Story Cue Card- The Wise Old Woman


Ethnic Origin: Japanese


Running Time: 12-15 minutes


Power Centers:  I have identified three main power centers of the story. The first is a feeling of anger with the young lord.  I want the audience to see the cruelty and injustice in the way he rules, and to feel angry with him for making such an awful request. The second is a sense of sympathy and sorrow for the farmer who has to abandon his mother.  The reason is that I would like the audience to identify with the farmer, to have a sense of how happy they are, and really feel how much he loves his mother and does not want to leave her.  The last feeling I want the audience to have, is a sense of peace that all has been righted.   The reason is that I would like the audience to feel that a wrong has been righted, and to feel at peace with the story’s end, which would make them receptive to the message of valuing the elderly.


Characters:  The young farmer, the aged mother, the cruel lord, Lord Higa – the lord who wants to conquer, the villagers.


Scenes: 1.  The lord banishes all people age 71 and over. 2.  The young farmer tries to take his mother to the mountains to die, but cannot and hides her.  3.  Lord Higa tries to conquer and sets the three impossible task, which the mother solves.  4.  The young lord realizes he was wrong.


Synopsis:  The lord of a small village in Japan decrees that all people over the age of 71 must be banished to the mountains to die.  The villagers are all upset, but must obey or be fearfully punished.  A young farmer tries to take his mother, but loves her too much and so he hides her in his floor instead.  Lord Higa wants to conquer the village and sends over the impossible task of making 1000 ropes out of ashes.  No one can solve the riddle, until the farmer asks his mother, who tells him to soak a rope in saltwater and then burn it.  The farmer tells the lord and saves the village.  Lord Higa sends over two more tasks, one after another.  The second task is to wind a piece of silk through a log with holes and curves, the mother solves this by telling the farmer to tie a piece of silk to an ant, and put some sugar at the end, the ant will lead the piece of silk through.  The third task is to find a drum that sounds without being beaten. The mother tells the farmer to make a drum out of paper, and trap a bee within.  When the bee tries to escape, it beats against the paper.  The village is saved, and the lord asks the farmer how he knew the answers.  The farmer confesses he is hiding his mother, and the lord realizes his mistake.  He decrees that old people will not be banished and instead will be valued.  Lord Higa decides such wise people should be allowed to live in peace.  And they do.


Flavor:  The story is set in the hills of Japan, which is easy to picture and lends itself to a mystical quality.  Also the tasks of threading a piece of silk, making a rope of ash, and a drum that sounds without being beaten also lend to the magical, mystical, and old fashioned air of the story.


Audience:  This story is ideal for adults, and people of any age.  However, it holds special appeal for senior citizens.  The story relates the importance of valuing our elders, and the fact that an elderly person saves the day makes the story all the more appealing.  The story is not too simple, and does not condescend to the elderly which Brown says is important. 


Bibliographic:  Greene, Ellin. (1996). The Wise old Woman.  Storytelling.  New Providence, NJ: Bowker.


Deutsch, Babette & Yarmolinsky, Avram.(1952). Grandfather’s Advice. Tales of Faraway Folk.  New York: Harper & Row.


DeSpain, Pleasant. (1993).  Grandfather’s Sled. Thirty-Three Cultural Tales to Tell.  Little Rock, Arkansas: August House Publisher’s, Inc.


Comparison:  One main difference in the story I chose (Greene) and the other two, is that the main character is a woman, not a man, which I think lends a certain softness.  Also, in my story the son and parent have a good relationship, and he hides her for selfless reasons, which lets the audience empathize with the son.  Also, the tasks are much more mystical in the story I chose.  I think all these elements lend to a softer story, with a peaceful message that is not abrasive and sweet.