Japanese fairy tales

The Filial Girl

the filial girl

A girl once lived in the province of Echigo, who from her earliest years tended her parents with all filial piety. Her mother, when, after a long illness she lay at the point of death, took out a mirror that she had for many years concealed, and giving it to her daughter, spoke thus, “when I have ceased to exist, take this mirror in thy hand night and morning, and looking at it, fancy that ’tis I thou seest.”

With these last words she expired, and the girl, full of grief, and faithful to her mother’s commands, used to take out the mirror night and morning, and gazing in it, saw there in a face like to the face of her mother. Delighted thereat (for the village was situated in a remote country district among the mountains, and a mirror was a thing the girl had never heard of), she daily worshipped her reflected face. She bowed before it till her forehead touched the mat, as if this image had been in very truth her mother’s own self.

Her father one day, astonished to see her thus occupied, inquired the reason, which she directly told him. But he burst out laughing, and exclaimed, “Why! ’tis only thine own face, so like to thy mother’s, that is reflected. It is not thy mother’s at all!”

This revelation distressed the girl. Yet she replied: “Even if the face be not my mother’s, it is the face of one who belonged to my mother, and therefore my respectfully saluting it twice every day is the same as respectfully saluting her very self.” And so she continued to worship the mirror more and more while tending her father with all filial piety—at least so the story goes, for even to-day, as great poverty and ignorance prevail in some parts of Echigo, the peasantry know as little of mirrors as did this little girl.

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