Once there was a river. It was a beautiful sparkling river which flowed from snowy mountain tops down to the alluvial plains where the wild grasses grew and finally into a great delta which became a bay in the great ocean itself.
The water rushed and the river grew and islands formed and were dissolved in its meanderings. Many human communiies thrived on the bountiful catches of fish from the river and the bay of islands. One of these was a young man from a small island at the back of the bay. His name was Urashima and he was a virtuous man.
One day Urashima was walking along the beach and he came upon a group of schoolchildren who were teasing a turtle. He told them to leave the creature in peace. They departed.
The following day Urashima was fishing and the turtle came upon him in the open sea. It told him it was a magical servant of divine power and that as a reward for his kindness the previous day, he was to climb on its back and come away on a journey. He agreed to do this and the turtle carried him down to the Palace of the Dragon King at the bottom of the sea.
Urashima was presented to the King and he was treated with great respect. He was invited to marry the King’s daughter. He acceded to this wish.
Thereafter he passed many happy hours with the Dragon King’s daughter, forgetting that a day in the palace of the dragon King is equal to a hundred days in the world above.
After a year had passed Urashima decided it was time to leave the palace and to visit his family and his aged mother in the village of his birth. His new wife warned him that this was not possible. Urashima in sisted that he could no longer remain there in the palace happily if he was not to be allowed to visit his family.
Sadly the daughter of the Dragon King gave the fisherman a small wooden box with ornate carving on all of its surfaces and tiny intricate hinges which held it together. It was a parting gift.
She told him not to open it.
He put the present into his sleeve and traveled on the turtle’s back to the world above where he left the ocean and wandered the roads of his island and walked the streets of his village.
To his dismay he recognised nothing other than some cliffs by the sea and a mountain in the distance. Everything had changed. A lot of time had passed.
All of his family members had passed away. All of the people who he had known and all of the people who he remembered had died.
He wandered through the streets of the town. He tried to talk to people but they thought he was a madman.
He asked people if they had heard of Urashima. Then one man took him aside and told him he had heard of a man called Urashima who was a fisherman. But Urashima had disappeared at sea many many years ago.
Urashima realised that a year in the Palace of the Dragon King is equal to a hundred years in the world above and he crumpled and wandered in sadness through the town that had been his village.
He found himself walking along the beach and then he took the ornate wooden box which the princess had given him out of his sleeve. He turned it over in his hands and examined it. She had told him not to open it. She had told him never to open it. She had warned him not to open it.
He opened it anyway. He opened it anyway and some smoke came out. It was white smoke and it curled up and around his beard like hair and then suddenly his own hair and beard were white and he was very old. He looked around. Everything had changed. Nothing was the same anymore. Everything was different.
What style changes do you notice?
How has the story evolved?
How has the story changed?
Can you expand it?
Can you make an even longer version?
Can you add to it?
Box of Smoke
Let’s look at a much longer version.