There dwelt once on the edge of the forest, at the foot of Fujiyama, a bamboo-cutter and his wife. They were honest, industrious people who loved each other dearly, but no children had come to bless them, and therefore they were not happy.
"Ah husband," mourned the wife, "More welcome to me than cherry blossoms in springtime would be a little child of my own."
One evening, she stood on the floor of her flimsy bamboo cottage and lifted her eyes toward the everlasting snows on the top of Fujiyama. Then, with swelling breast, she bowed herself to the ground and cried out to the Honorable Mountain:
"Fuji no yama, I am sad because no little head lies on my breast, no childish laughter gladdens our home. Send thee, I pray thee, from thy eternal purity, a little one to comfort me."
As she spoke, lo! from the top of the Honorable Mountain there suddenly sparkled a gleam of light as when the face of a child is lit by a beaming smile.
" Husband, husband, come quickly," cried the good woman. See thee on the heights of Fujiyama, a child is beaming upon me."
"It is but your fancy," said the bamboo-cutter and yet he added, "I will climb up and see what is there."
So he followed the trail of silvery light through the forest, and up above the steep slope where Fujiyama stood white and still above him. At last he stopped below a tall bamboo by the bank of a mountain stream, from whence the glow seemed to come. There, cradled in the branches of a tree, he found a tiny moon-child, fragile, dainty, radiant, clad in flimsy, filmy moon-shine, more radiant than any creature he had ever seen before.
"Ah, little shining creature, who are you?" he cried. " I am the Princess Moonbeam," answered the child. " The Moon Lady is my mother but she has sent me to earth to comfort the sad heart of your wife."
" Then, little Princess," said the Woodman eagerly, " I will take you home to be our child."
So the woodman bore her carefully down the mountainside.
" See, wife" he called, "what the Moon Lady has sent you."
Then was the good woman overjoyed. She took the little moon-child and held her close, and the moon-child's little arms went twining about her neck as she nestled snug against her breast. So was the good wife's longing satisfied at last.
As the years passed by Princess Moonbeam brought nothing but joy to the woodman and his wife. Lovelier and lovelier she grew. Fair was her face, her eyes were shining stars and her hair had the gleam of a misty silver halo. About her, too, was a strange, unearthly charm that made all who saw her love her.
One day there came riding by in state, the Mikado himself. He saw how the Princess Moonbeam lit up the humble cottage and he loved her. Then the Mikado would have taken her back with him to court, but no! - the longing of an earthly father and mother had been fulfilled, the Princess Moonbeam had stayed with them until she was a maiden grown, and now the time had come when she must go back to her sky mother, the Lady in the Moon.
"Stay, stay with me on earth," cried the Mikado.
"Stay, stay with us on earth," cried the bamboo-cutter and his wife.
Then the Mikado got two thousand archers and set them on guard close about the house and even on the roof, that none may get through to take her. But when the moon rose white and full, a line of light like a silver bridge sprung arching down from heaven to earth and floating along that gleaming path came the Lady from the Moon. The Mikado's soldiers stood as though turned to stone. Straight through their midst the Moon Lady passed and bent caressingly down for her long-absent child. She wrapped her close in a garment of silver mist. Then she caught her tenderly in her arms, and led her gently back to the sky. The Princess Moonbeam was glad to go back home, yet as she went, she wept silvery tears for those she was leaving behind. And lo!-her bright shining tears took wings and floated away to carry a message of love that should comfort the Mikado, and her earthly father and mother.
To this very day, the gleaming tears of the little Princess Moonbeam are seen to float hither and yon about the marshes and groves of Japan. The children chase them with happy eyes and say, " See the fire-flies! ow beautiful they are!" Then their mothers, in the shadow of Fujiyama, tell their children this legend--how the fire-flies are shining love messages of the little Princess Moonbeam, flitted down to bring comfort to earth from her far off home in the silver moon.
With prayers and love and light to all the people of Japan....