The Two Brothers (Fairy Tale)

Explore the tale of two brothers, Kurobei and Kazuma, whose divergent paths illustrate the profound influence of character and values on one's destiny. Set in ancient Japan, this story delves into the lives of the siblings after the death of their father

Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
The Two Brothers (Fairy Tale)

This image was created with the assistance of Playground AI

There were once two brothers who were as different as day and night. The oldest, Kurobei, cared only for himself and thought of nothing but of what might advance his own interests. Moreover, he was very proud and haughty. The younger brother’s name was Kazuma. He was gentle and of a kind heart, and all the people loved him.

When therefore the father died, and the two brothers were left alone in the world (their mother having been dead for many years), there were those among the servants who said, “It is a pity that O Kazuma is not the elder, to rule the house; for his rule would be one of kindness.”

Both Kurobei and Kazuma loved their father and had been dutiful sons. Both had obeyed the old man and both had grieved at his death. They had him buried with every token of respect and they wept at his loss.

“My father is no more,” cried Kurobei. “I must place offerings upon his grave that all men may see that I hold him in respectful remembrance.”

But the younger brother wept most bitterly. “Alas! alas!” he cried. “My father is gone from me! No longer may we go to him each day and ask his advice upon the many things which trouble us! How shall we live? Let us each day place upon his grave flowers of remembrance. Perhaps his spirit may some day speak with us.”

Kurobei agreed to this and each morning the two brothers could be seen bearing flowers to their father’s grave, and there they talked to their father, telling him of all the doings of their lives.

And all the people saw and said, “How good Kurobei is! Though he has much to do, in the affairs of his home, still each day he takes his brother with him and goes to his father’s grave, lest the younger forget his filial piety.”

Thus things went on for twelve months, and the matter coming to the emperor’s ears, he appointed Kurobei to a high place in his household, saying, “One who so well serves his father will be faithful in office.” And Kazuma was much pleased at the honor shown to his brother, whom he dearly loved.

Kurobei went much to the palace and much enjoyed his new life. He said to Kazuma, “You will see now that you must go alone to my father’s grave, good brother, for I am much occupied with affairs. For the honor of the family I must appear well at court, and my father would wish it. I have gone to his grave daily these twelve months and never omitted this respect; but now my duty to the emperor demands that the rest of my time be spent at the palace. Go you therefore to the grave, if you will, since you have no higher duty.”

“But my brother!” cried Kazuma in astonishment. “Will you neglect our father’s grave altogether?”

“Not at all,” replied the elder brother. “Be not so hasty in your judgments, for that is a sin. I shall place before his grave the day lily which shall bloom daily, and thus shall I continue to do him honor. I have chosen a handsome plant, and shall pay a gardener well to tend it for me. The flowers shall stand in my stead before the grave, and I shall have leisure to attend to my duties at the palace, coming to visit my father only upon the days of special fête.”

“Alas, my brother,” cried Kazuma. “Plant not the lily of forgetfulness!”

Kurobei only said, “Trouble me no further, I have spoken.”

Then Kazuma spoke no more, but he went even more carefully each day to his father’s grave and there he made offerings. He talked to the spirit of his beloved father, and told him all things which occurred to him each day.

The elder brother at first went upon the feast days, but as time passed he went less and less, and at last he went not even upon the Feast of the Dead, when every one should remember their dead with incense and a bower of bamboo and bright berries.

This made Kazuma very sad, and at last he spoke.

“O Kurobei,” he said, “honorable brother, have you quite forgotten our father? You never visit his grave.”

Kurobei was angry and spoke harshly. “Why do you bother me, troublesome fellow? Did I not tell you I had no time to attend to it? I planted the lily, and I pay the gardener to attend to it; I can not do more for my duty lies elsewhere. Does not the lily fare well?”

“It fares well, my brother,” said Kazuma sadly; and to himself he whispered, “the lily of forgetfulness.”

Then after his brother had gone to the palace he wept much and said, “My brother’s heart has grown like a stone. He has forgotten my father and all that he has for him is the lily of forgetfulness. I too shall plant a flower, but mine shall be the aster for memory; for I shall never, never, forget my honorable father. Each day I will tend the aster with my own hands; for it is a sacred flower, the flower of remembrance.”

Then he did as he said, and every day he tended the plants and prayed beside his father’s grave. And every day he loved his father more and more.

One day when he was tending the flower he heard a strange sound. He listened and there seemed to come from the grave a whispering voice. It said to him, “O Kazuma, I am sent to guard the spirit of your honorable father. Long have you remembered your parent when your brother had forgotten him. You have planted for him the sacred asters of remembrance, and here they have bloomed in purple beauty. All these things I have noticed and I am well pleased with your filial piety. So, fear me not, faithful son. To you I shall be a spirit of kindness so long as you live. I can read the future, and ever I shall whisper to you in dreams of the night, and I shall direct you in the paths which you should follow to meet success. Farewell!”

The voice ceased and Kazuma stood amazed before the asters and the day lilies of his brother. He returned home greatly wondering, and told his wife all that had happened.

That night, in sleep, the spirit came to him and told him all that he should do to meet success; and when day came he obeyed the voice, and all was well with him. And so it continued, for success waited upon him at every turn, and his wife bore him many sons and all his life he was happy and fortunate. 

This story is part of "Japanese Folk Stories and Fairy Tales" by Mary F. Nixon-Roulet. Read all the stories from this enchanting collection HERE!

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