This a translation of just the first few pages of Naita Akaioni by Hirosuke Hamada. This is a children's story that's well known in Japan about a red oni (or ogre as I've translated it) who wants to be friends with humans but they're all scared of ogres. So one day his friend the blue oni suggests that he (the blue oni) chase the humans and the red oni come and save the day, then they'll be his friend. It's a very simple narrative although has a bit of a sad ending when the red oni finds out that the blue oni has left for good because if the humans see them together they'll never trust the red oni again!
I had a lot of fun translating this. I imagined I was sitting down with a group of children and reading this story out loud to them.
The Sad Red Ogre
Once upon a time there was a mountain. Where this mountain was I cannot say, but there was a mountain where a single house was built by a cliff.
You might think that a woodcutter lived there.
But no, there was no woodcutter.
Then perhaps it was the home of a bear?
No, there was no bear either.
It was the house of a young red ogre who lived all by himself.
This red ogre was very, very different from the ogres you might see in picture books.
But he had big eyes, which always looked all around him. And what looked like a single short stubby horn on top of his head.
You might think that he was a lazy, no good creature. But that is not true. He was actually a very kind, quiet ogre. Because he was so young he was very strong. But did not pick on any other ogres. And when the younger ogres misbehaved and threw pebbles around, the red ogre just smiled and laughed.
The red ogre also thought very different from the other ogres. “I was born an ogre, and so I must try my best and do only good things for my fellow ogres. Although, I also want to do what I can to become friends with humans.” The red ogre thought, and he kept these feelings inside him always.
One day the red ogre put up a wooden sign on the tree outside his house.
‘The home of a kind ogre.
Please come in.
Lots of tasty treats.
And hot tea.’
He wrote this clearly in neat writing and short words, and put it up for all to see.
The next day a woodcutter was walking by a house when a sign on a tree caught his eye.
“What’s this sign doing here…?” He said.
He looked at it he saw it was written in a way that anyone could read. As the woodcutter read it he thought that it was a very strange sign to have. He understood the words but still could not understand why an ogre would put up such a thing.
After scratching his head a few time, the woodcutter turned and dashed quickly down the narrow mountain path back to his village.
On his way back to the village at the bottom of the mountain he ran into a fellow woodcutter.
“I just saw something very strange”
“What’s that? A foxes wedding?”
“No, no, even stranger. It was something new on the path up the mountain.”
“Ohh? What was it?”
“An ogre has put up a sign.”
“What? Did you just say an ogre has put up a sign?”
“Yes I did! I have never heard of an ogre putting up a sign before.”
“What did the sign say?”
“It said ‘Please come in’. But you won’t believe me unless you see it for yourself.”