My Lord Bag of Rice

Hear about this Folktale on Episode 6 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

My Lord Bag of Rice.
Fujiwara Hidesato shooting Seta by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 1890.

My Lord Bag of Rice

My Lord Bag of Rice (俵藤太, Tawara Tōda) is a Japanese Folktale about Fujiwara Hidesato and The Dragon King.

Synopsis

Fujiwara, also known as Tawara Toda, wished for adventure and so one day set out.

Reaching Seta-no-Karashi Bridge on Lake Biwa he finds a serpent-dragon sleeping across it. Undeterred he walks over the Dragon, afterwards, the Dragon changes into a man, revealing himself to be The Dragon King.

The Dragon King beseeches Tawara for his help, telling him that The Giant Centipede Seta is plaguing his people from Mount Mikami after the creature discovered the King’s home.

The centipede, The King says, comes every night and takes away members of his family. He needs a hero to kill The Centipede. Tawara agrees, the Dragon King taking him to his Palace to await the hour the centipede descends from the mountain. When the centipede finally appears Fujiwara asks for his bow and arrow.

Having only three arrows the first two hit the centre of its head but only bounce off, causing no harm. Finally, Fujiwara remembers that human saliva was deadly to centipedes. And so placing the tip of his final arrow in his mouth, wetting it, he fires once more.

My Lord Bag of Rice by Hasegawa Takejirō, 1886.

The arrow hits the mark, killing the centipede, its dead body floating in the lake. Afterwards, in thanks, the King throws a feast and asks Fujiwara to stay in his Palace but he declines.

So in thanks, Fujiwara is gifted with several items:

  • A large bronze bell.
  • A bag of rice.
  • A roll of silk.
  • A cooking pot.
  • A bell.

In the end, the bell he donates to Mii-dera Temple. The bag of rice never grew empty. The roll of silk never grew shorter. The cooking pot, no matter what was put in cooked delicious food, and so Fujiwara grew very wealthy as a result.1

Footnotes

1. Ozaki, Y.T. (1903) “The Japanese Fairy Book”. Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd.

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