The ogres of Oeyama
THE Great Warrior Raiko had received orders from the Mikado to punish the ogres who lived in Oyeyama, and to rescue from their clutches the captives they had seized and carried off to their stronghold. For in those days there was hardly a family in Kyoto which had not to mourn the loss of one or inore of its members.
No one had as yet had courage to make an attack upon the ogres' castle. Watanabe Tsuna, one of Raiko's followers, had indeed lain in wait for Shutendoji the chief of the ogres, at the Gate called Rashomon, in Kyoto.
There a famous struggle had taken place in which, though the ogre escaped him, Tsuna had cut off, and carried away in triumph the monster's arm. Shutendoji, however, by means of a clever trick, got back his arm again; and he, and his horrible crew, from this time forward, became bolder and bolder, until at last the whole city was filled with terror and mourning.
Raiko was delighted to receive the Mikado's order. Indeed, this was all he had been waiting for, as he and his band had long vowed the destruction of the ogres.
Raiko then, with Tsuna and his other followers prepared for their journey. Well armed, and with their good swords in their belts, this brave little band, consisting of but five warriors, set off towards the mountain still known as the “Ogres' Hill,” at the top of which they expected to find the monster's den. But the path was rough, if not indeed actually dangerous, and often they lost traces of it altogether, while the thick trees prevented their seeing any distance before them.
At length their difficulties increased so much that they were at a loss which way to turn, when there suddenly appeared in front of them an old man of mild and venerable aspect. His long and snowwhite beard flowed down over his rich garment, while his countenance beamed with heavenly radiance like a bright spring morning. Raiko bowed low; and addressing himself to the old man, asked him if they were in the right way to the Ogres' Mountain. “What would you seek there, my son?" demanded the old man in his turn.
Then Raiko took out a little bag of rich gold brocade, and from it drew the Mikado's order, clearly written in large letters. “I command you, Raiko to punish the ogres.”
When the old man had read the order he spoke thus to Raiko. “My son, only in one way can you hope to fulfil this command. Your swords are powerless against these monsters, and if you trust to them alone, you will soon be dead men. Shutendoji, as his name truly signifies, only lives to eat and, above all, to drink. Through his love of wine shall you overcome him. Follow me.”
So saying the old man led the warriors to his dwelling on the hill side, and after he had set food before them, and they had refreshed them selves, he brought out these gifts. For Raiko a helmet which was proof against every weapon, a magic sword and a drinking flagon or goblet.
This flagon had two mouths, and was so cunningly contrived that, though to outward appearance it was one vessel; yet, by means of a secret division, it could be made to contain two separate and distinct liquors. Besides, he disguised the warriors in the garments of Yamabushi, or mountain hermits, the flowing robes quite concealing the armour and weapons which they all wore beneath. Added to this, the old man gave to Raiko some of the famous wine of Sakai, and a small white powder, which was in truth a most powerful sleeping drug. Then he gave them full directions
Then he gave them full directions as to the path they should follow, and also as to their behaviour when they should have gained admittance into the ogres' castle. “Go, my sons, and may heaven prosper you," said the old man as they bade him a grateful farewell.
Thus equipped, and filled with new courage, the little band set out once more. As they journeyed, they talked to each other of the kindness and wisdom of the old man from whom they had just parted. And as they talked, a sudden light seemed to burst upon them, and they with one voice exclaimed. “This was no mere mortal: the gods themselves have come to our help.” So saying, they turned round, and bowed their faces to the ground, worshipping. Over mountain and through glen they took their way. Fording the streams, for bridges there were none, and climbing steep precipices, aided often by the ropelike stems of the wild wistaria.
After a hard day's march, they came, towards evening to the foot of a thickly wooded hill. There they
met with a beautiful maiden engaged in washing blood stained garments in the mountain torrent, which here flowed more quietly through the valley. The warriors in surprise The warriors in surprise asked her what she did alone in this desolate spot. “Alas sirs,” she answered, “I am a captive, and am obliged to do the bidding of my masters, the ogres. Fly, I beseech you, while yet there is time, from this haunted spot.”. “No indeed,” said Raiko, "we have come on purpose to find the ogres' den. Before morning you shall be free."
