Kintarō

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Hear this tale on Episode 51 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Kintarō

Kintarō (金太郎) is a Japanese folktale centered around the life of a boy with the same name as the story.

There are several versions of this tale and as we come across more of them we will add them to the website.

Synopsis

Kintarō
Kintarō with his animal friends.

There was a man called Kintoki who married a beautiful woman. He was however disgraced at court and dismissed and eventually passed away leaving his wife alone. She fled to the Ashigara Mountains where she gave birth to Kintarō, the Golden Boy. He grew up strong and by aged 8 could cut down trees as fast as the woodcutters in the area, he could also crush stones such was his strength.

He learnt to talk to the animals, the ones he came closest to being a bear, deer, monkey and hare.

One day they all went together to a grassy plain and Kinaro asked if they wanted to play a game. The bear declaring themselves the strongest said they would make a platform for wrestling.

The first match was between the monkey and the hare. The hare won and so Kintarō gave him a rice-ball as a prize.

The monkey wanted a rematch instead and after the match he won. The hare rests a little then begins the next match with the deer and the bear is victor. They continue to fight througout the day before returning home. On the way they come to a river with no bridge and Kintarō using his strength uproots a great tree laying it across the river.

Kintarō
The ‘Woodcutter’ talking to Kintarō’s mother.

All the while one of the wood cutters had been watching him lay down the tree and so followed him home. Kintarō tells his mother his plans to go wrestling tomorrow and then the man who had been following interupts to ask if he could take him along as well tomorrow. In the mean time the two of them arm wrestle to see who is the strongest, the matches all being declared a tie.

The man then asks if his mother would ever take Kintarō to the capital to study as a Samurai, but she says his strength means he always unfrotunately hurts people. The man reveals he is a Samurai called Sadamitsu, under the orders of Minamoto no Raikou he has been sent to look for strong young men to train. The mother was very happy with this and entrusted Kintarō into his care. His mother was sad at their parting, the animals who were his friends following him to the foot of the mountain to say their goodbyes.

At the capital Sadmitsu told Raikou the tale of the boy and he was immediately made one of his vassals and when he grew up he was made the Chief of the Four Braves of Raikou.

Kintarō
Kintarō is given orders to defeat the creature.

Raikou later found out about a cannibal monster who was attacking people. Kintarō was sent and he killed the beast, bringing back its head.

The tale ends with Kintarō building a comfortable home for his mother to live in inside the Capital.1

Footnotes

1. Ozaki, Y.T. (2015) “Japanese Fairy Tales” USA: Cavalier Classics.

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