Tatsuko, Dragon Princess

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Welcome storylovers! Today's story is about a poor mountain maiden, who wanted to be beautiful and live forever. She got her wish while her mother weeps for her.


Once a long, long time in a small village in Northern Japan, lived the most beautiful girl called Tatsuko. She help her mother, they were very poor. Her mother and the village were proud of Tatsuko because she was the best worker.

In the spring, Tatsuko liked working helping to bring in the herbs from the mountains. She was the fastest on her horse. Then in the fields fires were lit to clear the weed, and earth turned for the corp of hemp, use in the weaving. Tatsuko felt good, strong: she was useful. Her songs soothed everyone. Her voice was youthful and full of energy.

In the summer, the hemp was cut and boiled in iron kettles with fires burning day and night. Tatsuko's clear, sweet voice like bells rang smooth calming the tired muscles of the villagers.  As she worked her hands were strong and agile, not twisted and crippled.

In the fall, the hay was cut for the horses, and wood gathered and  cut for the winter rains and snow. Tatsuko rode her horse like the wind and carried the heaviest bundles through the drying grasses. Her body was swift and fast was not bent and slow.

In the winter, Tatsuko caught rabbits, skinned them for stew and  tanned their skin for coats and blankets and wove the hemp into straw mats for walls and floors. She carried these to market to sell. She love running in the snow she was limber and fast. Her legs were not crippled from age.

After the long cold winter, Tatsuko went with thee maidens to gather herbs in the new flowering fields. As her friends took a nap, Tatsuko searched for the spring of water as directed by the Goddess Benten. As she drank and drank, fire spitted from the earth and a violent earthquake shuck the valley. The maidens crying and screaming ran down into the valley shouting, "Tatsuko is lost, gone."

The villagers saw the trees burning, smoking swelling from the ground, and felt the earth shake. Tatsuko mother screamed, "I will find my daughter." She climbed up through the burning trees. The villagers followed. They saw the earth turned upside down, rock displaces, and a huge lake in the valley. They stood in shock.

In the middle of the lake a huge spray of water with a rainbow reached into the sky. Tatsuko's mother and the villagers watch a huge dragon swim to the beach, the rainbow followed. The dragon stepped on the beach. With clear, shining eyes and in a sweet singing voice said. "I am Tatsuko." Then a maiden appeared to her mother.  She hugged her daughter. "Why, Tatsuko?"

"When I went to the Temple, I prayed to Benten, asking her if I could be young and beautiful forever. Do you hear, forever. Not twisted with a bent body, no graying hair, no twisted fingers, young."

My daughter, work is honor, my bent back is my pride. That you know, dearest Tatsuko, honor. After all fire watching and your trips to the Temple, then when you went to gather the herbs with your friends, I thought you were back with me."

"Mother, when I stared into the fire I asked for beauty and youth."

"When I went to the Temple, all those days through the snow and wind, I asked Benten to keep my face beautiful, my body spry, and my hand youthful, and my hair shiny and black."

"Tatsuko I need your help. Come back to me."

"In the Temple I heard a voice, saying that I could never go back, I could have no regrets. I was to find a spring and drink its water. I drank and drank. My body got heavy, I got dizzy and fainted."

"Tatsuko, how could you want beauty over honor and duty."

"Mother, this is honor and wisdom."

"Tatsuko, Tatsuko, my beautiful daughter, I have lost you."

"Mother, when you want fish I will hear you, and bring them."

As Tatsuko's mother cried, her tears turned into fish. Some of the fish followed the Rainbow Dragon back into the lake, the rest stayed on the shore for the villagers.


I love story and thank-you lovers of story for reading. May you have the best 😊 with your storytelling!


The story is told at AAM, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco,  in the Japanese Galleries.

Geisha, Beyond the Painted Smile, the Asian Art Museum, Civic Center Plaza, San Francisco, CA, June 25 to September 25, 2014.

The legend of Lake Tazawako, https://japanesemythology.wordpress.com/the-legend-of-lake-tazawako-akita-prefecture/,  My friend, Sarasa's mother lives by the lake and when I told her Tatsuko story, she was overwhelm at anyone know the story, and is Tatsuko is still celebrated today.

Japanese Mythology, Juliet Piggott, Peter Bedrick Books, New York, 1982.

Japanese Fariy Tales, Iwaya Sazanami, Hokuseido Press, 1938.

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