Friday, April 07, 2006

Naita Aka Oni

There is a popular picture book for children in Japan, titled Naita Aka Oni [The Red Ogre Who Cried].

The story goes like this:
Once upon a time, there were two ogres. One was red, and the other was blue. The red ogre wanted to become friends with children in a village nearby. So, the red ogre put up a sign in front of his house:Naita Akaoni
Home of a Gentle Ogre
All Are Welcome
Tea and Tasty Cakes Available
But no one showed up, and the red ogre grew puzzled, sad, and angry. "I'm such a kind ogre -- why would nobody visit me?" Despairing, the red ogre even tore down the sign: "This is useless."

Moved by his friend's feelings, the blue ogre said, "Look, I have a plan."

The blue ogre's plan was for him to pretend to terrorize children and then have the red ogre chase him off, "rescuing" them from him. The plan went without a hitch, and the red ogre became the most popular creature among the children, and all came to play with him.

After a happy day of enjoying the children's company, the red ogre found a letter from the blue ogre. The letter said, "My Dear Red Ogre, if people find out that you are a friend of the Bad Blue Ogre's, they will not let the children come to you any more. So, I'm leaving. Please live happily with the children. Goodbye. Blue Ogre."

The red ogre cried out, "Blue Ogre is gone! A dear friend of mine! He is gone!" And he wept.

The red ogre and the blue ogre were never to see each other again.
Hamada HirosukeIt's a great story about the costs of assimilation.

The story was written by Hamada Hirosuke, who wrote many other children's stories. It was first published in 1933.

I read it first (or rather my parents read it to me) when I was a child, and later I wondered if the author was gay, if he was a leftist, or if he had read Oscar Wilde's "The Selfish Giant." I never found out.

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