The Monkey and the Crab

The Monkey and the Crab

The Monkey and the Crab (さるかに合戦 saru kani gassen) is one of many Japanese folktales.


The Monkey and the Crab
The Monkey began to pluck and eat as fast as he could.

One day a monkey and a crab were playing on the beach. The crab found a rice-dumpling and the monkey a persimmon-seed. The monkey did not want the seed, but he did want the dumpling and so tried to convince the crab to trade it to him.

He convinced him to trade by saying, he could plant the persimoon seed and have lots of food every year, or he could keep his dumpling and have one quick meal now.

After exchanging the items they both went home and the crab planted the persimmon seed. After a few years the tree grew and fruits came but the crab could not climb the tree to get the fruit and so he thought to ask his monkey friend to climb it for him. After the monkey was asked for help, he was happy, and thought of a way to keep all the fruit for himself.

The monkey climbed the tree and ate all the ripe fruit for himself, never passing any to the crab. Once only the unripe fruit were left he started to throw them down at the crab, the hard fruit eventually killing the crab. And so the monkey fled, like a coward.

The crabs son found his dead father and figuring out it was the monkey who had killed him vowed to get his revenge. However, he knew the monkey was cunning and so he would need to plan how to get his revenge.

The Monkey and the Crab
“It was your Father’s fault, not Mine,” gasped the unrepentant Monkey.

He sought out his fathers old friend the Mortar, and he summoned the fathers other friends the Bee and Chestnut.

The Monkey snuck back to the crabs old house, fearing perhaps someone knew what he had done. But he heard none of them talk of the crabs death and he thought he had gotten away with the crime. But this was all part of the young crabs plan, and all were pretending that they knew nothing.

After seven days the young crab sent a message to the Monkey saying it was the 7th anniversary of his fathers death and would the Monkey come to honor him. The Monkey does so.

The day comes and the Monkey joins the feast and is offered tea from a tea ceremony after. The crab retires saying he’ll return but does not.

The Monkey grows impatient and goes to pour the tea himself, but the Chestnut jumps from the fire and attacks the Monkeys neck. The Monkey flees but the Bee is waiting and stings his cheek. Fleeing to the gate the Mortar drops onto the Monkeys head and he lay their trapped and being crushed.

The Monkey and the Crab
The Monkey and the Crab

The crab appears and cuts of the Monkeys head.1


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

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