Old Man Chrysanthemum
Fairie Archives: Old Man Chrysanthemum (from the Japanese), from "RFD",
was the faithful servant of his lord, Tsugaru. When he was not waiting
on his master, he was tending the much prized chrysanthemums that grew
in the master's garden.
often was the gray head of the servant seen bobbing up and down amid the
golden and bronze blossoms that people began to refer to him by the name
of Kikuo, which means in Japanese, Old-Man-Chrysanthemum.
it happened that Tsugaru, leading the emperor's forces, went out to battle.
Through treachery, he was so badly defeated that he and Kikuo were compelled
to flee in the night into the remotest parts of the kingdom. There they
hid themselves away from men in a little valley that lay like a green
lap between the two knees of a great snow-capped mountain.
leaving the old home Kikuo had wondered what he could take with him that
his master loved most and that would continue to be a joy to him even
in his exile.
said Kikuo, "will die and bring more sorrow. His silver sheep will perish
on the way. His heavy golden gong will slow down our flight. His costly
robes will betray our secret to prying eyes. His fine sword will mark
him as a man of rank. All these we must leave behind. What then shall
I carry that will console my lord?"
then Kikuo glanced out through the low doorway. A thousand golden and
bronze chrysanthemums nodded a friendly greeting to him. In the soft moonshine
they seemed like little fairies swaying in the breeze. "His flowers!"
cried the faithful servant. "His beloved flowers!"
Kikuo ran into the garden. His spade flashed her and flashed there. In
a moment he had collected a dozen of the most beautiful plants and placed
them, earth and all, in a leathern basket which he swung upon his back.
the two exiles came to the little green valley, Kikuo's first care was
for the imprisoned plants. Carefully he drew them forth, trimming the
stocks and roots and planting them with slow care in a spot where the
soil was rich and felt the warm glances of the sun all day long.
too, have come into exile," said he. "May your blessed spirits prosper
and grow, bringing joy and comfort to my beloved lord!"
spirits of the flowers gave a beautiful answer to Kikuo's loving care.
From the very first they thrived as they had never done in the old garden
in the palace grounds. Stalwart and royal-looking stems put forth, each
season, great golden and bronze glories that rivaled the very sun and
moon in luster, and new faces of chrysanthemums, never before seen in
Japan, came silently into being in the little valley below the snow-capped
time the twelve roots became a thousand and, rank on rank, stood like
a small army holding up to heaven a myriad of golden shields. In and out
among them, as faithful to them as to his old master, went Kikuo the tireless
one, and Tsugaru, forgetting his exile in the joy that came to him out
of the sunny fields, slowly faded away and died in the month when the
chrysanthemums were full abloom.
he had gone, Kikuo labored harder than ever amid the flowers. "No monument
can I raise to him who has gone," said he, "greater than the glory of
the flowers he loved." So, in time, the whole valley became filled with
wonderful blossoms. The fame of their wonder spread far and wide until
emperors sent trusted servants to purchase rare specimens at the price
of many golden coins and gems.
the day came in late fall when Kikuo lingered on the veranda of his home.
He was old and bent under his years. His head was like a snowy blossom
and his old eyes burned with an inner light. "Tsugaru, my master," he
said, "I come to you." Then his eyes wandered out over the glorious fields
where the chrysanthemum heads nodded in the breeze.
that I could come bearing the same twelve roots from which all these flower
children have been born." As he spoke, there was a motion among the tall
plants before him as of someone elbowing a way through and, one by one,
twelve beautiful children ran out on the green lawn before the house.
rubbed his old eyes, them smiled a queer, satisfied, knowing smile. "Beautiful
are you, my children," said he, "as the mist maidens who dance before
the sun at dawn. Beautiful, also is your golden and bronze chrysanthemum
are the spirits of the flowers," said the leader of the little children.
"You have cared for us with a love second only to that of the Great Spirit.
We have come to tell you that this night we shall go with you to the great
country of the spirit just as we came with you to this valley between
is well," said Kikuo. "May God be praised!"
night Kikuo died and at the same hour a cloud rolled down from the peak
of everlasting snow. Its icy breath stiffened the blossoms in the field
till they rang like fine glass at the passing of the wind. When the morning
came, the flowers were dead. But somewhere on the high sunny hills the
spirit of Kikuo met his master Tsugaru and showed his happy eyes the twelve
spirits of the flowers.