Image credit: Baxley Stamps

My husband and daughter went to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean last weekend. I passed because, to be honest, the fish people in the last two ust freaked me out, and I had heard there were zombies in this, another creature I’m not very found. Apparently I should have gone, but that’s beside the point. From what I understand, part of the movie involves the Fountain of Youth, which is what made me choose this Japanese fairy tale to feature today.

“The Fountain of Youth” opens with a fairy stale standard, an poor, elderly, childless couple. One day the old man goes out into the forest, another staple in fairy tales, but finds a little spring he has never seen before. After drinking from it, he becomes a young man again, strong with a full head of hair. He rushes home. His wife is at first afraid of him, a stranger, but he eventually convinces her of the truth of what happened. The woman rushes out to drink from the stream, insisting that her husband stay behind so that the house isn’t empty. She drinks and drinks and drinks. Eventually the husband tires of waiting and goes out to the stream to find his wife. When he reaches the spring, he can’t find her. After searching, he discovers his wife’s clothes in the high grass, and beside them a baby. The old woman had drunk too much of the water, returning her to infancy.

He took up the child in his arms. It looked at him in a sad wondering way. He carried it home,-murmuring to it,-thinking strange melancholy thoughts.

In fairy tales the couple often wishes for a child. Here, the man gets a baby without wishing for one, and he would certainly rather have his wife as a young, beautiful woman than a helpless, speechless baby. I think he’s really the one who loses in this story. He happened upon the spring by chance, and was happy to share his good fortune. I didn’t even get the impression that he forced his wife to drink from it, that he needed her to be young too to love her. It was her choice. And she was the unwise one, but he is the one who ends up raising a child who should have been his wife.

I guess the point is that we should make the most of where we are in life. We all know that there really is no fountain of youth, but even if there were, would you really want to go back to being a young adult, or even worse a child or baby? I don’t think I would.

Alternately, the moral could be the old saying “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”

“The Fountain of Youth” is originally from Japanese Fairy Tales: The Boy who Drew Cats translated by Lafcadio Hearn, published 1898. I read it at Sur La Lune Fairy Tales.

Friday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. I would love it if you joined me. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, share with us. If you have a link, please include it in your comment.


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