RINGOROPYONPYONTOBIJETPLANEKENCHAN the Tengu woke up one day in his cave in the heart of the Japanese
mountains. He had overslept for a hundred years. He scratched his beard and scratched his third rib,
yawned, and looked outside. Then he drank a big bowl of cold mountain water, ate some moss and a few
juicy rocks and went outside into the bright mountain morning.
"Ah," thought the Tengu, "time for some mischief."
In the distance, smoke curled lazily from the roof of the hut of Jirotaro and his granny. Jirotaro
was about nine years old and liked throwing pebbles into rushing mountain streams to see them hurtled
away, and liked dropping pebbles into quiet mountain pools to hear the soft echoes of the gentle
splash. His granny made the best sweet rice cakes that any granny has ever made.
Tengus had long lived in the heart of the Japanese mountains. Jirotaro had heard many stories of the
bad things that the Tengus do, but, to tell the truth, no one had met a Tengu for so long that no one
knew for sure whether or not the stories were true.
Ringoropyonpyontobijetplanekenchan Tengu (let's call him Ringoro), Ringoro Tengu once made a village
liar's nose grow like a sailboat and made a cow dance on its horns and sing like a canary to frighten
the lady mayor. But, he also gave a log full of gold coins to Good Gombei the charcoal maker because
the old man could look into the Tengu's fiery eyes without fight or fear.
Jirotaro went outside this particular morning and scrambled down to the stream in the gully below the
hut. He was nice and warm inside from a good breakfast of rice and hot soup and from the rays of the
morning sun just beginning to touch away the dew on the wild grass.
Ringoro the Tengu was perched in a great pine tree on the other side of the gully, making noises like
a large crow. Then, flapping his great wings and beating his feather fan, the Tengu swooped down,
caught Jirotaro and leapt back into the sky.
"Oh!" said Jirotaro in a little voice, too surprised to say anything in a big voice. Trees rushed
past, the top of the next mountain whirled below, and they landed, thump, at the mouth of the Tengu's
"Heh, heh," said the Tengu, putting Jirotaro down.Then he threw back his head, flashed his eyes and
laughed long, loud and awfully.
"I caught you, little boy," growled the Tengu with a voice like storm-tossed trees and a distant
"I know," said Jirotaro, very much out of breath with surprise and rushing trees, and he looked at
the Tengu with wide eyes. Jirotaro was more curious and interested than afraid but was a little bit
"Why?" asked Jirotaro.
The Tengu glared down at him. "Tengus _always_ kidnap people," the Tengu rumbled.
"Are you a Tengu?" asked Jirotaro.
The Tengu stamped his great staff into the ground. Thunder crashed and the mountain shook and
"What have you learned, little thing?" cried the Tengu.
Jirotaro looked at him with even bigger eyes and a little respect.
"Teach me how to do that," said Jirotaro.
At the same time, Jirotaro's granny was putting away the breakfast bowls and felt the house shake and
the thunder crash in the bright morning sky. "Ah," thought his granny, who knew about such things
because her granny had heard that her granny's uncle knew about such things. "The Tengu is awake
today. I will tell Jirotaro at lunch not to wander too far," and she continued putting away the bowls
for she thought Jirotaro was nearby gathering wood and throwing pebbles. Little did she know that
Jirotaro was saying, "Teach me to do that," to Tengu Ringoro.
Tengu Ringoro growled, "NO! Sit down, little boy!"
Jirotaro sat down. "Teach me," said Jirotaro, who was an obedient boy and was beginning to admire
anyone very much indeed who could make so much noise.
The Tengu said nothing and glared down at Jirotaro. The Tengu's eyes grew brighter and began to
whirl. Soon the eyes sent forth sparks, and then became great twisting whirlpools of flashing fire.
Jirotaro enjoyed this very much, and a happy smile made his red cheeks look even redder.
The Tengu stopped flashing his red eyes suddenly. "Caw caw growl," he growled. "I will eat you,
little boy," he rumbled.
