Jiraiya Or The Magic Frog
: Japanese Fairy World
Ogata was the name of a castle-lord who lived in the Island of the Nine
Provinces, (Kiushiu). He had but one son, an infant, whom the people in
admiration nicknamed Jiraiya (Young Thunder.) During one of the civil
wars, this castle was taken, and Ogata was slain; but by the aid of a
faithful retainer, who hid Jiraiya in his bosom, the boy escaped and fled
northward to Echigo. There he lived until he grew up to manhood.
At that time Echigo was infested with robbers. One day the faithful
retainer of Jiraiya being attacked, made resistance, and was slain by
the robbers. Jiraiya now left alone in the world went out from Echigo and
led a wandering life in several provinces.
All this time he was consumed with the desire to revive the name of his
father, and restore the fortunes of his family. Being exceedingly brave,
and an expert swordsman, he became chief of a band of robbers and
plundered many wealthy merchants, and in a short time he was rich in men,
arms and booty. He was accustomed to disguise himself, and go in person
into the houses and presence of men of wealth, and thus learn all about
their gates and guards, where they slept, and in what rooms their
treasures were stored, so that success was easy.
Hearing of an old man who lived in Shinano, he started to rob him, and
for this purpose put on the disguise of a pilgrim. Shinano is a very
high table-land, full of mountains, and the snow lies deep in winter. A
great snow storm coming on, Jiraiya took refuge in a humble house by the
way. Entering, he found a very beautiful woman, who treated him with
great kindness. This, however, did not change the robber's nature. At
midnight, when all was still, he unsheathed his sword, and going
noiselessly to her room, he found the lady absorbed in reading.
Lifting his sword, he was about to strike at her neck, when, in a flash,
her body changed into that of a very old man, who seized the heavy steel
blade and broke it in pieces as though it were a stick. Then he tossed
the bits of steel away, and thus spoke to Jiraiya, who stood amazed but
"I am a man named Senso Dojin, and I have lived in these mountains many
hundred years, though my true body is that of a huge frog. I can easily
put you to death but I have another purpose. So I shall pardon you and
teach you magic instead."
Then the youth bowed his head to the floor, poured out his thanks to the
old man and begged to be received as his pupil.
Remaining with the old man of the mountain for several weeks, Jiraiya
learned all the arts of the mountain spirits; how to cause a storm of
wind and rain, to make a deluge, and to control the elements at will.
He also learned how to govern the frogs, and at his bidding they assumed
gigantic size, so that on their backs he could stand up and cross rivers
and carry enormous loads.
When the old man had finished instructing him he said "Henceforth cease
from robbing, or in any way injuring the poor. Take from the wicked rich,
and those who acquire money dishonestly, but help the needy and the
suffering." Thus speaking, the old man turned into a huge frog and hopped
What this old mountain spirit bade him do, was just what Jiraiya wished
to accomplish. He set out on his journey with a light heart. "I can now
make the storm and the waters obey me, and all the frogs are at my
command; but alas! the magic of the frog cannot control that of the
serpent. I shall beware of his poison."
From that time forth the oppressed poor people rejoiced many a time as
the avaricious merchants and extortionate money lenders lost their
treasures. For when a poor farmer, whose crops failed, could not pay his
rent or loan on the date promised, these hard-hearted money lenders would
turn him out of his house, seize his beds and mats and rice-tub, and even
the shrine and images on the god-shelf, to sell them at auction for a
trifle, to their minions, who resold them at a high price for the
money-lender, who thus got a double benefit. Whenever a miser was robbed,
the people said, "The young thunder has struck," and then they were glad,
knowing that it was Jiraiya, (Young Thunder.) In this manner his name
soon grew to be the poor people's watchword in those troublous times.
Yet Jiraiya was always ready to help the innocent and honest, even if
they were rich. One day a merchant named Fukutaro was sentenced to death,
though he was really not guilty. Jiraiya hearing of it, went to the
magistrate and said that he himself was the very man who committed the
robbery. So the man's life was saved, and Jiraiya was hanged on a large
oak tree. But during the night, his dead body changed into a bull-frog
which hopped away out of sight, and off into the mountains of Shinano.
At this time, there was living in this province, a young and beautiful
maiden named Tsunade. Her character was very lovely. She was always
obedient to her parents and kind to her friends. Her daily task was to go
to the mountains and cut brushwood for fuel. One day while thus busy
singing at the task, she met a very old man, with a long white beard
sweeping his breast, who said to her:
"Do not fear me. I have lived in this mountain many hundred years, but my
real body is that of a snail. I will teach you the powers of magic, so
that you can walk on the sea, or cross a river however swift and deep,
as though it were dry land."
Gladly the maiden took daily lessons of the old man, and soon was able to
walk on the waters as on the mountain paths. One day the old man said, "I
shall now leave you and resume my former shape. Use your power to destroy
wicked robbers. Help those who defend the poor. I advise you to marry the
celebrated man Jiraiya, and thus you will unite your powers."
