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

with her.

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

from Japan.

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.