SARU KANI GASSEN (THE MACAQUE VS. THE CRAB)
Following on from our latest mukashibanashi, here's another lurid animal tale of revenge. One that will teach you, dear primates, the power of never underestimating a decapod, for they will surely come back and pinch you in the ass!
Mukashi mukashi, once upon a time, there was a macaque. Macaques are the only non-human simians in Japan; in fact, when they just say "saru" (ape/monkey), they mean, by proxy, "nihonzaru" (macaque: literally, Japanese ape). The empirical observation of their behaviour has proved that these are very intelligent primates, in fact, they are famous for plunging sweet potatoes they are holding into the ocean and rubbing them to both wash and salt the tubers.
However, there are some nihonzaru, like the one in this tale, who are only bright enough to wash and salt their sweet potatoes on the beach. Their talent for business only boils down to corruption. On this story's beach, our macaque, whom we shall refer to as Saru ("Ape," ut supra), once found a persimmon seed on the wet sand.
In the meantime, a decapod we have decided to give the name of Kani ("Crab") was scampering back into the ocean with a rice ball (nigiri, like the one put under sushi), which she had also found in the sand (Gods know how the nigiri made it to that deserted beach). For some reason, Saru offered Kani the seed in exchange for the rice ball, which was far less hard to crack, and the female crab somehow agreed.
In spite of the fact that, like all decapods, she breathed underwater and could not survive quite long on land, Kani managed to find enough time to grow a persimmon tree on the beach -at least, a sapling that yielded edible fruit... om nom... waiting for autumn so I can eat persimmons myself...- But alas, she couldn't climb up the trunk to harvest the fruit, and here is where Saru, who had come to wash his potatoes in the ocean once more, came in and offered to help her with the persimmon-picking. But, rather than sharing it, our opportunistic simian gorged upon the ripe fruit, and, when Kani chided him from below, he silenced the crustacean with a well-aimed hard green persimmon to the carapace, and, indifferent to her plight, climbed down and left her for dead.
When the crab came to her senses, she decided to seek revenge on the primate who had taken advantage of her and given her a near-fatal concussion. So she decided to seek out his den and give Saru his just desserts (one thing that keeps me worried: how did Kani contrive to survive for so long on land, actually? Did she use some kind of diving bell, like Fish out of Water or an Araquanid? Let's assume it!).
As she passed through the woods, she recruited a chestnut still in its prickly shell, after spotting the nut on the floor. The villain of this story must have been an ape and a son of an ape, for the chestnut was quick to join the party.
As the crab and the chestnut passed through a flowery meadow, they recruited a cow pie (and I am not referring to an oven-baked one). A cow pie, a cow pat, a meadow muffin... by any other name would smell as strong. The villain of this story must have been an ape and a son of an ape, for the cow pat was quick to join the party.
As the crab, the chestnut, and the cow pie trudged on across the meadow, they recruited a few worker bees which they found drinking nectar. Now the stings of honeybees are attached to their intestines, which makes the first time they sting in self-defense ironically the last one as well. The villain of this story must have been an ape and a son of an ape, for the bees were quick to join the party, no matter if they should forfeit their lives.
As the crab, the chestnut, the cowpat, and the honeybees passed through a village, not far from Saru's mountainous den, they recruited a mortar -and here I am referring to the one that comes in conjunction with a pestle-: a big, heavy wooden mortar used as a rice hand mill. The villain of this story must have been an ape and a son of an ape, for the mortar was quick to join the party.
When they all reached the cottage (on the outskirts of the same village) where the macaque lived, the master was away (washing and salting those sweet potatoes, presumably?), and thus, the lucky conspirators laid out a battle plan to booby-trap the place and lie in wait for an ambush, for a surprise attack.
KANI: Chestnut, take position at the fireplace!
CHESTNUT: Yes, ma'am!
KANI: Bees, hide in the water bucket!
BEES: Yes, ma'am!
KANI: Meadow Muffin, lie in wait at the threshold!
COW PIE: Yes, ma'am!
KANI: Mortar and I will strike the final blow from the rooftop!
MORTAR: Yes, ma'am!
When the ape came home at twilight, it was cold and it would be nice to warm himself by the fireplace,
but then the chestnut struck him in the face...
So he thought a bucket of water may do well to ease the pain,
but then upon him stings of bees did rain...
(A minute of silence for the collateral damage that was the death of all these worker bees)
So he ran out and he slipped on the still wet cow pie,
when a mortar with a crab inside fell right from above and caused him to...
Yes, you get the picture.
As for the conspirators, after holding a short requiem for the honeybees who had so gallantly lost their lives during the quest, they became the best of friends.
REMARKS ON THIS TALE
Here's another animal tale of revenge, as lurid as Kachikachiyama (the one with the raccoon or tanuki in the mud boat, remember?). It also includes an object (the mortar), which is most likely to be a tsukumogami (100-year-old object god: when an object becomes 100 years old, it gains a divine spirit of its own).
As for the plot, there are parallels with the Grimms' Musicians of Bremen and Herr Korbes, and the similar Andalusian folktale Benibaire, all of which are tales where various animals (and sometimes objects: Benibaire is attacked by a cow pie, and by a needle as well!) lay in ambush in a lair-like home when the wicked primate (human in these cases) master is away, then throw a serial surprise attack when he returns, resulting in the master's death (Herr Korbes/Benibaire) or his retreat (Musicians of Bremen).