crane cloth

The Woodcutter


Gathering Wood

Long ago there lived a woodcutter, Tadashi. Every day, he would go into the forest and gather firewood to sell in the town market.

One afternoon he was returning from the hills with a bundle of wood.

Suddenly…he though he heard a cry.

The Cry

Running towards it, he came upon a white crane. It was struggling to free itself from a snare.

With his axe, Tadashi cut the snare. Thus freed, the crane took off and flew away.


Tadashi picked up his bundle and went to the market.

Out of Nowhere

A week later, while again gathering wood in the forest, out of nowhere a young woman appeared…

Soon they got married, and the new bride moved in with Tadashi.


However as winter set in, Tadashi told his wife that money was tight, and that they would have to endure hardship.

“Not to worry,” she told him. “Go to town and buy some bundles of silk thread and other weaving material.”

He did as he was told.

The Room

That evening, his wife took the items to a room in the house.

“I’ll work here through the night and stop in the morning,” she told him. “But no matter what, you must NEVER open the door.”


He agreed and went to sleep in another room.

In the morning, she emerged and went to bed. Tadashi went out to work.

This went on for several weeks.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .


Then one morning, the wife emerged with a finished cloth. Tadashi looked at it transfixed.

“This is most magnificent cloth I have ever seen!” he said. “The colors, texture, and patterns were absolutely stunning!”

“Take it to the village and sell it, and buy food,” his wife said, in a tired voice.

To Market

Tadashi hurried off to the market and returned in the afternoon with some rice and pickled vegetables along with 15 gold pieces.

“The merchants were very impressed!” he said. “Now we can last until spring in comfort.”

Longer and Harsher

As it turned out however, the winter was longer and harsher than in previous years.

Tadashi approached his wife. “Our food and money are running out. Could you please make another cloth to get us through?”
“Why of course,” she replied.

And so the farmer obtained more silk, and she once again went into the room in the evenings, emerging in the morning.

Another Cloth

In a few weeks she produced another stupendous cloth.

The woodcutter took it to town. “The merchants really liked the cloth and gave me 30 gold pieces this time!” he said when he returned. “This will be enough to see us through until spring.”

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

One Spring Day

Then one day in spring when Tadashi returned from market he announced: “Some merchants from Kyoto are coming! They’ve heard about your cloth and want to buy 10 pieces—for 100 pieces of gold for each! After this we’ll be rich and have a luxurious life!”

This time . . .

This time however the wife refused. “I can make two or three a year — but 10 is way too much, she said.
But Tadashi pleaded with her. “All my life I’ve been a poor woodcutter. I’ve worked very hard. I’ve been honest. Please, do it for us — after this I’ll never ask you to weave another piece of cloth again.”

She finally agreed.

Working Away

For months thereafter, his wife worked away. One, two, three, four pieces of cloth.

As time went by however, Tadashi noticed that she grew thinner and weaker. “The work must be getting to her,” he thought. “But after this she’ll never weave again!”

During the night he also wondered what was going on in the room. He was very curious and wanted to take a look.

But he remembered his wife’s words.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Final Cloth

Finally the wife was down to the last cloth. “I’ll finish tonight,” she said. By now she was no longer fresh and pretty, but tired, haggard and worn.

That night as she worked in the room, Tadashi could not sleep. “I really wonder what is going on in there,” he thought.

Finally his curiosity got the better of him.

Late At Night

So late that night, Tadashi quietly got up . . . and very slowly crept to the room where his wife was working . . . and very slowly and carefully opened the door — and peered in.

Inside he saw a white crane over a loom. It was weaving silk thread to a large piece of cloth – and also plucking feathers from its body, teasing the strands apart, and incorporating them into the cloth.

Tadashi carefully closed the door and went back to sleep.


The following morning, his wife, now very thin, weary, and frail, emerged with ten large pieces of cloth.

As she handed them to Tadashi, she said: “I told you to never look in the room while cloth was being woven.”

And with that she went out the door, closing it behind her.

Wait! Wait!

“Wait, Wait!” Tadashi shouted as he ran towards the door.

When he opened it, he saw a white crane with half its feathers missing fly off into the distance.

Tadashi the woodcutter never saw his wife nor the crane again.

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1. Tadashi used to regularly go into the forest. Why?

2. What happened one day?

3. Winter was going to be a comfortable time. Yes or no? Why?

4. What was the wife’s solution? What did they do?

5. As she made more cloth…

6. What did the wife tell the farmer to do, or not to do in the beginning? Did he obey her?

7. One spring day,

8. Did the wife readily agree?

9. What happened that night? What happened the following morning?

10. Do you know of similar folktales or stories?


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