Key words£ºturtle, save, sea, kingdom, promise  
¡¡ ¡¡ ¡¡
Genre£ºfolklore Topic£ºpromise Words:840
¡¡ ¡¡ ¡¡

He hesitated, remembering his promise,
but then with trembling hands he opened the lid.

The little box containing promise

Author£ºMarilyn Bolchunos Source£º  
Nation£ºJapan Date£º2008-8-16

(Illustrated by Phyllis Pollema-Cahill)


A young boy named Urashima Taro was fishing when he heard children yelling farther down the beach. Moving closer he saw they were teasing a baby sea turtle, turning it over and burying it in the sand.

¡°Don¡¯t do that,¡± he begged. ¡°If you give it to me, I will give you my fish.¡± Though Urashima was poor and needed the fish he had caught, he was also tender-hearted.

He carried the little turtle to the ocean. He smiled to see its eager strokes as it swam away.

Years later, Urashima was fishing on the same beach when a giant sea turtle came out of the water, looked at him with wise black eyes, and said, ¡°I am the turtle you saved years ago. Because of your kindness I invite you to visit the Kingdom Under the Sea.¡±

¡°Wonderful,¡± said Urashima. ¡°I would like very much to see it.¡±

¡°Climb upon my back,¡± said the turtle. ¡°You will be quite safe.¡±

To his astonishment, Urashima found he could breathe easily underwater. He watched with interest as the turtle swam past many sea creatures. Finally, at the bottom of the sea, they approached a palace glowing with a mysterious pale light. The walls were made of pearls, shells, and gems. Lovely gardens of waving seaweed surrounded the palace.

Entering a great hall, Urashima saw a beautiful woman. Her long hair wafted about her with the motion of the waves. Her eyes shone like black onyx. She had the kindest face Urashima had ever seen.

¡°I am the princess Otohime,¡± she said in a voice like water in a gentle brook. ¡°I wish to thank you for helping the turtle. Please enjoy our kingdom at your leisure.¡±

After inviting Urashima to sit down, Otohime shook her folding fan. At once lines of red snappers, flounders, and lobsters began to dance for him. Presently they invited him to dance, and then Otohime danced, too. Urashima was so happy that he felt he could dance forever.

Later he was served many delicious foods. The next day Otohime revealed to him some of the mysteries of the sea¡ªhow it controlled the storm clouds, the rains, and the rivers. Urashima wondered if he was in a dream.

Several months passed in this agreeable manner. By this time Otohime and Urashima realized that they were in love. A royal wedding was planned.

¡°Before I marry,¡± Urashima said, ¡°I must visit my home to let my brother know I am all right.¡±

Otohime looked sad. ¡°But you will come back?¡± she asked.

¡°Of course,¡± Urashima replied. ¡°I¡¯ll be back before you know it.¡±

Then Otohime gave him a small lacquered box. ¡°I am required to give this to you,¡± she said. ¡°It contains something of yours, but you must not open it until you are back with me. If you love me, promise you will not open it.¡±

¡°I promise,¡± said Urashima. ¡°Do not worry.¡± As the turtle carried him away, Urashima waved until Otohime was lost from sight.

Once back on shore, Urashima thanked the turtle and walked quickly to his village. There had been changes during his absence. Many new huts had been built and many improvements made. ¡°How could they have done so much in such a short time?¡± he wondered. He saw no one he recognized. This puzzled him because he knew everyone in his village.

When he came to the hut where he and his brother lived, he was shocked to find a large house in its place. A young man stood in the doorway. ¡°I am looking for the hut of Urashima Taro,¡± said Urashima. ¡°Can you help me?¡±

¡°Urashima Taro?¡± said the young man. ¡°Haven¡¯t you heard? He was lost at sea many years ago. His brother, my grandfather, lives here. Shall I tell my grandfather that someone wishes to see him?¡±

Overcome with confusion, Urashima shook his head. ¡°No, no,¡± he said. ¡°I must go now.¡±

He returned to the seashore greatly distressed. How could it be that a few months under the sea equaled almost a lifetime on land? Everything was so strange. Had Otohime bewitched him? What had she put in that little box he was carrying? Urashima felt that he must find out.

He hesitated, remembering his promise, but then with trembling hands he opened the lid. Out came a wisp of smoke, his earth years. As the smoke swirled around him, he became an old man.

Staring into the empty box, Urashima realized that he had lost forever not only Otohime but also his youth. He sank to the sand in shock and despair. For three days and nights Urashima sat grieving, regretting his faithless act.

Finally, one morning as orange dawn broke, he stood up. ¡°What¡¯s done is done,¡± he said sadly. ¡°I will go home to my brother, who is also an old man. He will be very surprised to see me. He will want to hear about the Kingdom Under the Sea. Everyone will want to hear about it.¡±

And so they have.



1. How did Urashima save the little turtle?

2. Why did the giant turtle invite Urashima to visit the Kingdom under the Sea?

3. What did Otohime give Urashima before he left the Kingdom under the Sea?

4. How did Urashima feel when he arrived home?

5. What happened after Urashima opened the little box?

6. What was in the small box, in your opinion?



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