The Red Candle 赤い蝋燭

A delightful little tale from Niimi Nankichi. Very few things sound quite as much fun as a group of furry animals and some fireworks.

Niimi Nankichi
Translated by Richard Medhurst

Monkey found a red candle when he went down from the mountain to play in the village. But you don’t often see red candles so Monkey thought that it was a firework. He carried the red candle carefully back to the mountain.
Soon the mountain was in an uproar. This was because neither Deer nor Boar nor Rabbit nor Tortoise nor Weasel nor Tanuki nor Fox had ever seen anything like a firework before.
“Oh, how wonderful!”
“It’s so pretty!”
Deer and Boar and Rabbit and Tortoise and Weasel and Tanuki and Fox pushed and shoved against each other to get a good look at the candle.
But Monkey said, “Stop it, it’s dangerous. You shouldn’t get so close. It’ll explode!”
And they all cowered back in terror.
Then Monkey explained to everyone what a loud noise the things called “fireworks” made when they took off into the air and how beautifully they filled the sky. All the listening animals thought that they’d like to see something so beautiful for themselves.
“In that case, let’s go to the top of the mountain this evening and launch it from there,” Monkey said. Everyone was delighted. The thought of a firework scattering stars in an instant across the night sky sent them into raptures.
Night fell and their hearts pounding, they climbed to the top of the mountain. Monkey had already lashed the red candle in place with branches and was waiting for them to arrive.
At last, it was time to launch the firework. But then there was a problem, which was that nobody went to light it. They all wanted to see the firework, but they didn’t like the idea of going to light it.
So the firework stayed where it was. At that point, they drew straws to decide who was going to light it and Tortoise picked the shortest one.
Tortoise did her best to act brave as she approached the firework. But was she able to light it properly? Not at all. As soon as she got close to it, her head instinctively shrank back into her shell and wouldn’t come out again.
They drew straws again and this time Weasel was chosen. Weasel did a little better than Tortoise in that his head didn’t shrink back into his shoulders. But Weasel was terribly short-sighted so he just kept wandering aimlessly around the candle.
Finally, Boar jumped up, a daredevil through and through, and she really did manage to light it.
All of the startled animals dived into the depths of the grass and tightly covered their ears. And not content with covering their ears, they shut their eyes too.
But the candle just kept burning quietly without even a pop


The original work was taken from the Aozora Bunko and is in the public domain
English translation © 2014 Richard Medhurst. All rights reserved.

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