Yorisama, the Brave Archer

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    Genzan Yorisama was a brave warrior and a very useful man who lived more than eight thousand moons ago. On account of his valor and skill in the use of the bow he was called to Kioto, and promoted to be chief guard of the imperial palace. At that time the emperor, Narahito, could not sleep at night, because his rest was disturbed by a frightful beast, which scared away even the sentinels in armor who stood on guard.

    This dreadful beast had the wings of a bird, the body and claws of a tiger, the head of a monkey, a serpent tail, and the crackling scales of a dragon. It came after night, upon the roof of the palace, and howled and scratched so dreadfully, that the poor mikado losing all rest, grew weak and thin. None of the guards dare face it in hand-to-hand fight, and none had skill enough to hit it with an arrow in the dark, though several of the imperial corps of archers had tried again and again. When Yorimasa received his appointment, he strung his bow carefully, and carefully honing his steel-headed arrows, stored his quiver, and resolved to mount guard that night with his favorite retainer.

    It chanced to be a stormy night. The lightning was very vivid, and Kaminari, the thunder-god was beating all his drums. The wind swirled round frightfully, as though Fuden the wind-god was emptying all his bags. Toward midnight, the falcon eye of Yorimasa saw, during a flash of lightning, the awful beast sitting on the “devil’s tile” at the tip of the ridge-pole, on the north-east end of the roof. He bade his retainer have a torch of straw and twigs ready to light at a moment’s notice, to loosen his blade, and wet its hilt-pin, while he fitted the notch of his best arrow into the silk cord of his bow.

    Keeping his eyes strained, he pretty soon saw the glare now of one eye, now two eyes, as the beast with swaying head crept along the great roof to the place on the eaves directly under the mikado’s sleeping-room. There it stopped.

    This was Yorimasa’s opportunity. Aiming about a foot to the right of where he saw the eye glare, he drew his yard-length shaft clear back to his shoulder, and let fly. A dull thud, a frightful howl, a heavy bump on the ground, and the writhing of some creature among the pebbles, told in a few seconds time that the shaft had struck flesh. The next instant Yorimasa’s retainer rushed out with blazing torch and joined battle with his dirk. Seizing the beast by the neck, he quickly despatched him, by cutting his throat. Then they flayed the monster, and the next morning the hide was shown to his majesty.

    All congratulated Yorimasa on his valor and marksmanship. Many young men, sons of nobles and warriors, begged to become his pupils in archery. The mikado ordered a noble of very high rank to present to Yorimasa a famous sword named Shishi-no-ō, (King of Wild Boars), and to give him a lovely maid of honor named Ayami, to wife. And so the brave and the fair were married, and to this day the fame of Yorimasa is like the “umé-také-matsu,” (plum-blossom, bamboo and pine), fragrant, green and ever-during.

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