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PALACE OF THE OCEAN-BED
By Frank Binder
HO-WORI, Prince Fire-Fade, the son of Ninigi, was a great hunter. He caught "things rough of hair and things soft of hair." His elder brother, Ho-deri, Prince Fire-Flash, was a fisher who caught "things broad of fin and things narrow of fin." But often, when the wind blew and the waves ran high, he would spend hours on the sea and catch no fish. When the Storm God was abroad, Ho-deri had to stay at home, while at nightfall Ho-wori returned laden with spoil from the mountains. Ho-deri spoke to his brother, and said, "I would have your bow and arrows and become a hunter. You shall have my fish-hook." At first Ho-wori would not consent, but finally the exchange was made.
Now Prince Fire-Flash was no hunter. He could not track the game, nor run swiftly, nor take good aim. Day after day Prince Fire-Fade went out to sea. In vain he threw his line; he caught no fish. Moreover, one day, he lost his brother's fish-hook. Then Ho-deri came to Ho-wori, and said, "There is the luck of the mountain and there is the luck of the sea. Let each restore to the other his luck." Ho-wori replied, "I did not catch a single fish with your hook, and now it is lost in the sea."
The elder brother was very angry, and with many hard words demanded the return of his treasure. Prince Fire-Fade was unhappy. He broke in pieces his good sword and made five hundred fish-hooks, which he offered to his brother. But this did not appease the wrath of Prince Fire-Flash, who still raged and asked for his own hook.
Ho-wori could find neither comfort nor help. He sat one day by the shore and heaved a deep sigh. The old Man of the Sea heard the sigh, and asked the cause of his sorrow. Ho-wori told him of the loss of the fish-hook, and of his brother's displeasure. Thereupon the wise man promised to give his help. He plaited strips of bamboo so tightly together that the water could not pass through, and fashioned therewith a stout little boat. Into this boat Ho-wori jumped, and was carried far out to sea.
THE REFLECTION OF PRINCE FIRE-FADE IN THE WATER
After a time, as the old man had foretold, his boat began to sink. Deeper and deeper it sank, until at last he came to a glittering palace of fishes' scales. In front of it was a well, shaded by a great cassia-tree. Prince Fire-Fade sat among the wide-spreading branches. He looked down, and saw a maiden approach the well; in her hand she carried a jeweled bowl. She was the lovely Toyo-tama, Peerless Jewel, the daughter of Wata-tsu-mi, the Sea-King. Ho-wori was spell-bound by her strange wave-like beauty, her long flowing hair, her soft deep-blue eyes. The maiden stooped to fill her bowl. Suddenly, she saw the reflection of Prince Fire-Fade in the water; she dropped the precious bowl, and it fell in a thousand pieces. Toyo-tama hastened to her father, and exclaimed, "A man, with the grace and beauty of a god, sits in the branches of the cassia-tree. I have seen his picture in the waters of the well." The Sea-King knew that it must be the great hunter, Prince Fire-Fade.
Then Wata-tsu-mi went forth and stood under the cassia-tree. He looked up to Ho-wori, and said: "Come down, O Son of the Gods, and enter my Palace of the Ocean-Bed." Ho-wori obeyed, and was led into the palace and seated on a throne of sea-asses' skins. A banquet was prepared in his honor. The hashi were delicate branches of coral, and the plates were of silvery mother-of-pearl. The clear-rock wine was sipped from cup-shaped ocean blooms with long, slender stalks. Ho-wori thought that never before had there been such a banquet. When it was ended he went with Toyo-tama to the roof of the palace. Dimly, through the blue waters that moved above, he could discern the Sun-Goddess. He saw the mountains and valleys of ocean, the waving forests of tall sea-plants, the homes of the shaké and the kani.
Ho-wori told Wata-tsu-mi of the loss of the fish-hook. Then the Sea-King called all his subjects together and questioned them. No fish knew aught of the hook, but, said the lobster, "As I sat one day in my crevice among the rocks, the tai passed near me. His mouth was swollen, and he went by without giving me greeting." Watatsu-mi then noticed that the tai had not answered his summons. A messenger, fleet of fin, was sent to fetch him. When the tai appeared, the lost fish-hook was found in his poor wounded mouth. It was restored to Ho-wori, and he was happy. Toyo-tama became his bride, and they lived together in the cool fish-scale palace.
Prince Fire-Fade came to understand the secrets of the ocean, the cause of its anger, the cause of its joy. The Storm-Spirit of the upper sea did not rule in the ocean-bed, and night after night Ho-wori was rocked to sleep by the gentle motion of the waters.
Many tides had ebbed and flowed, when, in the quiet of the night, Ho-wori heaved a deep sigh. Toyo-tama was troubled, and told her father that, as Ho-wori dreamt of his home on the earth, a great longing had come over him to visit it once more. Then Wata-tsu-mi gave into Ho-wori's hands two great jewels, the one to rule the flow, the other to rule the ebb of the tide. He spoke thus: "Return to earth on the head of my trusted sea-dragon. Restore the lost fish-hook to Ho-deri. If he is still wroth with you, bring forth the tide-flowing jewel, and the waters shall cover him. If he asks your forgiveness, bring forth the tide-ebbing jewel, and it shall be well with him."
Ho-wori left the Palace of the Ocean-Bed, and was carried swiftly to his own land. As he set foot on the shore, he ungirded his sword, and tied it round the neck of the sea-dragon. Then he said, "Take this to the Sea-King as a token of my love and gratitude."