Thus saying, the old man shrivelled up into a snail and crawled away.
"I am glad," said the maiden to herself, "for the magic of the snail can
overcome that of the serpent. When Jiraiya, who has the magic of the
frog, shall marry me, we can then destroy the son of the serpent, the
robber named Dragon-coil (Orochimaru)."
By good fortune, Jiraiya met the maiden Tsunade, and being charmed with
her beauty, and knowing her power of magic, sent a messenger with
presents to her parents, asking them to give him their daughter to wife.
The parents agreed, and so the young and loving couple were married.
Hitherto when Jiraiya wished to cross a river he changed himself into a
frog and swam across; or, he summoned a bull-frog before him, which
increased in size until as large as an elephant. Then standing erect on
his warty back, even though the wind blew his garments wildly, Jiraiya
reached the opposite shore in safety. But now, with his wife's powers,
the two, without any delay, walked over as though the surface was a hard
Soon after their marriage, war broke out in Japan between the two famous
clans of Tsukikage and Inukage. To help them fight their battles, and
capture the castles of their enemies, the Tsukikage family besought the
aid of Jiraiya, who agreed to serve them and carried their banner in his
back. Their enemies, the Inukage, then secured the services of
This Orochimaru, or Dragon-coil, was a very wicked robber whose father
was a man, and whose mother was a serpent that lived in the bottom of
Lake Takura. He was perfectly skilled in the magic of the serpent, and by
spurting venom on his enemies, could destroy the strongest warriors.
Collecting thousands of followers, he made great ravages in all parts of
Japan, robbing and murdering good and bad, rich and poor alike. Loving
war and destruction he joined his forces with the Inukage family.
Now that the magic of the frog and snail was joined to the one army, and
the magic of the serpent aided the other, the conflicts were bloody and
terrible, and many men were slain on both sides.
On one occasion, after a hard fought battle, Jiraiya fled and took refuge
in a monastery, with a few trusty vassals, to rest a short time. In this
retreat a lovely princess named Tagoto was dwelling. She had fled from
Orochimaru, who wished her for his bride. She hated to marry the
offspring of a serpent, and hoped to escape him. She lived in fear of him
continually. Orochimaru hearing at one time that both Jiraiya and the
princess were at this place, changed himself into a serpent, and
distilling a large mouthful of poisonous venom, crawled up to the ceiling
in the room where Jiraiya and his wife were sleeping, and reaching a spot
directly over them, poured the poisonous venom on the heads of his
rivals. The fumes of the prison so stupefied Jiraiya's followers, and
even the monks, that Orochimaru, instantly changing himself to a man,
profited by the opportunity to seize the princess Tagoto, and make off
Gradually the faithful retainers awoke from their stupor to find their
master and his beloved wife delirious, and near the point of death, and
the princess gone.
"What can we do to restore our dear master to life?" This was the
question each one asked of the others, as with sorrowful faces and
weeping eyes they gazed at the pallid forms of their unconscious master
and his consort. They called in the venerable abbot of the monastery to
see if he could suggest what could be done.
"Alas!" said the aged priest, "there is no medicine in Japan to cure your
lord's disease, but in India there is an elixir which is a sure
antidote. If we could get that, the master would recover."
"Alas! alas!" and a chorus of groans showed that all hope had fled, for
the mountain in India, where the elixir was made, lay five thousand miles
Just then a youth named Rikimatsu, one of the pages of Jiraiya, arose to
speak. He was but fourteen years old, and served Jiraiya out of
gratitude, for he had rescued his father from many dangers and saved his
life. He begged permission to say a word to the abbot, who, seeing the
lad's eager face, motioned to him with his fan to speak.
"How long can our lord live," asked the youth.
"He will be dead in thirty hours," answered the abbot, with a sigh.
"I'll go and procure the medicine, and if our master is still living
when I come back, he will get well."
Now Rikimatsu had learned magic and sorcery from the Tengus, or
long-nosed elves of the mountains, and could fly high in the air with
incredible swiftness. Speaking a few words of incantation, he put on the
wings of a Tengu, mounted a white cloud and rode on the east wind to
India, bought the elixir of the mountain spirits, and returned to Japan
in one day and a night.
On the first touch of the elixir on the sick man's face he drew a deep
breath, perspiration glistened on his forehead, and in a few moments more
he sat up.
Jiraiya and his wife both got well, and the war broke out again. In a
great battle Dragon-coil was killed and the princess rescued. For his
prowess and aid Jiraiya was made daimio of Idzu.
Being now weary of war and the hardships of active life, Jiraiya was glad
to settle down to tranquil life in the castle and rear his family in
peace. He spent the remainder of his days in reading the books of the
sages, in composing verses, in admiring the flowers, the moon and the
landscape, and occasionally going out hawking or fishing. There, amid his
children and children's children, he finished his days in peace.