"The Magic Teakettle." Sakade, Florence. Japanese Children's Favorite Stories. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1953. pp. 17-24.


Ethnic origin:



Running time:

Varies (approx. 7 minutes).


Power centers:

The teakettle's first transformation.

The Bumbuku introducing himself to the junkman.



Junkshop where priest finds kettle.

Tea ceremony at the temple.

Sale of kettle to junkman at temple.

Junkman's house/bed.

Bumbuku's public performance.

Junkman's house.

Bumbuku's returns to the temple.



The priest finds a kettle. The priest starts performing the tea ceremony for 3 pupils. The kettle becomes a badger. The pupils chase the badger, which when caught reverts to a teakettle. The priest sells the kettle to a passing junkman. The junkman learns that the kettle is a magic badger. The magic badger performs for the junkman, who sells tickets and becomes rich. The junkman donates half of the money to the temple and returns the kettle to the priest who then keeps it in the temple's treasure house.


Rhyme/Special Phrases/"Flavor":

Bumbuku, Japanese for good luck. Flavor comes from the setting, the temple and the tea ceremony, as well as from the idea of the badger or tanuki (actually a raccoon dog depending on where you look) known as a magical creature in Japanese folklore. 


The ideal audience for this story is probably 8 and 9 year olds [though I imagine that anyone from 6 or so and up might well enjoy the story]. The 8 and 9 year olds are likely to enjoy the fantastic transformation of the teakettle. They are also likely to appreciate some humor in the interruption of the tea ceremony and the pupils chasing the teakettle in the temple, as well as the image of the badger dancing across a tightrope. The 8 and 9 year olds are also likely to appreciate the opportunity to enjoy something of the flavor of another culture.

Sources recommending the story:

I didn't find any mention of this story in formal reviewing sources, however it was found in, and recommended by the editors of several anthologies in which it appeared, including both

James, Grace. Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales. New York: Avenel Books, 1987.

Lang, Andrew. The Crimson Fairy Book. New York: Dover Publications, 1967.


Bibliographic information on other variants:

"The Tea-kettle." James, Grace. Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales. New York: Avenel Books, 1987. pp. 17-24.

"The Good-luck Teakettle." Ross, Eulalie Steinmetz. The Buried Treasure and Other Picture Tales. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott Company, 1958. pp. 161-172.

"The Accomplished and Lucky Tea-kettle." Mitford, A. B. Tales of Old Japan. New York: Macmillan Company, 1903. pp. 175-176.


Brief comparison of versions:

Mitford's version was the oldest I found and also the briefest. The story is presented as no more than a series of events. There is no dialog and the only time we hear a character speak is when the friend of the junkman explains what the teakettle is and what to do with it. The presentation is abrupt, limited to plot, and not very engaging.

The version which appears in The Buried Treasure and Other Picture Tales offers much more explanation of events and lets the characters use dialog to introduce themselves and communicate with each other. It might be a good version of the story for telling but lacks the somewhat humorous tone I enjoy so much in the version I chose and in the version appearing in Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales

The version in Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales depends almost entirely on dialog for the telling. It has more repetition at the beginning, and introduces the transformation of the badger separately to the pupils and the priest in a humorous manner. This version is written wonderfully and I might also want to learn this version to tell, however I chose the one provided by Sakade this time instead for a couple of reasons. I prefer the impact of the initial transformation to be a surprise to the audience as it is a surprise to the characters rather than telling the audience about it first and then letting the characters individually discover the nature of the kettle. I also am somewhat more comfortable with the narrative provided by Sakade as it does not rely quite so heavily on the dialog.

Another note:

I very recently found a version on the web athttp://www.qni.com/~badger/teapot.html but did not know of it to consider it when I was preparing the story.

By Jennie Radovsky