The Invincible Nine Brothers
--- a story from LABO CD Library
LABO students presented a Chinese folk tale in English and Japanese on November 23, 2001. They enjoyed the story and did a very good job!!
Long, long, ago, at the foot of a high mountain in the far south of China, there lived a hard-working old man and woman.
They were poor, but they lived a placid life. There was, however, just one thing they wanted very, very much. One night the old man and woman had a dream. In the dream, a Mountain Recluse with a white beard appeared floating in the air and said, "If you want children so much, I will send some."
Not long after, the sound of a baby crying was heard coming from the house of the old couple. Surprisingly, the number of crying voices kept increasing. Finally they had nine babies!!
The nine brothers grew up to be fine young men, but they all looked just alike. Each of them had a funny name --- Never Heavy, Always Hungry, Never Hungry, Never Hurt, One Step, Never Hot, Never Cold, Never Cut, and Never Drown.
Now along about that time, there was a great to-do in the king's castle. The king's favorite pillar had fallen down. The king ordered his officials to send his command. The king promised to reward whoever can put the dragon pillar back up where it used to be with whatever he may ask for. However, no one came forward. Talk of this pillar also reached the village where nine brothers lived.
That night Never Heavy crept softly into the king's castle and put the pillar back upright where it belonged.
In the morning, the king was thoroughly astonished and ordered his retainers to go around the country checking. They found out that it was one of the nine brothers. The king could not believe such an ordinary young man had raised the dragon pillar, and had long since forgotten all about the promised reward. He wanted to test to make sure he's really the one. Thinking that these muscular types eat a lot, the king ordered his retainers to prepare enough rice for a hundred men.
A huge pot and a mountain of rice were carried out into the castle courtyard, and the rice was quickly cooked. Meanwhile, the officials came to arrest Never Heavy. However, Always Hungry went to the castle instead of Never Heavy, and in no time, he had eaten up all the rice, not leaving a single grain.
The king became unbearable worried that the young man might eat up his whole kingdom someday, and ordered his retainers to arrest him. But this time, Never Hungry took his brother's place unnoticed. He was locked up in prison with no grains of rice and no drops of water. However, seven days and seven nights later, the king was shocked to know that Never Hungry was in fine condition.
The king decided to have him beaten to death. So Never Hurt took his brother's place unnoticed. When he reached the castle, he was suddenly tied up. The king ordered, "At it men! Beat him and beat him and beat him to death!" But Never Hurt's head was like a rock, and the stout sticks just broke off like matchsticks.
The king was so angry that he took Never Hurt to the top of a towering rock mountain. He ordered his retainers to have Never Hurt stand on a dizzy precipice and to push him over the edge hard.
This time, One Step was caught and took his brother's place unnoticed. How strange, One Step's legs stretched out easily, one leg down to the bottom of the valley ..., the other leg across to the mountain on the other side of it. He strode across the mountain easily and went back home.
"How dare he, how dare he make a fool of us? How that it's come to this, I'll burn him to death", the king shouted. A mountain of firewood, burning like a house afire.
It was Never Hot's turn then. He was suddenly tossed into the fire, but he remained cool, without so much as the slightest burn. At last they ran out of firewood and the fire went out.
"Grrr! If he won't burn, I'll freeze him!" said the king. Then Never Cold took his brother's place unnoticed. He was thrown into a glacier-clad mountain, after having been stripped naked. A raging snowstorm howls, too. But Never Cold did not look even the least bit cold. In fact, the ice around him began to melt. Just then, dreadful, a great avalanche arose. In panic, the king and his retainers all ran off.
The king was so furious that he decided to slice him up with his own hands. So Never Cut took his brother's place unnoticed.
The king drew his great glittering sword. But time and again, the king's sword was turned away with a click. Finally, the king's sword broke off. Never Cut left without a single scratch.
A roaring, rushing torrent that eats into the very rock. No one, no matter how great a swimmer, could come out of this alive.
And here he comes, dragged along ..... Never Drown. The king ordered to toss him into the river. But Never Drown dove underwater and swam there easily.
Never Drown filled his mouth with water, pocked his face up above the surface and spewed the water out. In no time, the king was washed far, far away. The water Never Drown spewed out kept coming. Finally, both king and castle sank beneath the waters.
After a while, after the waters had receded ..., a great many people rushed to join in at making use of their hoes. Under a blue sky their happy singing rang out. But those incredible nine brothers had gone off somewhere and no one has ever seen them since.
LABO Torigoe Party, Okayama, Japan