Nature's Mysterious Powers
Ah! The magic of the Enchanted Forest! Behind it’s leafy curtain there are fairies, mystical creatures, and magical trees and flowers.
For hundreds of years, tales have been told about heroines and heroes stumbling into woodlands possessed with mystery and charms: Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, Beauty and the Beast, Hansel and Gretel are some that you probably know about. Our favorite Enchanted Forest residents are Titania and Oberan, king and queen of the fairies. Their story is told in Shakespeare’s playful comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
You know what is the best thing ever? We love to go camping there! And each time we do, we collect snippets of flora to take away with us. A special magic lives in the forest, and our samples of thicket help make our dreams magical no matter where we are.
Here are some delightful tales to lead you deep within the power of the Enchanted Forest:
The ancient Chinese tell of a magical forest—the Horai—where there is no death, no pain and no winter. The flowers there never fade, and the fruits never spoil. And if a person tastes those fruits even once, that person will never feel thirst or hunger again.
In Horai grow the enchanted plants Sorinshi, Rikugoaoi, and Bankonto, which heal all sickness. A magical grass grows there also that brings the dead back to life. It is watered by fairy water that keeps people young forever. The people of Horai eat their rice out of very, very small bowls, but the bowls are never empty—no matter how much is eaten—until the eater is not hungry any more.
In Horai, no one knows about evil, and the people’s hearts never grow old. And, because they are always young in heart, the people of Horai smile from birth until death, except when the immortals—their gods and spirits—deliver sorrow to them. When those times happen, all sad faces are veiled until the sorrow goes away.
All people in Horai love and trust each other, like they are members of one big family. The voices of the Horai women sound like birdsong because their hearts are as light as the souls of birds. In Horai, the only thing that is ever hidden is grief and sorrow, because there is never a reason to feel ashamed of anything. No doors are ever locked, and no treasures are ever hidden, because there is never a reason to steal anything or to ever be afraid.
Now, what do you think of a place like that?
It was the custom in old times that as soon as a Japanese boy reached manhood he would leave his home and go out in search of adventures to prove his strength and his skills.
It was in this tradition that one such young man started off from his village, determined never to come back until he had done something great that would make his name famous. But, because things were safe and peaceful everywhere he went, he wandered about for a long time without meeting even one fierce giant or a single person in need of rescue.
At last he saw in the distance a wild mountain, half covered in a thick forest. Hoping there would be dangers there for him to conquer, he hiked toward it. On the way, he found huge rocks to be climbed, deep rivers to be crossed, and thorny tangles to be avoided. These challenges made his brave heart beat stronger. As the day passed, he realized he could not find his way out of the forest, and he began to think he should have to spend the night there. Once more he strained his eyes to see if there was someplace he could take shelter, and this time he caught sight of a small chapel in a little clearing a ways off. He quickly made his way there and, curling himself up in a warm corner, soon fell asleep.
Not a sound was heard through the whole forest for some hours, but at midnight there suddenly arose such a clamor that the young man awoke with a start. Peeping cautiously between the wooden pillars of the chapel, he saw a troop of hideous cats, dancing furiously, making the night horrible with their yells. As the full moon illuminated the weird scene, the young warrior gazed with astonishment, taking great care to keep still, so he would not be discovered. Listening closely, he thought that in the midst of all their shrieks he heard them say, “Do not tell Schippeitaro! Keep it hidden and secret! Do not tell Schippeitaro!” Then, just after midnight, they all vanished, and the young man was left alone. Exhausted by all these strange goings on, he dropped to the ground and fell back to sleep until morning.
Upon waking, he felt very hungry and began to wonder how he might find something to eat. He got up and walked on, and before he had gone very far he was lucky enough to find a little side-path, where he could trace some footsteps. He followed the track, and soon came upon some scattered huts on the outskirts of a village. Delighted at this discovery, he started quickly toward the village, but stopped suddenly when he heard a woman's voice weeping and lamenting, calling on whomever could hear to take help her. Her cries made him forget his hunger, and he went into the hut to find out what was wrong. He was surprised to see several people inside. They sadly shook their heads and told him there way no way he could give any help. They explained that all this sorrow was caused by the Spirit of the Mountain, to whom every year they were forced to provide a maiden for eating.
“Tomorrow night,” they explained, “the horrible creature will come for his dinner. The cries you have heard came from the girl before you, whose name was drawn for this year’s sacrifice.” They told him that a large cask was sitting in the forest chapel, where she would be forced to wait for the Spirit to take her.
Hearing this, the young man desperately wished to rescue the maiden from her dreadful fate. The mention of the chapel reminded him of what he’d seen the night before, and remembering the strangeness with the cats, he suddenly asked, “Who is Schippeitaro? Can any of you tell me?”
“Schippeitaro is a dog that roams the village,” said one man, and they began to laugh at the question, which seemed so odd.
The young man left the hut and went straight to find the dog, whom he found gnawing on an old scrap of bone near a fire pit. He then hurried back to the hut where the maiden lived and told her parents to hide her safely in a closet. Once she was safely hidden, he took Schippeitaro to the cask and fastened him into it in place of the girl. He knew the cask would be placed in the chapel that evening, so there he went to wait and hide.
At midnight, when the full moon appeared over the mountain, the cats again filled the chapel and shrieked and yelled and danced as before. But this time they were joined by a huge black cat who presided as their king. The young man rightly guessed the wicked feline to be the Spirit of the Mountain. The monster cat looked around eagerly, and his eyes sparkled with hunger and anticipation when he saw the cask. He leapt high into the air, purring with delight, then pounced on the cask and unfastened the bolts that held it shut.
But… the evil cat, expecting to sink his teeth into the neck of a beautiful maiden, instead felt Schippeitaro's teeth suddenly lodge into HIM. Just then, the young man ran up and cut off the cat’s head with one swift swipe of his sword. The other cats were so astonished at the turn things had taken that they forgot to run away, and the young man, along with Schippeitaro, slayed several more before they could escape.At sunrise the brave dog was taken back to his master, where he enjoyed a warm meal, a fresh bone, and a long nap by the fire pit. From that day on, all young maidens in the village were safe, and every year on that day the people held a grand feast in honor of the wise young warrior and the dog Schippeitaro.