Visu the woodsman and the old priest | Sunday Observer

Visu the woodsman and the old priest

7 August, 2022

Tales from around the world with Aunty Poornima Weerasinghe   A folktale from Japan


 Visu was a woodsman. He lived in a hut in a small village which was near a jungle. Even though his house was small, he had a giant physique, and he had many members i n the family. Visu’s parents were woodcutters too. They trained Visu for their family occupation. He did not have the time to attend school. So, he did not know to count the number of children or the money he earned.

An unexpected visitor

One day, Visu and his family had an unexpected visitor. He wore a white robe and a turban. He looked like a priest. It was a hot sunny day. Visu invited the guest into the small hut and served him food. After all the hospitality, the priest asked

“Dear woodsman, thank you for the food and your kindness. But I am afraid, you never pray”.

Visu said, “If you had a family and many children, and you had to do a job to earn a living, you would not have enough time to pray”.

A promise

The priest was angry. He said to Visu that he will be re-born as a toad in the jungle, a mouse in a garbage pit or an insect for millions of years. It confused poor Visu. Before the priest left Visu’s hut, Visu promised that he will try to pray every day.

“Work and pray” the priest said as his goodbye message. After that day, Visu did nothing but pray.

A few weeks went by. Visa’s wife believed that she should not talk against her husband. Gradually, their paddy fields withered, and the family started to starve.

They could see the ribs through their children’s skin. Eventually the wife became extremely angry.

One morning, she woke up Visu. “Here Visu, get up! Take the axe and go to the forest. Cut some wood and sell it. Our children are starving. We are going to die if you keep praying the whole day” and she was firm with Visu. He was amazed at his wife’s courage.

“Look woman!” He said angrily. “You are dishonouring God. He always comes first. I want nothing to do with such a shameless woman”. Without thinking twice or bidding farewell he took the axe and left the small hut they lived in.

Mt. Fujiama

Visu climbed Mt. Fujiama and disappeared among the misty and cloudy darkness.

He was tired. He suddenly saw a fox. He believed that it was a lucky sign and started following the fox. They came to a plain.

Two girls

There was a stream at the other end of the plain. There were two girls playing in the stream. Forgetting all his prayers, Visu sat down on a rock and started watching them playing in the stream. They were moving logs and playing a strange game. Visu took a liking to the fair girl who had long black hair. He watched them for three hundred years.

A wrong move

One summer evening, the girl he loved the most made a wrong move. “It’s wrong” Visu screamed. The two girls turned their heads, saw Visu and ran in the direction the fox had run. Visu tried chasing them. But he realised that over time his hair had grown long.

He looked like a lump of dust. Even the handle of the axe that was made from the hardest wood had crumbled away. Visu was able to stand on his feet after trying and failing many times. He felt very lonely.

Visu remembers his family

Visu suddenly remembered his family. He came out from the misty dust of Mt.Fujiama. He found the spot where his small hut had been. But the place was a little town by now. There was an old woman in a white dress. She wore a turban too.

God’s punishment

“Where are my wife and loving children?” Visu cried. The woman offered him a glass of water and said, “Son, if you are telling the truth, they are the mother and the seven children buried in this very place, after the master of the house neglected looking after them. And God prolonged his age as a punishment.” Visu then realised that a man should look after his family with love and care.