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My Lord Bag of Rice
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This exciting story from Japan features a battle between a warrior and a giant centipede. The rewards for bravery in this story are not riches or the hand of a beautiful princess, but a plentiful supply of food. And by the end of the story you will know how the warrior gained his unusual title of “My Lord Bag of Rice.”
Told by Natasha. Duration 19.12
Long, long ago there lived, in Japan a brave warrior known to all as
Tawara Toda, or “My Lord Bag of Rice, ” and there is a very interesting
story of how he received this unusual name.
One day he went out in search of adventures. He buckled on
his two swords, took his huge bow, much taller than himself, in his
hand, and slinging his quiver on his back, started out. He had not
gone far when he came to the bridge of Seta-no-Karashi spanning one
end of a beautiful lake. No sooner had he set foot on the
bridge than he saw lying right across his path a huge serpent-
dragon. Its body was so big that it looked like the trunk of a large
pine tree and it took up the whole width of the bridge. One of its
huge claws rested on the wall of one side of the bridge, while
its tail lay right against the other. The monster seemed to be
asleep, and as it breathed, fire and smoke came out of its nostrils.
At first the warrior could not help feeling revolted at the sight of
this horrible reptile lying in his path, for he must either turn
back or walk right over its body. He was a brave man, however, and
putting aside all fear went forward. Crunch, crunch! he
stepped now on the dragon’s body, now between its coils, and without
even one glance backward he went on his way.
He had only gone a few steps when he heard someone calling him from
behind. On turning back he was much surprised to see that the
monster dragon had entirely disappeared and in its place was a
strange-looking man, who was bowing most ceremoniously to the
ground. His red hair streamed over his shoulders and he wore a crown
in the shape of a dragon’s head, and his sea-green dress was patterned
The warrior knew at once that this was no
ordinary mortal and he wondered at what had happened.
Where had the dragon gone in such a short space of time? Or had it
transformed itself into this man, and what did the whole thing mean?
While these thoughts passed through his mind he had come up to the
man on the bridge and now spoke to him:
“Was it you that called me just now?”
“Yes, it was I,” answered the man: “I have an earnest request to
make to you. Do you think you can grant it to me?”
“If it is in my power to do so I will,” answered the warrior, “but
first tell me who you are?”
“I am the Dragon King of the Lake, and my home is in these waters
just under this bridge.”
“And what is it you have to ask of me!” said the warrior
“I want you to kill my mortal enemy the centipede, who lives on the
mountain beyond,” said the Dragon King as he pointed to a high peak on the
opposite shore of the lake.
“I have lived now for many years in this lake and I have a large
family of children and grand-children. For some time past we have
lived in terror, for a monster centipede has discovered our home,
and night after night it comes and carries off one of my family. I
am powerless to save them. If it goes on much longer like this, not
only shall I lose all my children, but I myself must fall a victim
to the monster. I am, therefore, very unhappy, and in my extreme need I
determined to ask the help of a human being. For many days with this
in mind I have waited on the bridge in the shape of the horrible
serpent-dragon that you saw, in the hope that some strong brave man
would come along. But all who came this way, as soon as they saw me
were terrified and ran away as fast as they could. You are the first
man I have found able to look at me without fear, so I knew at once
that you were a man of great courage. I beg you to have pity upon
me. Will you not help me and kill my enemy the centipede?”
The warrior felt very sorry for the Dragon King on hearing his story,
and readily promised to do what he could to help him. He
asked where the centipede lived, so that he might attack the
creature at once. The Dragon King replied that its home was on the
mountain Mikami, but that as it came every night at a certain hour
to the palace of the lake, it would be better to wait till then. So
the warrior went to the palace of the Dragon King, under the
bridge. Strange to say, as he followed his host downwards the waters
parted to let them pass, and his clothes did not even feel damp as
he passed through. Never had he seen anything so
beautiful as this palace built of white marble beneath the lake. He
had often heard of the Sea King’s palace at the bottom of the sea,
where all the servants were salt-water fishes, but
here was a magnificent building in the heart of Lake Biwa. The
dainty goldfishes, red carp, and silvery trout, waited upon the
Dragon King and his guest.
The warrior was astonished at the feast that was spread for him. The
dishes were crystallized lotus leaves and flowers, and the
chopsticks were of the rarest ebony. As soon as they sat down, the
sliding doors opened and ten lovely goldfish dancers came out, and
behind them followed ten red-carp musicians with the koto and the
samisen. Thus the hours flew by till midnight, and the beautiful
music and dancing had banished all thoughts of the centipede. The
Dragon King was about to pledge the warrior in a fresh cup of wine
when the palace was suddenly shaken by a tramp, tramp! as if a
mighty army had begun to march not far away.
The warrior and his host both rose to their feet and rushed to the
balcony, and they saw on the opposite mountain two great
balls of glowing fire coming nearer and nearer. The Dragon King
was trembling with fear.
“The centipede! The centipede! Those two balls of fire are its eyes.
It is coming for its prey! Now is the time to kill it.”
The warrior looked where his host pointed, and, in the dim light of the
starlit evening, behind the two balls of fire he saw the long body
of an enormous centipede winding round the mountains, and the light
in its hundred feet glowed like so many distant lanterns moving
slowly towards the shore.
