Urashima and the Turtle – a story adapted for young childrenPosted by Suzanne, on July 9th, 2012


Urashima and the Turtle

a  generously adapted Japanese folk tale for early childhood


Long ago and far away in a land by the sea, there lived a boy called Urashima, who loved the great green waves and mists of froth dancing in the air when the waters crashed on the rocks.  He kept his wooden boat on the stretch of white sand there, and every day at purple sunrise he would row out and fish, for he was a fisherman who loved the salty water as a brother.

One day he got a strong tug on his line and pulled it in.  On the end was not a huge fish as he thought, but an old wrinkled turtle. “Ho old friend”,  he said, “ do not fear, I will let you live on for a long life”, and  he threw the ancient turtle back into the surf.   In Japan, people believe that turtles are wise, and live to be a thousand years old.

As soon as the turtle made a great splash, he turned and looked at the boy and spoke.   Because of your kindness and love of the sea, we who live under the water ask you to come to our kingdom far below the green waves.

Urashima was enthralled, and the turtle said, ‘sit on my back and I will take you there.”  So Urashima climbed out of the boast and sat on the turtles back.  Down, down, into the depths of the sea they went.  Urashima found to his surprise, that he could breathe easily in the water.  Then soon after arriving on the ocean’s floor, the turtle disappeared and a beautiful sea maiden appeared.

Together, Urashima and the sea maiden swam and explored the beauties of the sea.  Rainbows of fish swam all about them, coral and ropes of seaweed danced in the musical movement of deep water.  Seashell, mother of pearl, and magical light twinkled emerald all around them.  Fish with silver fins brought them good ocean foods to eat, and sea dragons shimmering gold sang songs of old visions.  Urashima stayed on and lived with the sea maiden in a dreamtime of exquisite happiness.

But one day, Urashima remembered his home, and with a deep  longing, he wanted to see his parents and brothers once again.  He wished to stand on the rocks and watch the waves crashing once more, and walk through his village streets.  The Sea Maiden knew of his wish, and told him he could return to her whenever he wished.  They said goodbye, and she disappeared.   The old turtle soon came swimming along and said, ‘Urashima, climb on my back as before and I will take you back to your boat’.  Up and up they swam until Urashima found himself back in his boat, as he turtle dove down  into the seas depths again.

Urashima found his fishing line in the boat.  It was as though no time had passed at all.  Was it all a dream, he wondered?

Below in the sea, the old turtle and the sea maiden swam and played in the depths.

Above in the boat, Urashima threw out his line and pulled it in, threw it out and pulled it in.  ‘What is this!!  A fish!!’  He had caught a golden fish, and how hungry he was!  He jumped onto the shore and took his fish home for supper.  How good it felt to walk on the earth!


The End


I have performed this story for many years as a silk marionette play, with Japanese instrument accompaniment… as well as a color and light puppet performance….

Now I have developed it as a sweet simple lap puppet presentation, for the Denver Advanced ECE Therepeutic Program.   I like the story with any visual medium!

To work further with multicultural puppetry, the art of the marionette, color and light pupppetry, the simple lap theater, or other events from Juniper Tree Puppets, sign up for our free email Story Newsletter   http://junipertreepuppets.com