Tokoyo

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5 min

Tale from Japan.

A long, long time ago, there lived an emperor who was suddenly stricken with a strange illness. He became weak and could barely get out of bed. As a result, his mood was always bad and he blamed his closest aides for everything bad that happened in his kingdom. One day he became furious with the noble samurai Oribe Shima because he happened to be slightly late for a meeting. Oribe received a harsh punishment. He was banished to the poor and desolate Oki Islands, where he could only support himself by fishing.

Oribe Shima had only one child, a daughter who worked as an oyster picker in their home village. Her name was Tokoyo and she wasn't afraid of anything. Where no one dared to dive into the depths, Tokoyo picked his oysters and opened them with his sharp oyster knife. Soon news reached the village that her father had been banished to the Oki Islands and Tokoyo immediately set off to find Oribe. But it was not easy to know which island he had been forced to leave for. She borrowed a small boat and traveled around on her own between the islands, but nowhere had anyone heard of the samurai Oribe Shima. Finally she came to an island that had a small shrine in a cliff by the water. She was both hungry and tired, and huddled inside the sanctuary to get some rest.

She was awakened from her sleep by approaching footsteps. Tokoyo hid behind a rock so that she could spy unseen on those who came walking. It was a priest and a young girl. The girl knelt before the shrine and the priest read prayers and clapped his hands over her head. Then the priest grabbed the girl and began to drag her down towards the water. Then Tokoyo jumped forward and pushed the priest away. “What are you doing, you lunatic?” she wondered. "You're going to drown the girl, aren't you?" "I must throw her into the sea," explained the priest. "Outside our island lives an evil sea god. If we do not sacrifice one of our children to him every year, he will sink all the fishing boats and sink the island.” "Then let me take her place," Tokoyo begged. "I am not afraid of your sea god and should I succumb to the depths it does not matter, for my father has disappeared and my life is only filled with sorrow."

Tokoyo put on the girl's white sacrificial clothes and was blessed by the priest. Then she took her sharp oyster knife between her teeth and dove into the sea. It got darker the further down she got, but she could still see what was on the bottom. To Tokoyo's surprise, she found a wooden statue of the Emperor. Yes, the very same one who exiled her father. At first, Tokoyo thought of putting the knife in the emperor, because she was so angry with him. Then she changed her mind and thought that it wasn't the artist's fault, he who made the statue.

Instead, she took the statue on its back and tied it with a belt. Now she was running out of air and she had to return to the surface.

But on the way up to the light she was stopped by a dark shadow that rose in her path. It was the evil sea god, terrifying to behold. He had a large head with staring eyes and a scaly body with thousands of bones. The beast blew out a blood red cloud around Tokoyo and she became very dizzy. But she still had her oyster knife and she stuck it straight through the cloud and into one of the sea god's eyes and into his head. With this slash, she killed the monster and it began to sink to the bottom. With the last of her strength, Tokoyo grabbed the beast's head and cut it off with her sharp knife, then sped towards the surface.

The priest remained waiting on the shore and was surprised to see Tokoyo emerge from the water with a statue on his back. But then he caught sight of the sea god's head that she had in her hands. The priest carried Tokoyo ashore and ran after the villagers on the island, so that they could see for themselves the wonder that had taken place. When Tokoyo killed the sea god, she saved everyone on the island, but another strange thing also happened. As soon as the statue of the emperor was set down on the beach, the real emperor immediately recovered. On the small fishing island, Tokoyo was hailed as a hero and news of her feat spread all the way to the emperor's ears. When he heard about the wooden statue from the bottom of the sea, he understood that the evil sea god had cast a spell on him somehow and that Tokoyo had healed him. Immediately, Emperor Oribe lifted Shima's banishment and invited both him and his daughter to court. It turned out that Oribe lived on the very island that Tokoyo had now saved and together they traveled to the emperor's palace, where they lived in safety and happiness. Except for one day a week when Tokoyo couldn't hold on any longer and had to visit the sea and go oyster hunting again.

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