"Tengus don't eat people," said Jirotaro. "Your nose is too long. Why is it so long?" said Jirotaro.
The Tengu's face suddenly got even more crimson than usual, with splotches. With a cry he flew to the
top of a tree, waved his staff, flashed his eyes, stuck out his long dark red tongue at Jirotaro and
thundered off toward the top of the mountain.
Jirotaro looked after the Tengu until he disappeared and then a little while longer, turned and
picked up a pebble and started home for lunch.
Ringoro the Tengu, Ringoro the Terrible, who made a cow dance on its horns and even burned down a
barn once when he was young, and furious.
"That boy!" thought Ringoro. "He will fear Ringoro." He stopped in midair over the rocky top of the
mountain, flapped his wings and waved his fan until the tails of his jacket bounched and twirled
wildly. Then with a scowl even scowlier than usual he flashed away.
Jirotaro returned home in time for his noonday meal and ate very quietly. This worried his granny a
little because between mouthfuls of rice and pickled radishes Jirotaro's voice usually never stopped
about the fish in the stream and the squirrels in the oak tree and the badger he almost saw--and--and
the funny brown rock, and so on. Today he was completely quiet. His granny looked at him thoughtfully
but Jirotaro didn't notice. He was thinking very hard.
In fact for the first time he wanted something very much. He wanted the Tengu's thundering staff. How
he would impress the children in the village--and their parents, too.
After lunch his granny warned him not to wander too far, but Jirotaro was busy thinking and dreaming
and sat down in his favorite shady nook by the side of the gully stream.
The afternoon passed quietly. Insects buzzed around Jirotaro, birds hopped near his bare toes looking
for seeds, and tadpoles wiggled up to the muddy edge of small pools by the stream. Occasionally in
the far distance Jirotaro heard the sharp caw caw of a crow and looked up from his thoughts into the
treetops in every direction. But Ringoro the Tengu didn't come again until that evening.
Dinner was over and the bowls were put away. Jirotaro was beginning to feel disappointed and a little
afraid the Tengu wouldn't come. And at the same time really a little afraid the Tengu would come. His
granny was definitely worried because her favorite and only chatterbox had said exactly twelve words
all through dinner and eight of them were "Um" and "Oh."
Suddenly from the dark trees at the edge of the clearing came a great noise, a flapping like the
wings of a huge bird and the voice of a crow as big as a man.
"The Tengu," cried Jirotaro and ran out the door.
"The Tengu?" said his shocked granny and also hurried to the door as fast as she could.
She reached the door just in time to see a great Tengu shape grab a little Jirotaro shape at the edge
of the clearing and rise into the night sky with a flapping and a rush of wind.
"Jirotaro," she cried. "Granny," floated a little voice from the black dot disappearing against the
stars, but it was drowned out by the Tengu's loud "Caw Caw Hoo Ho Ha." Then the shapes of the Tengu
and Jirotaro were gone. Grannies know many more things than most people. Without stopping for tears,
then, she started to do somet things to get her Jirotaro back.
They rushed into the night sky ten times faster than when the Tengu had swooped away with Jirotaro
that morning. Jirotaro gritted his teeth and held the Tengu as hard as he could.
They soared higher than the mountains, past little fat clouds, through tall skinny clouds, into flat
wispy clouds. If they continued, they might have reached the moon.
The Tengu stopped in midair. "Are you scared now, little boy?" he cried.
"No," laughed Jirotaro.
"Caw Caw Ho Fumf," roared Tengu Ringoro with a screech, and rushed off again in the sky with
Ringoro the Tengu swooped and dived, he zigged and zagged, he flipped, swingled, swootched, upside-
downed and swam in the air like a porpoise. So did Jirotaro, because he was holding on to the Tengu.
Finally Ringoro jumped from cloud to cloud like a kangaroo until there were no more clouds. A little
out of breath, he stopped and glared at Jirotaro. Jirotaro looked up a the scowling face of the
Tengu--and laughed happily.