So leaving the maid in astonishment, they began to climb the mountain. They had not gone far when they met a young ogre, who was cook to Shutendoji. What was the horror of the warriors to find that he was carrying home part of a human body, which he meant to cook for the ogres' supper. Indeed, all around, lay human bones, bleaching in the sun, which had been flung down the precipice from the ogres kitchen! Hiding his disgust as well as he could, Raiko bade the ogre good evening, and asked him politely if he and his friends could find shelter for the night in his master's castle.
“ We are poor mountain priests,” said Raiko, travelling to Kyoto, and have lost our way. As it is now near Sunset, and we are both faint and weary, we hope your master will not send us away." The young ogre readily agreed to state their case to Shutendoji, thinking all the time to himself “what a fine feast we shall have off these fat old priests!" And now they came in sight of the castle. Dark and gloomy it looked, among tall pine trees, and giant rocks of weird and curious shape.
The demon cook begged the pretended priests to wait at the gate while he learned his master's pleasure concerning them, but soon returning, led them into the presence of Shutendoji himself.
The monster was seated at the upper end of a long hall. Around him were soft cushions, and silken curtains, and scattered about lay. drinking cups and bottles. But who can describe the horrible aspect of the ogre, as he reclined on a golden arm rest ? With his red body, hideous features and copper coloured horns, he was enough to strike terror into the boldest heart. Shutendoji however, received the pretended priests with much condescension, and invited them to sup and spend the evening with him.
The supper was soon brought in by attendant ogres, and consisted mainly of animals' heads, and human bones, though there was also a dish or two of wild boar and other game.
Raiko and his comrades were almost sick with the sight, yet dared not refuse to partake of this ghastly feast. The ogre and his lords were too busy with their own meal, which they devoured ravenously, to notice that their guests did no more than feign to eat, and in reality left the disgusting morsels untasted. All this time wine had been flowing like water; indeed there was a large tub of it standing near, from which smaller vessels were constantly being filled. Some of these vessels frightful to tell, were human skulls, and were handed to the ogres by captive maidens whom they forced to wait upon them. When Raiko saw that Shutendoji had drunk a great deal, and that the fun was becoming fast and furious, he thought that now was his time to act. So stepping forward, he offered to show them the "Kyoto dance” for which he was famous. He danced so well, and handled his fan with so much grace that the drunken ogres creamed with delight, making the hall echo again to their shouts. A Then producing the double drinking stoup Raiko offered it to Shutendoji, assuring him that it contained some of the finest Sakai wine. Raiko had before this taken an opportunity of filling both compartments of the stoup with wine, but into one of them he had cunningly dropped the white powder. This side of the flagon he took care should always he presented to the ogre and his lords, while he and his followers as carefully drank out of the other. Shutendoji loudly praised the wine, and was not content until he had drained the last drop.
Though he had allowed the other ogres to have a sip, yet he had drunk the lion's share himself, so that he was soon asleep, and snoring like the sound of distant thunder, and before long most of his retainers had followed his example.
Then up rose Raiko and gave the signal to his comrades. Drawing their swords they soon made short work of the sleeping ogres, while Raiko came near to Shutendoji wielding the magic sword, the gift of the gods. As he raised his hands to strike, the blade lengthened of its own accord, and with one blow the monster's head was severed from his body. In a moment the hideous head flew up into the air; the mouth opening and shutting, the teeth grinding, the eyes rolling, and the horns springmg out to an appalling length. Seven times it whirled round, and then made a dash at Raiko's head. And it would have fared badly with the hero, but for the armour by which he was protected. The demon's teeth bit through the hat, but were powerless against the helmet. The head fell at length to the ground with a heavy thud, and the victory was won. After they had slain the ogres, Raiko and his brave comrades, released the captives, divided the spoil, and finally set fire to the castle, destroying at once, and for ever that abode of wickedness.
Then the brave warriors, followed by the rejoicing band of released captives, gladly took their way home, bearing the head of Shutendoji with them. But before leaving the Ogres' Hill they reverently buried the bones of former victims, and set up a stone to mark the spot. Raiko received honours and rewards from the Mikado, and the everlasting gratitude of the citizens of Kyoto, whom he had thus delivered from the raids of the ogres.