An old farmer went to gather firewood. His wife was doing her washing in the river that ran past their house. Just as she had finished wringing out the clothes, and was spreading them out on the grassy bank to dry, she thought she saw something curious floating in the river. It was a gigantic peach! She hurried into the house, brought out a broom with a long handle, and rushed into the water. Using the broom handle she was able to push the peach towards the shore. Half carrying, half pushing it she managed to get it into her kitchen, just about! It was enormous and very, very heavy. She cleaned it and put it on a white sheet in the middle of the floor.
Her husband arrived home carrying the firewood on his back. He washed and entered the house, and of course the first thing he saw was the giant peach.
”What have we got here?” His wife told him how she acquired it. He got out is biggest knife and cut the fruit in half. They had just eaten a few bites each and marvelled at the fantastic taste, when with a loud CRRAACK! The kernel burst open and out stepped a little baby boy!
The farmer and his wife didn’t have any children, having lost all their babies early to various diseases, so they concluded that this child must be a gift to them from the kind spirits of the river. They named him Momo. They took good care of him, and the baby boy grew up into a very big and strong youngster, but one who was very kind and considerate. He was always going round the village helping neighbours, dislodging carts that got stuck in the mud, helping to carry heavy loads, rebuilding houses that had fallen down during a storm, catching a piglet that had run away, frightened by the thunder.
Everybody loved him: “He’s a peach of a boy, this Momo!” He also spent some time with the other young men in the village and from them he learned how to handle a sword, and how to use judo to wrestle an opponent to the ground.
During long winter evenings the people in the village would gather round a fire and take turns telling stories. One of the stories that made the strongest impression on Momo was about Demon’s Island, the home of a legendary old warlord who had turned into a demon and had amassed an amazing treasure trove. One morning Momo announced to his parents that he was going away to find this Demon’s Island; he wanted to get his hands on some of that treasure.
The farmer tried to dissuade him, it was only an old folk tale, no such place as Demon’s Islandreally existed! His mother joined in: even if he did find it, it would surely be guarded by scores of warriors, armed to the teeth. But Momo was not to be moved; he had his mind set on this adventure. So mother got some millet flour out of her store and prepared some dumplings, so that he would have some home cooked food for his journey. As she wrapped the dumplings in some dried bamboo leaves, she asked the kind spirits of the river to look after the child they had sent her.
Momo told his parents not to worry, he would come back soon. He went on his way, carrying a sack full of dumplings and armed with one of his father’s old wood cutting blades.
After several hours of walking, Momo met a dog sleeping by the roadside. As the boy approached, the dog got up and wagged his tail. “Ho there, peach of a boy! What brings you here?” Momo told him he was on his way to Demon’s Island, to capture some of the treasure hidden there. “Well, well, well,” barked the dog, “isn’t that something! It’s a long way, you know, did you by chance bring some food for the journey in that sack you’re carrying?” Momo held up his sack. “My mother made these dumplings for me. Her millet dumplings are the best inJapan!”
“Let me taste one,” said the dog, “if they’re really as good as you make out, I’ll show you the way to Demon’s Island.”
The boy gave the dog a dumpling, and he enjoyed it very much indeed. He barked his pleasure and said: ”Let’s go!”
The next day their path took them through a wood. A monkey jumped down from a tree and addressing the dog, said: “What’s this I see? Where are you taking that manboy, my friend?” Momo replied: “We’re going to Demon’s Islandto find the treasure!” The monkey laughed out loud. “You’re either very brave or very foolish,” he said. “Did you bring some food to keep you going on your quest?” Momo held up his sack. “My mother made me some dumplings! In the whole of Japan there are none tastier!” “Well,” replied the monkey, “let me taste one, and I might just accompany you some of the way.” Momo gave him a dumpling, and soon after the three of them were on their way again.
Evening was approaching and they decided to rest. They walked into the wood a little way to find a nice shelter, and having found such a place , sat down in the grass. Momo was just about to get some dumplings out for their evening meal, when they heard a loud squealing. They had disturbed a partridge who’d been sleeping there. “Who are you people to disturb me in my nest?” the bird wanted to know. Momo apologized to the partridge for upsetting him, and explained his quest. “I see,” said the partridge. “In that case I’ll forgive you. Are you going to eat some of those dumplings before you put your heads down?” Momo took out some dumplings. “My mother made these for me,” he told the partridge, “would you like one?” The next morning, as Momo, the dog and the monkey were about to set off, the partridge joined them, saying: “I could do with some company. I’ll come with you.”
That afternoon they reached the Demon’s Island. They saw a large fortress, surrounded by a high stone wall. They could see a large gate, with solid wooden doors, which appeared locked shut. The partridge said: “I’ll fly inside, so that I can see what’s going on in there. I’ll call out to you when it’s safe to enter.” The monkey said: “When I get your signal, I will climb over the wall and open the gate so that Momo and dog can get in!”
The partridge flew over the wall into the fortress. After a brief while he reappeared on the wall and cried out to them. The monkey rushed up to the wall, and effortlessly climbed over it an opened the gate from the inside so that Momo and the dog could enter.
Inside they tried to find the Demon Lord’s quarters, but they were spotted by one of his warriors, who raised the alarm. Soon a dozen or so of them came rushing out, brandishing their weapons and screaming their war cries. But Momo was stronger than any of them, and slayed one after another of the warriors.
The dog and the monkey were very clever and ran around causing confusion, snapping at the warriors’ ankles and pulling their helmets off. Soon they had vanquished all of them and entered the Demon Lord’s quarters. When he saw that his warriors had been defeated, he ran up to Momo, puffing up his chest, and tried to push the boy to the ground. But Momo used his wrestling skills, and managed to throw the Demon Lord on his back. With monkey’s help he tied his arms and legs. Then Momo demanded to know where the treasure was hidden. He promised the Demon Lord he would spare his life if he told him. The Demon Lord decided he had lost, and told Momo to look under his throne. There Momo found a very large iron key. The Demon Lord explained that it opened the door behind his throne; that was the entrance to the treasure room. Momo unlocked the door, and on the other side they found a room filled to the rafters with gold, silver, precious stones and jade, fine silk cloth and tortoise shell.
Momo filled one sack, and tied it to the dog’s back. He filled another sack and tied it to the monkey’s waist. The biggest sack he carried himself. He told the partridge: “I don’t think you’ll be able to fly if I tie a sack to you.” But he found some rings inlaid with precious stones which he put on the bird’s toes.
They left the fortress and started on their journey back. When he returned to the village, Momo shared his riches with his parents and their neighbours, and everybody was very happy. The dog and the monkey and the partridge stayed in the village and were treated as special guests for the rest of their lives.