How the Jellyfish Lost his Bones

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Monkey rides jellyfish in japanese story


Dedicated to Thomas in Australia whose family support us on Patreon

This is Jana,

I don’t know about you, but I’m not very keen on jellyfish. When I am splashing about in the sea, I wouldn’t like to bump into one of them, in case it stings me with its tentacles. But on the other hand, if you can get a good look at jellyfish in an aquarium, you can see that they are in fact a very interesting looking creatures. They are translucent, which means that the light can shine through them. Some jellyfish even produce their own light-like lamps in the sea. And did you know that a jellyfish has no brain, heart, bones, or eyes? But it does have a big mouth to eat its food. And, it squirts water out of its mouth to propel it forward like a jet.

So those are a few facts about the amazing jellyfish. What I am going to tell you now is an old folktale from Japan that explains how the jellyfish came to be the way he is now. Obviously, it’s just a story - but as we all know here on Storynory, stories can be just as fun as facts.

Once upon a time, the jellyfish was a very handsome fellow. His appearance was beautiful and round as the full moon. He had glittering scales and fins and a tail as other fishes have, but he had more than these. He had little feet as well, so that he could walk upon the land as well as swim in the sea. What a jolly character he was!

He was the most beloved and trusted servant of the Dragon King who ruled the sea from his underground palace.

In spite of all his good fortune, his grandmother always said the jellyfish would come to a bad end because he would not study his books at school. She was right. And I can’t wait to tell you how the silly jellyfish became the lump of jelly that we know today.

Now as I was saying, the jellyfish was the most trusted servant of the underwater dragon king. The magnificent dragon king had recently married a beautiful dragoness, and he was madly in love with her. But unfortunately, the young dragon queen fell ill. The doctors dosed her with every medicine that was known to them, but still, she did not get any better. The dragon king was fearfully worried for his wife - and when he saw the doctors shaking their heads in dismay, he became even more worried. He knelt beside her bed and said:

“My Heart’s Desire, I would give my life for you.”

“A fat lot of good that would do me,” she replied. “But here’s something useful you can do. Fetch me the liver of a monkey. When I eat it, I know I will feel quite better. It’s a cure my grandmother told me about years ago.”

“But, Light of my Eyes” said the dragon king, “Our kingdom is undersea and monkeys live on land in the forest. How can I find a monkey’s liver?”

Tears ran down the lovely face of his young wife, as she implored:

“If you love me as much as you say you do, you’ll find a way to give me monkey liver, or else I shall surely die and it will all be your fault!”

“My sweet, my sweet, I shall find a way, I promise!” declared the dragon king.

He immediately went to his court where he summoned his trusted adviser, the Jellyfish.

“You must fetch me the liver of a monkey” he declared, “My wife’s life depends on it. If she does not eat monkey liver soon, she shall die.”

“My lord,” said the Jellyfish, “Where am I to find a monkey liver? I don’t believe I have seen such a thing.”
“They say that monkeys live in the tall trees of the forest,” said the Dragon King to the Jellyfish, “Go and fetch me one if you honour me as much as you say you do.”

“My Lord, your wish is, of course, my command,” replied the Jellyfish, not at all happy with his impossible mission.

The jellyfish set out on a long journey. He swam and he swam to the edge of the wide blue sea. And then he was in luck! He found a place where the forest came right down to the edge of the sea and the branches of the trees hung over the waves. And low and behold, sitting on a branch, he saw a monkey.

“Ahem, Mr Monkey!” called out the Jellyfish.“How do you do?”

“I’m alright,” called back the Monkey. “How are you? Indeed, ‘who are you? I don’t believe we’ve met before.”

“I am the jellyfish, and I am a chief advisor to his magnificence, the Dragon King, Lord of the Sea,” replied the Jellyfish grandly.

“That’s very nice. And how is his majesty doing?” asked the monkey politely.

“He’s doing just fine,” replied the Jellyfish. “In fact, every day in dragon land is a wonderful day. It’s a rich and happy place, never short of food or drink, and we spend all our time singing and dancing and playing with the mermaids.”

“Sounds nice,” said the monkey. “I’d like to visit such a place.”

Now the jellyfish was more than happy with this response. He believed that he had found a pretty stupid monkey who was falling for his tricks and lies. And so he called out obligingly.

“No problem! I have a broad, strong back. Just jump down from that tree and I shall carry you to the wonderful land of the dragons where every day is a play date.”

“Thank you!” said the monkey, and he jumped down onto the jellyfish’s back. Of course, you remember that in those days the jellyfish had strong bones and could carry weight if he wanted to. Well, he soon swam out into the middle of the sea with the monkey on his back and he was so pleased with himself that he started to chuckle.

“I like a good joke,” said his monkey passenger, “Can you share it with me.”

“I’m laughing,” said the Jellyfish, “because my lord the Dragon King sent me to fetch a monkey so that his wife could eat his liver - and you believed all my tricks and now we are in the middle of the waves you have no choice but to come with me to give your liver to the queen.

“Oh dear,” said the monkey as he looked at the waves and the distant shoreline, “That is a pity because I didn’t bring my liver with me. I left it hanging out to dry in the persimmon tree where you found me. We shall have to go back and fetch it. ”

“Well thank you for letting me know,” said the jellyfish turning around, and he swam back to land so that the monkey could fetch his liver. But of course, when they reached the shoreline and the trees, the monkey hopped off the jellyfish's back and bounded up into his tree.

“Have you found your liver yet?” called out the jellyfish.

“Nope, can’t find it,” called back the monkey. “Maybe some crook stole it while I was away.”

“Keep looking,” called back the jellyfish, “because the queen really does want to eat monkey liver soon.”

“I promise,” said the monkey, “as soon as I find it, you’ll be the first to know!”

The monkey never did find his liver hanging on the tree or anywhere else because it was inside him where it was meant to be. Eventually, the jellyfish gave up waiting and swam back home to the palace of the Dragon King.

When he told the story of the monkey losing his liver in the persimmon tree, the Dragon King flew into a fury. He could not understand how his loyal adviser, the jellyfish, could be so stupid. Surely he must be playing some trick! He was so angry that he called the guards and ordered them to beat up the jellyfish. Poor jellyfish! They beat him into jelly. But fortunately, because he lived in the sea, he didn’t actually need any bones and he could live quite happily as a floating lump of jelly with some dangly tentacles.In fact, some people say that he is even more beautiful as jelly than he was when he had bones and legs - but you take care! Don’t brush against those jellyfish tentacles, because they can give you a nasty sting.

And for those of you who are asking what happened to the dragon queen - she was fine. When she realised that she wasn’t going to eat monkey liver anytime soon, she decided to get better another way. She was soon back on her feet walking around the palace and acting out the very nice life of a dragon queen. In short, the dragon king and the dragon queen lived happily ever after.

Dedicated to Thomas in Australia whose family support us on Patreon

And I’m delighted to dedicate this story to Thomas, Aged 7, who lives in Canberra, the capital city of Australia. We thank his family for supporting Storynory on Patreon His mother Steph writes,

We have just signed up for a membership after gaining so much enjoyment from your stories. My 7 year old son Thomas and I listen to storynory every night at Thomas’ bedtime We thank you so much for all the enjoyment you have given us.