In the far reaches of Japan, at the base of the great Mt. Fuji, lived a kind bamboo–cutter and his lovely wife. They lived happily for most of their lives. They loved each other as greatly as any couple could; however, they never had any children and because of that, they eventually grew very sad and lonely.
One day, the bamboo–cutter came home from a hard day’s work. He placed his tools on the table and noticed his wife sitting alone, sobbing.
“Oh, my dear husband!” she began, sadly. “There is nothing more that I wish for in this great world than a child to call our own.”
The bamboo–cutter looked at his sad wife and felt hopeless that he could not console her. Later that evening, his wife looked up at Mt. Fuji’s brilliant snow-covered peak and shouted sadly, “Oh how I wish I had a sweet child to take care of! It saddens me so that I will never have a young life to nurture! Send me a child to care for! That is all I wish.”
While his wife spoke, the bamboo–cutter noticed a warm light shining radiantly from Mt. Fuji’s topmost point.
“Dear husband! Look! Look! There – on the mountaintop! I can see a child’s face! It is shining!” his wife cried out.
The bamboo–cutter assumed that this was just his wife’s imagination, but she insisted it was true. “I know it is true, I can feel it. I can see the child. It is like I am looking into its soul!”
Her husband was skeptical, but he didn’t want to disappoint his wife so he said, “Since you are so dear to me, I will go up to Fuji’s summit to see what is there.”
The bamboo–cutter climbed the mountain for hours and hours. He came to a small clearing in the mountain path and noticed a small blue and black butterfly fluttering gently towards him. “Follow me,” he heard someone whisper. The bamboo–cutter stopped immediately and stared at the butterfly dancing around him. He could not believe his ears. The butterfly had spoken to him!
The bamboo–cutter followed the fluttering butterfly along the trails of Mt. Fuji. Finally, the butterfly led him to a glade with a large bamboo tree and a small pond. Silver light shone beautifully on the water.
“Follow me!” the butterfly whispered as it landed on an object resting between the branches of the tree.
The bamboo–cutter approached the butterfly and found a small child cradled amongst the bamboo stalks that was as white as the moon.
“My child! Where have you come from?” the man cried, filled with joy.
“I have come to you from the Moon Lady. She is my true mother, but she noticed your wife’s sadness and sent me to heal her kind heart. I am Princess Moonbeam,” the child replied.
The man, still filled with all the joy in the world, cradled the child and made the journey home. The blue and black butterfly had enjoyed the bamboo-cutter’s company so much and fluttered behind him.
When he arrived home, his wife greeted him and asked him what he was cradling. The moment she saw the child, she cried out with happiness. This time, she was sobbing tears of joy. The moonchild had indeed healed the woman’s kind heart.
Over the following years, Princess Moonbeam brought nothing but happiness and comfort to the couple. She helped the bamboo–cutter with his work, she helped his wife tend the garden and she always said kind words to their neighbours in the nearby village. Princess Moonbeam even befriended the small butterfly and the two played happily in the grassy field near the bamboo-cutter’s house. Even when she was older, Princess Moonbeam played gracefully with the butterfly; the bamboo–cutter’s wife loved to watch the two run and play in the field.
One lovely day as spring turned to summer, Princess Moonbeam realized that she had grown up. She was not a little girl anymore. This meant that her time with the bamboo–cutter and his wife was near its end and it was time for her to return back to her true mother, the Moon Lady in the sky.
Sadly, she told the bamboo–cutter and his wife. “Stay with us, moonchild!” they cried. But the small butterfly landed on the bamboo–cutter’s shoulder and whispered gently to the kind-hearted couple:
“Let her go. She must be one with where she is from. She has given you all the joy in the world, just as you have done the same for her. The memories you have of your sweet Moon Maiden will be forever locked in your souls.”
Over the next few days, Princess Moonbeam bid farewell to all the people that she would be leaving behind once she returned to the sky. When the full moon rose, white and brighter than any star in the sky, a brilliant bridge shining with silvery light stretched far out from the sky to the ground.
All movement stopped as the bamboo–cutter, his wife and their neighbours stared in awe at the radiant Moon Lady walking gracefully down the silver bridge, her long wispy hair merging with the moonlight that seemed to follow her.
As she passed the villagers the Moon Lady gently approached her child. She wrapped her silvery body around Princess Moonbeam and the two glided back up the bridge to their home in the sky. Princess Moonbeam’s friend, the small blue and black butterfly fluttered along behind them for a while, before returning to rest again on the bamboo–cutter’s shoulder.
On her journey back home Princess Moonbeam wept softly, sad that it was time to leave her family on earth but glad that she’d had the opportunity to get to know them. As she wept, small silver droplets floated down to the ground. These shiny tears glided gracefully down to the ground near the bamboo–cutter, his wife, and their neighbours – who all missed the Moon Maiden greatly. Her tears carried a message of love and comfort.
To this day, the tears of Princess Moonbeam can be seen on a brightly moonlit night in the small ponds, marshes, and glades all across Japan, especially around Mt. Fuji. And, chances are, a small blue and black butterfly will be close by, fluttering in the grassy fields.