© Written byand illustrated by Leanne Guenther - based on the Japanese Folktale
In the far reaches of Japan, at the base of the great Mt. Fuji, lived a kind bamboo-cutter and his lovely wife. They lived happily for most of their lives. They loved each other as greatly as any couple could; however, they never had any children and for that they eventually grew very sad and lonely.
One day, the bamboo-cutter came home from a hard day’s work. He placed his tools on the table and noticed his wife sitting alone, sobbing.
“Oh, my dear husband!” she began, sadly. “There is nothing more that I wish for in this great world than a child to call our own.”
The bamboo-cutter looked at his sad wife and felt hopeless that he could not make her happier. Later that evening, his wife looked up at Mt. Fuji’s brilliantly snow covered peak and shouted sadly, “Oh how I wish I had a sweet child to take care of! It saddens me so that I will never have a young life to nurture! Send me a child to care for! That is all I wish.”
While his wife spoke, the bamboo-cutter noticed a glimmering light shining radiantly from Mt. Fuji’s topmost point.
“Dear husband! Look! Look! There – on the mountaintop! A child’s face is shimmering at me!” his wife cried out.
The bamboo-cutter assumed that this was just a figure of his wife’s imagination. “Nonetheless, I will go up to Fuji’s summit to see what is there,” he said skeptically.
The bamboo-cutter climbed the mountain for hours and hours. He came to a small clearing in the mountain’s path and noticed a small blue and black butterfly fluttering gently towards him. Follow me! He heard someone whisper. The bamboo-cutter stopped short in his tracks as he stared at the butterfly dancing around him. He could not believe his ears. The butterfly had spoken to him!
The bamboo-cutter followed the flapping butterfly along the trails of Mt. Fuji. Finally, the butterfly led him to a beaming trail of silver light that steered him to a glade with a large bamboo tree and a small pond. Silver light shone beautifully on the water. Follow me! The butterfly whispered as it flapped gracefully and landed on an object resting between the branches of the tree.
The bamboo-cutter approached the butterfly and found a small moonchild cradled amongst the bamboo stalks.
“My child! Where have you come from?” the man cried, filled with joy.
“I have come to you from the Moon Lady. She is my true mother, but she noticed your wife’s sadness and sent me to soothe her kind heart. I am Princess Moonbeam,” the child replied.
The man, still filled with all the joy in the world, took the cradled child and made the journey home. The blue and black butterfly fluttered behind having enjoyed the bamboo-cutter’s company so much.
When he arrived at home, his wife greeted him. The moment she saw the child, she began to cry out with happiness. The moonchild had indeed soothed the woman’s kind heart.
Throughout the years, Princess Moonbeam brought nothing but happiness and comfort to the couple’s hearts. She helped the bamboo-cutter with his work, she helped his wife tend the garden and she always had a kind word for their neighbours in the nearby village. Princess Moonbeam even befriended the small butterfly and the two played happily in the grassy field nearby the bamboo-cutter’s house.
Even when she was older, Princess Moonbeam played gracefully with the butterfly; the bamboo-cutter’s wife loved to watch the two run and play in the field.
One lovely day as spring turned to summer, Princess Moonbeam realized that her time with the bamboo-cutter and his wife was near an end as she had grown up and it was time for her to return back to her true mother, the Moon Lady in the sky.
With news of this, the bamboo-cutter and his wife cried out, “Stay with us, moonchild!”
But the small butterfly landed on the bamboo-cutter’s shoulder and whispered gently to the kind-hearted couple:
Let her go. For she must be one with where she is from. She has given you all the joy in the world, just as you have done the same for her. All the comfort you could hope for came in a small time, but your souls will be forever healed with the memories you share with your sweet Moon Maiden.
Princess Moonbeam bid her farewells to all the people that she would be leaving behind once she returned to the sky.
When the full moon rose, white and brighter than any star in the sky, a brilliant bridge shining with silvery light stretched far out from the sky to the ground.
All movement stopped as the bamboo-cutter, his wife and their neighbours stared in awe at the radiant Moon Lady walking gracefully down the silver bridge, her long wispy hair merging with the moonlight that seemed to follow her.
As she passed villagers the Moon Lady gently approached to her child. She wrapped her silvery body around Princess Moonbeam and the two glided back up the bridge to their home in the sky. Princess Moonbeam's friend, the small blue and black butterfly fluttered along behind them for a ways before returning to rest again on the bamboo-cutter's shoulder.
On her journey back home Princess Moonbeam wept softly, sad that it was time for her to leave her family on earth but glad that she'd had the opportunity to get to know them. As she wept, small silver droplets floated down, left behind. These radiant tears glided gracefully to the bamboo-cutter, his wife, and their neighbours – who all missed the Moon Maiden greatly. Her tears carried a message of love and comfort much like she had during her time on earth.
To this day, the tears of Princess Moonbeam can been seen on a brightly moonlit night in the small ponds, marshes, and glades all across Japan, especially around Mt. Fuji. And, chances are, a small blue and black butterfly will be close by, fluttering in the grassy fields.