He showed not the least sign of fear. He tried to calm the
“Don’t be afraid. I shall surely kill the centipede. Just bring me
my bow and arrows.”
The Dragon King did as he was bid, and the warrior noticed that he
had only three arrows left in his quiver. He took the bow, and
fitting an arrow to the notch, took careful aim and let fly.
The arrow hit the centipede right in the middle of its head, but
it glanced off it harmless and fell to the ground.
The warrior took his second arrow, fitted it to the notch
of the bow and let fly. Again the arrow hit the mark, it struck the
centipede right in the middle of its head, only to glance off and
fall to the ground. The centipede was invulnerable to weapons! When
the Dragon King saw that even this brave warrior’s arrows were
powerless to kill the centipede, he lost heart and began to tremble
The warrior saw that he had now only one arrow left in his quiver,
and if this one failed he could not kill the centipede. He looked
across the waters. The huge reptile had wound its horrid body seven
times round the mountain and would soon come down to the lake.
Nearer and nearer gleamed fireballs of eyes, and the light of its
hundred feet began to throw reflections in the still waters of the
Then suddenly the warrior remembered that he had heard that human
saliva was deadly to centipedes. But this was no ordinary centipede.
This was so monstrous that even to think of such a creature made one
creep with horror. He determined to try his last chance. So
taking his last arrow and first putting the end of it in his mouth,
he fitted the notch to his bow, took careful aim once more and let
This time the arrow again hit the centipede right in the middle of
its head, but instead of glancing off harmlessly as before, it
struck home and sunk into the creature. Then with a convulsive shudder
the serpentine body stopped moving, and the fiery light of its great
eyes and hundred feet darkened to a dull glare like the sunset of a
stormy day, and then went out in blackness. A great darkness now
overspread the heavens, the thunder rolled and the lightning
flashed, and the wind roared in fury, and it seemed as if the world
were coming to an end. The Dragon King and his children and
retainers all crouched in different parts of the palace, frightened
to death, for the building was shaken to its foundation. At last the
dreadful night was over. Day dawned beautiful and clear. The
centipede was gone from the mountain.
Then the warrior called to the Dragon King to come out with him on the
balcony, for the centipede was dead and he had nothing more to fear.
All the inhabitants of the palace came out with joy, and
he pointed to the lake. There lay the body of the dead
centipede floating on the water, which was dyed red with its blood.
The gratitude of the Dragon King knew no bounds. The whole family
came and bowed down before the warrior, calling him their preserver
and the bravest warrior in all Japan.
Another feast was prepared, more sumptuous than the first. All kinds
of fish, prepared in every imaginable way, raw, stewed, boiled and
roasted, served on coral trays and crystal dishes, were put before
him, and the wine was the best that he had ever tasted in his
life. To add to the beauty of everything the sun shone brightly, the
lake glittered like a liquid diamond, and the palace was a thousand
times more beautiful by day than by night.
His host tried to persuade the warrior to stay a few days, but
he insisted on going home, saying that he had now finished
what he had come to do, and must return. The Dragon King and his
family were all very sorry to have him leave so soon, but since he
would go they begged him to accept a few small presents (so they
said) in token of their gratitude to him for delivering them forever
from their horrible enemy the centipede.
As the warrior stood in the porch taking leave, a train of fish was
suddenly transformed into a retinue of men, all wearing ceremonial
robes and dragon’s crowns on their heads to show that they were
servants of the great Dragon King. The presents that they carried
were as follows:
First, a large bronze bell.
Second, a bag of rice.
Third, a roll of silk.
Fourth, a cooking pot.
Fifth, a bell.
The warrior did not want to accept all these presents, but as the
Dragon King insisted, he could not well refuse.
The Dragon King himself accompanied the warrior as far as the
bridge, and then took leave of him with many bows and good wishes,
leaving the procession of servants to accompany Hidesato to his
house with the presents.
The warrior’s household and servants had been very much concerned
when they found that he did not return the night before, but they
finally concluded that he had been kept by the violent storm and had
taken shelter somewhere. When the servants on the watch for his
return caught sight of him they called to every one that he was
approaching, and the whole household turned out to meet him,
wondering much what the retinue of men, bearing presents and
banners, that followed him, could mean.
As soon as the Dragon King’s retainers had put down the presents
they vanished, and the warrior told all that had happened to him.
The presents which he had received from the grateful Dragon King
were found to be of magic power. The bell only was ordinary, and as
the warrior had no use for it he presented it to the temple near by,
where it was hung up, to boom out the hour of day over the
But as for he single bag of rice, however much was taken from it day after day
for the meals of the warrior and his whole family, it never grew less–
the supply in the bag was inexhaustible.
The roll of silk, too, never grew shorter, though time after time
long pieces were cut off to make the warrior a new suit of clothes
to go to Court in at the New Year.
The cooking pot was wonderful, too. No matter what was put into it,
it cooked deliciously whatever was wanted without any firing–truly
a very economical saucepan.
The fame of the warrior’s fortune spread far and wide, and as there was
no need for him to spend money on rice or silk or firing, he became
very rich and prosperous, and was henceforth known as My Lord Bag of