Ahiru to Tanuki Wa

By Rodney Robbins

Here is a fun little story loosely based on an old Japanese folks tale.  I hope to turn this into a picture book. Enjoy.

  1. Most ducklings liked to sleep on the shore of the Blue Lake, but Ahiru-san loved the soft clover in the Rising Field. He didn’t mind walking to the lake for his morning swim.
  2. As he walked down the path, through the woods, Ahiru-san called out, “Good morning! Good morning!” Usually, no one answered him until he reached the lake shore.
  3. This morning, as he walked through the woods, Ahiru-san heard a frightened voice call out: “Help me!  Help me! I’m trapped!”
  4. Ahiru-san ran and flapped and hurried along the path to a clearing. There he saw a horrible sight.
  5. Inside a cage made of sticks and twine, shaking and afraid, he saw a tanuki. A racoon dog.
  6. “Help me, please!” said the tanuki. “I’ve been stuck in here all night, and I’m afraid the trapper will come back with the dawn.” “Oh! Oh!” said Ahiru-san. “I can untie the door and let you out!”
  7. But the door latch was made of iron and Ahiru-san couldn’t see how open it. Just then they heard someone come crashing through the woods. It was the trapper.
  8. “Well, it was nice to meet you,” said Tanuki-san. But Ahiru-san didn’t panic. He had a plan. Quick as he could, Ahiru-san untied all the knots that bound the sides of the trap to the bottom. When the trap fell apart, Ahiru-san and Tanuki-san ran!
  9. “Hey,” shouted the trapper. “Come back, you little brats!” The trapper was fast and almost caught them. Then the old man tripped on the sticks that made up the trap and the duck and the racoon dog escaped.
  10. When they reached the Blue Lake, Tanuki-san said, “Thank you so very much, but I have no gift precious enough to repay you for saving my life.”
  11. “Don’t worry,” said Ahiru-san. “I don’t need anything. Would you like to come for a swim? The water is always nice and cold in the morning.” Then the duck slid into the lake.
  12. Tanuki-san was glad to be safe, but sad that he could not repay his new friend. Then an idea came to him.
  13. When Ahiru-san swam around, he was surprised to see his friend turn into a giant lotus blossom with four dog feet. “What are you doing?” said Ahiru-san.
  14. “I am a tanuki,” said Tanuki-san. “We are shape shifters. Now, I can be your shade while you swim.” “You are very kind,” said Ahiru-san.
  15. This worked wonderfully as the two friends swam around the lake, until they came near the shore. Suddenly, a snow monkey ran out of the woods, grabbed Tanuki-san by the throat and yanked him out of the water. “Pretty flower!” said the makaku as he ran into the woods.
  16. Ahiru-san was shocked by what had  happened, and he knew he could not run fast enough to follow a monkey through the woods. But he didn’t panic. Ahiru-san had a plan.
  17. The duckling paddled and flapped and took to flight. High above the trees, he followed the snow monkey to a clearing.
  18. The clearing was filled with other makaku who marveled at the giant lotus flower with four little dog feet. “I’ll never be able to save him from all those monkeys,” said Ahiru-san. “I can’t do it.”
  19. But he didn’t panic. As he circled the clearing, the Blue Lake came back into view. Suddenly, Ahiru-san had an idea.
  20. He flew back to the lake as fast as he could. He swooped down and grabbed a little fish. Then he flew back to the clearing. He dropped the fish a little ways away from the monkey that had stolen his friend. The makaku walked over and ate the fish.
  21. Ahiru-san flew back to the lake, scooped up another fish and dropped that one a little further away from the makaku. The monkey walked over and ate the second fish.
  22. When Ahiru-san came back a third time, he tricked the monkey into walking a good long ways away from the giant lotus with four dog feet.
  23. Finally, Tanuki-san understood what his friend was doing. As the makaku looked up at the sky, waiting for another fish to fall, Tanuki-san slipped away into the woods.
  24. Back at the lake, Ahiru-san watched his friend turn back into a racoon dog. “That was a close call,” said Ahiru-san. “How can I ever repay you?” asked Tanuki-san. “You don’t have to replay me. I could have dropped six fish, but I ate three of them on the way over to save you. Maybe we should swim out and play on the other side of the lake today.” “Oh, yes!” said Tanuki-san. “I completely agree.”
  25. So, the two new friends swam across the lake and spent a wonderful day together.