Japanese/Reader/The Grateful Crane

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Once upon a time, a poor man lived in a little house. It was winter time and snow was falling silently. One day after work, the young man was walking home in the snow when he heard a strange groaning noise. Wondering where this sound was coming from, he walked towards it into surrounding fields. What he found was a crane moaning and groaning. Its wing had been pierced by an arrow. The young man felt sad for the bird and pulled the arrow out. The crane now free, flew away and vanished in the sky.

The young man returned home. He was poor and lonely and his life was miserable. Nobody even visited him. But on that night, very late, someone came and knocked at the door. He was wondering who would call on him so late on a snowy evening. When he opened the door, how great was his surprise when he saw that his visitor was a lovely young woman! She was lost and begged him to let her stay the night. She stayed next night too. And the night after.

Finally, the young man asked this nice girl to marry him, and she agreed. They were happy, in spite of being very poor. The neighborhood was also delighted with their happiness. Nevertheless, winter was long and cold and one day it came that there was neither food nor money left to go on living. So the young woman made up her mind to weave a piece of cloth and asked her husband to prepare a loom for her in a room at the back of the house.

Before she started weaving, she said to him, "You shall not come and peep in." The husband promised that he would not. The young woman then shut herself in the room, and started weaving. The young man waited for one day and a night, and then for two days and two nights. His wife was still weaving and weaving without a break. At the end of the third day the bride wan and exhausted, brought in her work. It was the most gorgeous, wonderful piece of cloth one can dream of. The young man traveled to the nearest town to sell it, and as it was a very precious and rare piece of cloth, he was able to sell it for a great amount of money.

Thanks to this money, they were able to live peacefully for a while. But winter was not yet over and one more time there was no more food or money left over. Therefore the bride decided to weave one more piece of cloth. She warned her husband again not to peep in and started working. Two days and two nights went by, and it was not over yet on. The night of the fourth day the bride appeared, more tired and wan and produced a piece of cloth much more gorgeous and beautiful than the first one. The young man left for the nearest town and sold this magnificent piece of cloth for an amount of money he would have never dreamt of.

His wife made him happy and thanks to the weaving his life was not miserable anymore, but the young man came to wish he had more and more money. Moreover, the neighbors were harassing him with questions about his wife and her weaving. They thought it very queer that she could weave such gorgeous pieces of cloth without even buying a single thread. The young man too was wondering how she managed. Wanting money so much, he asked his wife for another piece of cloth. The bride did not see the point of earning so much money, but finally she reluctantly agreed to weave one more piece of cloth.

"You shall not come and peep in", she reminded him of his promise and went to work. But the young man grew impatient and inquisitive; he wanted so much to find out what was going on. He forgot about his promise, crept to the little room where his wife was weaving and gently, opened the door a crack. The scene he saw made him gasp. Instead of his wife, a crane was there, tearing out one after the other its feathers and weaving a beautiful piece of cloth out of them. The young man finally understood how his wife could weave such pieces of cloth. But then the bird noticed his peeping in and changed back to its human form.

The bride then told her story to the astonished young man. She was the crane he had once saved from death. She had returned taking the form of a young woman in order to pay him back for his generosity. To weave those pieces of cloth she had bruised her own body. But since the young man failed to keep his promise and now he knew the truth about her, they were not allowed to live together anymore. The young man was deeply sorry that he had failed to keep his promise because of his foolish wish for money, but there was no way to change things and they had to part. The young woman became one more time a crane, and flew away.