The Tenth Night: by far the weirdest of the lot

A much-appreciated link from the So New Media Lit Tracker Blog, or "SNeMLiTraB", reminded me that I never did post the final part of NATSUME Souseki's "Ten Nights of Dreams". So here I go.

Now is probably a good time to re-thank everyone who helped me with these, including but not limited to such august personages as (in alphabetical order): Atsuko, Ayako, Hiroshi, Jonathan, and Vanessa.

Here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Looking back I see a lot of places they could be improved, but unless someone actually wants to pay me to do it, I'll just be quietly moving on to new projects.

Everything is based on the e-text at Aozora Bunko, and while I'm tying things up I probably should thank NOGUCHI Eiji, credited at the bottom there, for entering it in the first place.

So, without further ado, here is...

The Tenth Night

Shoutarou had staggered home seven nights after the woman took him, and had been feverish in bed since. Ken came to tell me the news.

Shoutarou was the most handsome man in town, and a good, honest fellow. He only had one vice: when evening came, he would put on his panama hat, sit down in front of the fruit stand, and eagerly admire the faces of the women who went past. There wasn't anything else as interesting about him as this hobby.

When there weren't many women, Shoutarou looked at the fruit instead. There were many different kinds. White peaches, apples, loquats and bananas were all carefully arranged in two rows of boxes, ready to be given taken away and given as gifts. "Beautiful," Shoutarou would say as he stared. "If I went into business, it'd have to be a fruit shop." But that was just talk; all he ever did was loaf around in his panama hat.

Occasionally he would comment in more detail on the fruit, admire the colour of the summer mandarins and so on. But he had never put down the coins to actually buy any fruit. And of course he could not eat for free. He could only praise the colours.

One evening a woman appeared at the fruit stand. She was well dressed and looked quite the lady. Shoutarou loved the colours of her kimono, and he was even more impressed by her beautiful face. So he politely doffed his beloved panama hat in greeting. The woman pointed at the largest box of fruit and said "I'll take this one, please". Shoutarou immediately grabbed it and passed it to her. "Oh, my, it's so heavy," the woman said, holding it awkwardly.

Shoutarou always had plenty of free time, and more importantly he was an easygoing, generous man. "Please, allow me to carry it for you to your home," he said. Then he left the fruit shop with the woman and didn't come back.

Even for Shoutarou, this was really too much. Just when his family and friends were beginning to wonder aloud if something serious had happened to him, the seventh night arrived and he came back, exhausted. A crowd quickly gathered around him. "Shou, where were you?" they all asked.

"I rode a train into the mountains," Shoutarou answered.

It was a remarkably long train. According to Shoutarou, they'd gotten off the train and exited straight into a meadow. The meadow was very wide, with nothing but green grass growing wherever you looked. Shoutarou walked through the grass with the woman until they suddenly came to the edge of a precipice. "Now jump from here", the woman said to him. When Shoutarou looked over the edge, he could see the cliff face stretching down but not the actual bottom. He took off his panama hat and demurred several times. Finally the woman asked him, "If you don't leap as far as you can off this cliff, you will be licked by a pig -- is that all right with you?" Now, Shoutarou hated two things: the Naniwa-bushi reciter Kumoemon, and pigs. But after comparing this dislike with the possibility of losing his life, he decided against the jump. Upon which a pig approached him, oinking and grunting. In desperation, Shoutarou hit the pig on the snout with the betel-wood walking stick he was carrying. The pig rolled over and tumbled off the cliff, oinking as it went. Shoutarou sighed with relief, but almost immediately another pig approached and snuffled at him with its big snout. Shoutarou had no choice but to lash out with his stick again, and the pig squealed and rolled straight down towards the bottom of the cliff. Then another pig appeared. Shoutarou suddenly realised, looking beyond this newest adversary, that there were uncountable thousands of pigs advancing as one across the green grassy meadow, oinking as they came, with their eyes fixed on him. Nevertheless, Shoutarou had no other option but to use his betel-wood stick to strike each one on the snout as they approached. Mysteriously, whenever the stick even touched a snout, the pig would would tumble over and fall down towards the bottom of the ravine. When Shoutarou looked over the edge again he saw a great line of pigs rolling down towards the bottom, so far below it was out of sight Had he really sent that many pigs down there? He began to feel afraid of himself. But the pigs kept coming and coming, snorting and squealing, like a great black cloud that had grown legs and started walking across the meadow.

Shoutarou fought bravely, striking snouts for seven days and six nights. But his strength eventually ran out, his arms became as soft as konnyaku jelly, and finally, he said, he was licked by a pig and fell over the edge.

"I told you looking at women would lead to no good," Ken said at this point. I couldn't help but agree. Then Ken said he wanted Shoutarou's panama hat.

Shoutarou's case looked hopeless. That panama was all but Ken's.

Popularity factor: 5


So he was made to both lick a pig AND leap off the side of a bottomless cliff? And then he somehow managed to live to tell the tale? I would assume this means he somehow managed to land softly on the corpses of the thousands of pigs he's sent to their untimely deaths, though what this says about the story is beyond me.

Incidentally, when we had some Hokkaidoan students come down to Melbourne for a while the main thing one of them called my pal to insult him was "konnyaku". Not quite sure why this amused him so, as he didn't really seem the type to normally indulge in absurdist humour.

Whatever. I wish I could dream like this.


I'd wondered where the last translation was. I went back a few weeks ago through your archives, figuring I'd missed it somehow.

I can't seem to decide between #5 or #9 as my favorite.


No, no, licked BY a pig. Oy, I've failed as a translator.

I think my favourite is the second night, the one in the temple.. but I quite like this tenth one, too, and the surprise ending of the 9th one.


Oh god, no, wait, my fault. Curse this accursed illiteracy! Make Matt turn Jewish and question his talents as a translator will you? Bah, I blame myself.


I think cursing things that are already accursed might be overkill.

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