Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kwaidan: The Black Hair

This is a traditional story "kwaidan"—a Japanese ghost story—that Lafcadio Hearn shared in one of his books entitled Kwaidan.

Hearn’s history is shared here, along with another Yurei (ghost) story he collected.

The Japanese ghost story I share here-- The Black Hair is the original—this story is re-told in the modern-day film Kwaidan.

There was an impoverished samurai who lived in the capital city. His fortune changed when a foreign lord summoned him into service.

The Black Hair
The samurai gladly accepted his offer, but instead of taking his wife of many years with him, he abandoned her and took another woman he desired with him.

Many years later, the samurai, no longer in the service of the lord, returned to the capital city.

The samurai found himself longing for his old wife. One night at midnight, he returned to the old house, where he had lived with her.

In the autumn moonlight, he saw the gate to his old home was ajar. He went in and saw his wife sitting silently by herself.

To his joy, she expressed no resentment or bitterness toward him for his ill use of her. Instead, she greeted him with happiness.

The film version.
The samurai, now overwhelmed with gratitude, swore to her he would never leave her again. He said nothing could part them in the future.

Pleased with the happiness he now saw in her eyes, the samurai embraced his wife, and the two fell asleep in each other’s arms.

Bright sunlight awoke the samurai the next morning. He saw the house was more run-down than it had appeared in the moonlight.

He looked down at his wife, who was still lying in his embrace. To his horror, he found he was holding a corpse where only bits of flesh still clung to the bones.

The skull was wrapped in long black hair.

The samurai leaped to his feet and rushed to the neighbor’s house.

He asked, “What happened to the woman who lived next door?”

They told him, “She was abandoned by her husband many years ago. She died just last summer from an illness, brought on by her sorrow at this loss.”

Since there was no one to care for her or give her a funeral, her body remained where she had died.

A traditional Japanese belief is if a dead person is not given a proper funeral with respect after they die—they often return as a Yurei to seek revenge.

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