Translation:Wolf Forest and Basket Forest, Robber Forest

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Wolf Forest and Basket Forest, Robber Forest  (1924) 
by Kenji Miyazawa, translated from Japanese by Wikisource

North of the Koiwai Farms, there are four forests of black pine trees. The southernmost is Wolf Forest. Next is Basket Forest and then Black Hill Forest. The furthest north is Robber Forest.

When and how were these forests made? How did they get such strange names? I can tell you because I was told by the one person who knows all about it, a big boulder in the very middle of Black Hill Forest.

A long time ago, Mt. Iwate erupted over and over again. Everything around the mountain was buried in ash. The pitch-black boulder who told me the story was sent flying from the mountain and landed exactly where it is today.

After the eruptions finally stopped, grasses and grains started to grow towards the south and soon sprouted all around the mountain. Then oak trees and pine trees started to grow, and eventually the four forests came to be. However, they didn’t have names yet. They all simply thought, “I’m me.” Then, one fall day, like water the cold, invisible wind flowed through the valley, rustling the fallen oak leaves, and the clouds left a dark shadow on Mt. Iwate’s silver crown.

Four farmers, wearing jackets made of straw and carrying axes, rakes, and hoes -- weapons of the mountains and plains -- tied tight across their backs, climbed over the flint mountains to the east and lumbered into the little plain surrounded by forests. If you looked closely, you could see that they were all carrying big swords as well.

The head farmer, looking over this picturesque landscape, asked the others while pointing at different things in the plain, “What do you think? Doesn’t this place look great? We’ll be able to plant our fields right away, we’re right by the forest, and there’s clean water. It looks like we’ll get plenty of sunlight, too. How about it? I, for one, decided on it as soon as I saw it.”

One of the other farmers asked, “but how’s the soil?”

The questioner then bent over, pulled out a blade of grass, and knocked the dirt from the roots into his hand. He ran his fingers through it, tasted it a little, and declared, “Yep, the soils not great, but it’s not terrible either.”

“Alright, should we make this the place then,” said another one of the farmers, looking across the field fondly.

“I agree, let’s live here,” said the fourth farmer, who had been standing in silence.

The four farmer smiled, dropped the bags and tools from off their backs, and called back the way they came,”hey, hey, this is it. Come quickly.”

Then, from out of the tall grass behind the farmers, came three of their wives, laden with bags and their faces bright red. After them 9 children, all about 5 or 6 years old, came running and cheering out of the grass.

The four men then looked in different directions and called out together, “may we plant our fields here?”

“Go ahead,” the forests called back in unison.

“May we build our homes here?”


“May we build a fire here?”

“Go ahead”

“May we have some wood as well?”


The men clapped their hands with joy. The women, whose faces had returned to their normal color, and children had been standing silently until now, began to dance about. Some of the children, unable to contain themselves, started to roughhouse, and their mothers grabbed them and hugged them tight.

By sunset, they had already built a little log cabin with a roof made from reeds. The children, overjoyed, jumped and pranced around it. The next day the forests watched as they worked obsessively. The men, with their glinting hoes, pulled out the field’s tall grass. The women gathered the chestnuts that the squirrels and field mice couldn’t carry away and cut kindling from the pine trees. Then the snow came and covered the whole plain.

Throughout the winter, the forests did all they could to protect the people from the cold north winds. Even so, the smaller children still got very cold and, folding their swollen red hands to their necks, cried, “it’s cold, it’s cold.”

Then spring came, and a second cabin with it.

They planted buckwheat and millet. White flowers bloomed from the buckwheat, and black ears sprouted from the millet.In the fall, the grains were harvested, new fields were planted, and a third cabin was built. Everyone was very happy, and even the adults walked with a spring in their step. Nevertheless, one morning when the fields were frozen hard, they found that the four smallest children had disappeared during the night.

The whole little village, frantically searched everywhere around their cabins but never saw even the shadow of a child.

Then everyone looked in a different direction and yelled together, “Does anyone know where our children are?”

“I don’t know,” the forest call back in unison.

“Then we are going to come looking for them.”

“Come on in.”

Everyone grabbed a farm tool, and they went into the nearest forest, Wolf Forest. As soon as they entered the forest they were struck by the damp, cold breeze and the smell of rotten leaves.

Slowly but steadily they walked into the forest. They heard a crackling coming from deep within the forest.

They hurried toward the noise to find a pinkish fire burning with nine wolves dancing around it. As they got closer, they saw their children as well, sitting facing the fire, snacking on roasted chestnuts and mushrooms.

The wolves sang and danced in circles around the flames, like a spinning lantern in the summer.

“In the middle of Wolf Forest The fire roars and cracks The fire roars and cracks The chestnuts pop and crack The chestnuts pop and crack”

There everyone called out together, “Kind wolves, kind wolves, would you please return our children?”

The unexpected voices surprised the wolves, who suddenly stopped their song, bared their teeth, and turned toward the people.

The fire suddenly died, turning the clearing blue and quiet. The children that were by the fire began to cry.

The wolves, confused by the interruption, looked around for a moment before darting into the trees.

“Please don’t feel bad, we are very grateful for the chestnuts and mushrooms,” the children called after them. After returning home, the people cooked some awamochi (a treat made from millet) and brought it to Wolf Forest to show their gratitude.

Spring came again, and two more children along with it. They found two horses as well. Covering their fields with grass and rotten leaves, along with horse manure, their buckwheat and millet grew green.

There was a bountiful harvest that year, and as fall came to a close, everyone was quite happy.

Then, one morning when the ground was covered with needles of frost, everyone came out to work. They wanted to make their fields bigger, but when they went to get their tools, they couldn’t find them in any of the houses. There wasn’t a single axe, rake, or hoe to be found.

