Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Sweet

 [You may want to check the warning on this blog's translations.]

I translated another story by children's writer  新美 南吉 (NIIMI Nankich, 1913-1943) earlier, 牛をつないだ椿の木. The story translated here, 飴だま (amedama, 'The Sweet') is a lot shorter. It seems to be set in the Tokugawa period, when samurai had considerable freedom to punish perceived disrepect from commoners. For some reason, I can't help casting MIFUNE Toshirou (三船 敏郎) as the samurai in my head, particularly the Youjinbou period Mifune. The story is in the public domain; and you can read it online at Aozora Bunko here.

The Sweet
by NIIMI Nankichi

It was a warm day in spring. A woman travelling with two small children was riding on the ferry. As the boat was about to set off, there came a shout, 'Oy, wait there just a moment!'

From over on the embankment a single samurai came running, waving his hand, and leapt onto the boat.

The boat set off.

The samurai sat down heavily in the middle of the boat. The day was so warm that he fell asleep as he sat.

He was a strong looking samurai, with a black beard; but the sight of him sunk so deep in sleep seemed funny to the children. They giggled at him.

Their mother put a finger to her mouth. 'Be quiet!' she said. An angry samurai is a terrible thing.

The children stopped laughing.

A little later one of them held out her hand and said, 'Mummy, a sweet please!'

At that the other one said, 'Mummy, me too!'

Their mother took a paper bag out of her pocket; but there was only one sweet left in it.

'Give it to me!', 'Give it to me!' the two children begged her from either side. As there was only one sweet, she did not know what to do.

'Be good children and wait,' she told them. 'Once we get to the other side, I'll buy you some, you see.'

But the children just threw a tantrum, shouting, 'Please! Please!'

They had thought the samurai was dozing; but he suddenly snapped his eyes open and looked at the begging children.

Their mother was shocked. She was sure this samurai was angry at having his sleep disturbed.

'Behave yourselves!' she tried to calm the children down; but they would not listen to her.

At that the samurai pulled his sword smoothly from its scabbard and came over in front of the mother and children.

The mother turned deathly pale and set herself between him and the children. She thought he was going to kill them for disturbing his sleep.

'Give me the sweet!' the samurai said.

The mother handed it over with trembling hands.

The samurai put it on the railing of the boat and with a clink of his sword he split it neatly in two. Then, 'There you go!' he gave one piece each to the children.

After that he went back to his place and was soon sunk deep in sleep once again.

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