With a huge cry Ringoro dove. He folded his wings and dove straight down. Through the flat wispy
clouds, past the tall skinny clouds, splasying the fat little clouds he dove. Faster and faster, past
the hight mountain tops, toward the hight mountain slopes he dove. Jirotaro shut his eyes very
tightly, held his breath and locked his hands around the bony Tengu arm holding the long staff.
Suddenly Ringoro's wings opened with a great lurch, and they stopped falling. Jirotaro opened his
eyes. They were just a treetop above his clearing.
They touched the ground. In a twinkling, Jirotaro grabbed the thick staff, jumped, and ran. Ringoro
the Terrible, the Tengu, stood frozen with surprise, bright red eyes wide and scowly mouth open.
Jirotaro ran halfway to his hut, stopped, raised himself very tall, and shouting with as big a
Jirotaro voice as possible, thwacked the ground with the end of the heavy staff.
Thunder crashed, crashed again, and crashed again. The ground rumbled and shook. The whole mountain
trembled and quaked. Crashing, a pine tree fell by the clearing.
From the foot of the staff a crack in the ground opened, got bigger, ran directly under the hut and
got wider and wider. Slowly, as the ground shook and thundered, the hut started to fall into the
"Granny!" cried Jirotaro.
Time seemed to stand still.
Ringoro the Tengu suddenly saw the little boy as if he were a young Tengu, as if he were a little
Ringoro, doing mischief, doing naughty things year after year, alone because everybody was afraid to
talk to him, because his face was always scowling, especially when he laughed. For the first time in
his life of 3,212 years, Ringoro the Tengu felt alone, felt sorry and felt a little afraid. He took a
step on the quaking ground toward Jirotaro, toward the staff and the disappearing hut.
"Granny!" cried Jirotaro. Then he raised the staff high above his head.
"STOP!" thundered the voice of Jirotaro with all the power of the staff, and with him, "STOP!"
thundered the voice of Ringoro with all the power of the Tengus. Every sound stopped, the shaking
ground stopped--and slowly, slowly the hut rose back into place, and beneath it the crack closed and
mended. Everything was silent.
"Jirotaro," came a voice, and Jirotaro's granny came out from the trees by the path to the village.
Then Jirotaro was being held close in his granny's arms and he, too, held his granny very tightly.
"Um, just a minute, granny," he said, and taking the staff, walked to where Ringoro still stood. He
stopped before the Tengu, bowed very low and held out the staff. The Tengu took it gently from the
boy's hands. Then, from his big fan he plucked the second largest feather and with a nod of his head
gave it to Jirotaro.
Granny, who had seen the whole spectacle from the edge of the clearing, came up behind Jirotaro, and
before the Tengu could fly away, also bowed.
"Please, sir, stay and be our guest," she said in her most polite manner.
"Um," grunted the Tengu and followed her into the hut. In the dark, Jirotaro thought he saw the
corners of Ringoro's scowly mouth turn up in a little smile.
Before Ringoro the Tengu left that evening, he said that granny's sweet rice cakes were much better
than rocks, even juicy rocks, and could he please come again and besides he wanted to teach Jirotaro
how to use the power of the feather from the Tengu fan, and some other things.
That night Jirotaro and Ringoro also learned that granny had been to the village temple to ask the
spirit of her granny's granny's granny's uncle, Good Gombei the charcoal maker, for the safe return
Ringoro the Tengu had known Good Gombei very well and told the story about the old man finding the
log of gold coins and told the story about the lady mayor and the dancing canary cow. Granny and
Jirotaro laughed, and then Ringoro, with a sweet rice cake in one hand, actually smiled and laughed
with them until his red eyes turned bright sky blue.
The next morning, granny found that Jirotaro's hair shone red in the sunlight and had become a bit
curly. He head touched the Tengu Power, said granny.
Ringoro the Tengu came again once and came again many times. And, it is said in a certain village in
the heart of the Japanese mountains, if you go to a certain quiet pool of a stream in a certain
gully, and if you are lucky, you may see a Tengu with one feather missing from his fan dropping
pebbles into the water and listening to the echo of the gentle splash.