hesitated, remembering his promise,
but then with trembling hands he opened the lid.
The little box
(Illustrated by Phyllis Pollema-Cahill)
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
¡°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.
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.¡±
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
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
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.¡±
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
Overcome with confusion, Urashima shook his head. ¡°No, no,¡± he
said. ¡°I must go now.¡±
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.
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?