Rice and the Fox Wife
(A Japanese Folktale from Aichi-ken Densetsu Shu,
retold by Richard M. Dorson)
Once there lived on a hill on the way to Kido a farmer named Narinobu. The road started from Nishihara in Ichinomiya, passed the Narinobu Bridge and Bonji Pond, and led to Kido. One night a beautiful woman came to his home and asked him to make her his wife. He granted her request and married her. Not long after that she bore a boy whom they called Morime and whom they loved.
One year the boy fell ill in bed, and the parents tended him day and night. It was May, but Narinobu's wet rice field alone lay waste and unplanted. He was worrying about it in his heart. Then one morning when he went out, he beheld his rice field completely planted. However, he discovered that all the rice plants were planted upside down. Astonished, he ran into the house to tell his wife. But he saw there a fox's tail hanging out of his wife's bed. His wife awakened and realized that her real form, that of a fox, was now discovered. When her husband told her that the rice plants were planted upside down, she took the child in her arms and went out into the rice field. There she repeated the following poem three times:
No sooner had she finished the last word than the rice plants turned over erectly and grew high and thick before her eyes. Leaving her child to her husband, she waved her hand to the sky. Then a black cloud appeared and, with a gust of wind, turned day into night. In the darkness the fox-wife disappeared, rolling up the arrowroot leaves scattered nearby. For that reason arrowroot leaves always show their undersides.
My child shall eat plenty.
The inspector shall pass over.
Bear fruit in the husk."
The autumn came, but nevertheless the rice plants of Narinobu's field did not come into ears. The officer who inspected the field therefore exempted Narinobu from rice taxes. However, the ears ripened in the husk and the harvest was plentiful.