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  • Writer's pictureHina Siddiqui

Kaguya Hime no Monogatari

Updated: Oct 12, 2020




The world has no use for princesses nowadays. No use for beauty. No use for those who glow with the light of the moon. Or even for those who were born on it and must one day return.


Five times she refused. Five different men. Yet they bade her choose again. So she made up a test. The most inane things that came to her mind. A combination of impossible tasks. Because ‘no’ was never enough.


Then he came. They called him Emperor. But his words were too soft and his eyes too kind for such an epithet. The world has no use for emperors either. But at least they heeded his words. And left her alone.


Should she have been angry at that? Finding peace in being marked as his? Solitude in loving someone who loved her back? It didn’t matter anyway. She had no space left for anger. Because her heart was still consumed by purpose left unfulfilled. The call to return home and leave home behind.


Why do parents cry when children leave? Is this not what they prepared them for? Was she supposed to stay and dry their tears? Or use them as sustenance on her journey back? There were no answers in her life. No easy paths. Just choices. Endless choices. The only thing she couldn’t choose was not to decide.


She left him a message just before departing. A final thought. Words of separation. A promise. A challenge. She couldn’t tell how he would see them. The only thing she could control was the words she wrote and the gift she bestowed. A glass vial. Life Eternal.


And then she was gone.


The world has no use for princesses. Or emperors. Or divine begging bowls. Or jewelled branches. Or robes made of fire-rat skin. Not even a dragon’s baubles. Or cowrie shells born of birds.


The world has no use for any of this. So who cares how this story ends.




Kaguya Hime no Monogatari/The Tale of Princess Kaguya or Taketori Monogatari/the Bamboo-cutter and the Moon-child is the earliest piece of prose fiction from Japan. It was made in to a film by Studio Ghibli, which is considered as one of the Top 20 Japanese films of All Time according to an article by Jes Kalled on JapanObjects.com.


This is not a retelling of the tale. Not in a way that focusses on plot. You can read the original story here. What actually inspired this was an episode from the 2020 anime Kaguya-sama: Love is War, where <Caution: Spoilers ahead> Kaguya and Miyuki discuss the tale. Kaguya talks about how the Princess shouldn't have left the Emperor to return to the Moon. Miyuki says he believes that the Princess only gave the Emperor the elixir of immortality so that he would wait because she intended to return. And it's this chance of a miscommunication that got me. Prompting this tale.


Artwork in the post:

Detail, Cherry Trees at Night by Katsushika Oi, mid-19th century. Souce: Wikimedia Commons

Katsushika Oi was Edo era painting master - who created vibrant works depicting beautiful women and subverted traditional Japanese motifs. Read more about her work and life in this article by Lucy Dayman.


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