They looked all around, but no matter what, they couldn’t find their tools. With nothing left to do, they looked in every direction and yelled altogether, “Does anyone know where are tools are?”

“I don’t know,” the forests called back in unison.

“Then we are going to come looking for them.”

“Come on in.”

They went out as a group, this time with nothing in hand. First, they went to the nearest forest, Wolf Forest. As they approached the forest, nine wolves came out, gave the group a serious look, and waved them away.

“No, no, absolutely not, no, we don’t have it. After you’ve looked everywhere else, you can come back.”

Everyone thought the wolves were telling the truth, so they moved on to Basket Forest in the west. When they went into the deepest part of the forest, they found a giant basket woven from tree branches lying at the base of an old oak tree.

“This is pretty suspicious. It makes sense that there’s a basket in Basket Forest, but what’s inside it. Let’s take a peek,” said one of the group. They opened the lid of the basket to take a peek, and found inside all nine of their missing tools.

But that wasn’t all. In the very middle of the basket, a yellow-eyed, red-faced troll sat cross-legged. When he saw everyone looking at him, he opened his big mouth and let out a “boo!”

The children screamed and started to run away, but the adults weren’t scared. They called to the troll together, “Troll, please stop your pranks. We beg you, please stop this mischief.”

The troll, looking ashamed, bowed his head and stood up. Everyone took their tools and left the forest.

Then they heard the troll call from edge the forest, “I would like some awamochi.” He then turned around, hid his face in his hands, and ran back into the forest.

Everyone chuckled. When they got home, they made some awamochi and brought some to Wolf Forest and some to Basket Forest.

The spring came, followed by summer. Every flat place had been turned into farmland. They made covers for their firewood by their cabins and built a big barn.

Their herd grew to three horses, as well. Everyone was very, very happy with the harvest in the fall.

They all thought to themselves, “no matter how much awamochi we have to make this year, we’ll still have plenty for ourselves.”

But of course, something strange happened.

One morning, with frost covering all of their fields, they found that all of the millet was missing from their barn. Everyone, frantically ran all through their fields, but couldn’t find a single grain of millet.

Losing hope, everyone looked in different directions and called together, “Does anyone know where our millet is?”

“I don’t know,” the forests called back in unison.

“Then we are going to come looking for it.”

“Come on in.”

Everyone grabbed their weapons and went to the nearest forest, Wolf Forest.

Nine wolves came out of the forest, and seeing everyone, gave a quick snort, “We’re getting awamochi today, too. We don’t have your millet. No, no, absolutely not. Once you’ve looked everywhere else, you can come back.

Everyone thought the wolves were telling the truth, so they moved on to Basket Forest.

When they got there, they found the red-faced trol waiting for them at the the entrance to the forest with a big grin on his face.

“Awamochi, awamochi. I didn’t take nothing. It you’re looking for your millet, you should try further north.”

Everyone believed the giant too, so they went a little further north to Black Hill Forest, the forest that told me this story. When they entered, they yelled, “give us back our millet, give us back our millet.”

Black Hill Forest didn’t take a shape, but answered only with its voice, “At sunrise, I saw a giant, pitch-black foot flying through the air, headed north.”

The forest made it sound like it didn’t mention awamochi once, and I believe it. When the forest told me the story, I took out my wallet and offered it seven coins of what little I had, but it refused them. That’s just its personality.

Well, everyone believed what Black Hill Forest said too, so they decided to keep going north.

The next place they came to was Robber Forest, where the bark of the pine trees was completely black. They entered the forest and yelled again, “give us back our millet, give us back our millet.”

Hearing the yelling, out from the depths of the forest came a pitch-black man with long, long arms. WIth a voice like something tearing he yelled back, “What? Who’s calling me a thief? I’ll beat the tar out of every one of them! It’s not like you have any proof. ”

“There is, there is. We have a witness,” the people replied.

“Who? Who said I’m a thief,” barked the man.

“Black Hill Forest,” the people yelled back refusing to lose the argument.

“Everything that forest says is a lie. Lies, lies, lies,” shouted the man.

The people, now believing the man, were unsure of themselves. They looked at each other, trying to think of what to do.

Then they heard a majestic voice above their heads saying, “Oh no, that’s not true.”

Looking up, they saw it was Mt Iwate, wearing its silver crown. The man of Robber Forest put his head in his hands and fell to the ground.

Mt Iwate than said silently, “There is no doubt a robber in Robber Forest. I saw at dawn, by the light of the sky in the east and the glow of the moon in the west, the crime take place. But you may all go home. I will make sure your millet is returned. Don’t worry. Robber Forest just wants to try making its own awamochi and couldn’t help itself. That’s why he stole the millet. Ho ho ho.”

Mt Iwate finished its speech and returned to its place in the sky. The man had left as well.

Everyone was dumbfounded by what had happened, and returned home talking among themselves. When they got home, they found all of their milet back in the barn. Laughing and smiling, the people made more awamochi and brought some to all four forests.

They brought the biggest batch to Robber Forest, but they also may have snuck same sand into the batch. But that’s just how things are.

Ever since then, the forests have been friends of all, and every year at the start of winter, they are brought some awamochi.

Over the years, the plates of awamochi have gotten smaller and smaller, but that too is just how things are. And so the big black boulder in the middle of Black Hill Forest ended its story.

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was first published outside the United States (and not published in the U.S. within 30 days), and it was first published before 1989 without complying with U.S. copyright formalities (renewal and/or copyright notice) and it was in the public domain in its home country on the URAA date (January 1, 1996 for most countries).

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