Recently, a poet friend who has a blog called Capacious Hold-All, linked to a children’s book related to her post about red purses. Curious about the book she linked to, I took it out of the library. The story is called The Magic Purse and is a Japanese folktale. Retold by Yoshiko Uchida, the story is illustrated in watercolors by Keiko Narahashi. Similar to the folktale I posted about last time, The Magic Purse features a virtuous man who is faced with a choice. In this story, he is given a red purse from a young woman-spirit living in a swamp separated from her parents. The little red purse is magic. Bulging with gold coins, it will always replenish itself after the coins have been removed if one coin is left in it. The young man is charged with a task, however. He must deliver a letter from the daughter to the girls’ parents who live in a notoriously treacherous swamp called the Red Swamp. Will the young man undertake this dangerous quest even though he has already received the magic purse? And how will he use the magic purse? In a way the purse and its boon, as well as the task he is charged with in receiving it, tests the mettle of the man.
My daughter enjoyed listening to this folktale. Of course, the swamp part of the story was a little frightening for her. Folktales often present risks not just to the story’s heroes, but to the parents who must read them to their children! However, my daughter did realize afterwards that part of experiencing the fear of the hero of the story entering the swamp is what made the story so compelling compared to other books we read that night.
Do you read folktales to your children? If so, how do you choose them? Which ones have your children enjoyed?