown of snow, there cometh a wisdom!Â That very hourthe cruel law was abolished, and custom drifted into as far a past that only legends remains.
Once more he shouldered his burden (how light it seemed no) and hastened down the path, through theshadows and the moonlight, to the little hut in the valley. Beneath the kitchen floor was a walled closetfor food, which was covered and hidden from view. There the son his mother, supplying her witheverything needful and continually watching and fearing. Time passed, and he was beginning to feel safewhen again the governor sent forth heralds bearing an unreasonable order, seemingly as a boast of hispower. His demand was that his subject should present him with a rope of ashes. The entire provincetrembled with dread. The order must be obeyed yet who in all Shinano could make a rope of ashes?One night, in great distress, the son whispered the news to his hidden mother. ÂWait!Â she said. ÂIwill think. I will thinkÂ On the second day she told him what to do. ÂMake rope twisted straw,Â shesaid. ÂThen stretch it upon a row of flat stones and burn it there on the windless night.Â He called thepeople together and did as she said and when the blaze and died, behold upon the stones with everytwist and fiber showing perfectly. Lay a rope of whithead ashes.The governor was pleased at the wit of the youth and praised greatly, but he demanded to know wherehe had obtained his wisdom. ÂAlas! Alas!Â cried the farmer, Âthe truth must be told!Â and withdeep bows he related his story. The governor listened and then meditated in silence. Finally he lifted hishead. ÂShinano needs more than strength of youth,Â he said gravely. ÂAh, that I should haveforgotten the well-know saying, Âwith the crown of snow, there cometh a wisdom!Â That very hourthe cruel law was abolished, and custom drifted into as far a past that only legends remains.

16 comments on “A Walk Through Life: The Story of the Aged Mother

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