there lived in a small fishing village by the
southern shores of Japan a young fisherman named
bright day while he was walking along the seashore
with his fishing pole, Taro saw a group of children
jumping and running about. All of the children seemed
very excited. They were shouting with glee and seemed
to be standing over some object lying on the beach.
When Taro came nearer to the children, he saw that
they were tormenting a little turtle. They threw
stones at it, and then each one took his turn kicking
the poor turtle.
felt great sympathy for the unfortunate turtle. He
turned to the children and said, "Please don't
be cruel to the little turtle. You should be kind to
animals. If you will set the turtle free, I will give
each of you some money."
Taro bought the turtle's freedom from the thoughtless
children. Then he took it to the water's edge and set
it free. Soon the turtle disappeared into the blue
waves and in a moment Taro could see it no more.
a few days Taro again went fishing by the seashore.
He cast his line into the water and, as he did so, he
was surprised to see a big turtle appear from out of
huge turtle approached Taro and said, "Hello,
Taro-san! Don't you remember me?"
stared at the turtle, and to his great surprise he
saw that it was the same turtle whose life he had
saved by rescuing it from the naughty children a few
days before. But now the turtle was very large and
looked very old.
at Taro, the turtle continued, "Thank you very
much for your kindness to me the other day. You
rescued me from those bad children. I wish to reward
you for your kindness. If you wish to go, I will take
you to the Coral Palace. It is a beautiful palace in
the middle of a kingdom down under the sea. Please
get on my back, Taro. Then we will begin our
was delighted with the invitation from the turtle. He
jumped on the hard-shell back, and they started for
the Coral Palace.
the depths of the blue sea they plunged. It was the
first time Taro had been so far under the water, and
it was probably the first time anyone had lived to
see the bottom of the ocean.
bottom of the ocean was a beautiful sight to Taro.
For a minute he just blinked his eyes, for he could
not believe what he saw. Strange and pretty grasses
and trees grew on the bottom of the sea. They swirled
and waved with the gentle current of the water.
Glistening red, blue, and yellow fish of all sizes
and shapes swam everywhere. Schools of tiny fish
played among the pink and blue coral. Funny little
sea horses fled from the larger fish. The shining
coral reflected glittering shafts of light in every
direction. Everything was like a dream. It was most
beautiful and quiet.
turtle was a swift swimmer, and soon Taro saw the
gates of the Coral Palace in the distance.
palace, the queen awaited Taro. The queen was named
Otohime, and she was delicate and sweet- looking.
Otohime wore a long, white robe, and on her head
rested a golden crown sparkling with many diamonds
and pearls. As she moved, her skirt, which was
covered with hundreds of pink shells, swayed and
gleamed in the water. Each shell was like a twinkling
Otohime stood twenty maids in waiting. Each wore a
different-colored dress, and in their hair they had
interwoven green seaweed.
smile on her tender face, Otohime spoke in a soft
voice to Taro. "Welcome, Taro-san! It was so
kind of you to have rescued my loyal turtle. All the
inhabitants of my kingdom wish to reward you by
entertaining you in my Coral Palace. You will see
many strange and wonderful things beneath the
then she beckoned and said, "Come with me, Taro.
We will go into the palace."
followed Otohime, and the charming queen led him
through one splendid room after another. Finally they
came to a huge room filled with beautiful furniture
and treasures. In the center of the room was a great
table and it was laden with golden plates, knives,
forks, and spoons, crystal glasses, silver trays, and
food upon the table was the strangest and most
inviting food Taro had ever seen. Taro had never
tasted such delicious dishes, and he did not know any
of the names of the strange delicacies.
was a generous and charming hostess, and she offered
Taro one wonderful dish after another.
when Taro could eat no more, he was delighted to see
many beautiful fish dance into the banquet hall. They
swam before the table where Taro sat with the queen,
and after they bowed and shyly smiled at the guest,
the fish began to dance to a lovely tune.
fish swayed, and sunfish tossed their tails.
Thousands of gleaming bubbles rose above the dancers.
Goldfish danced to a soft waltz, and shafts of light
shone on their gleaming gilt scales. It almost looked
as if many mirrors were dancing. Then gleaming
codfish and trout moved in rhythm to the gay tunes of
oysters who clacked their shells open and shut. Off
to one side, five small fish danced over the keys of
the golden piano. They made a delicate, tinkling tone
bubble out. Beside them a sweet rainbow trout stroked
the strings of a silver harp. And in the background a
group of proud lobsters played their violins while a
huge, fat lobster led the musicians. Taro laughed at
the lobster leader, for he had thick glasses resting
on the end of his nose, and he looked very funny as
he conducted the orchestra.
the feast and the entertainment were over. Otohime
then showed Taro the treasures of the palace. She had
so many treasures, too! She had more silver and gold
and pearls than anyone on earth or under the sea.
spent many days at the Coral Palace. Every day was a
new experience which ended with a splendid feast and
an evening of entertainment. For a while Taro even
forgot his friends and parents at home above the sea.
one day Taro felt a great longing for his own people.
Taro did not wish the queen to think him ungrateful
for her kindness, but he felt that he must tell her
of his desire to return home. By then Taro was very
next time he saw the queen, Taro approached her and
said, "Thank you very much for your kindness,
little Queen Otohime. I have never spent such happy
days before. I love your palace and all your little
friends. But now I feel a longing to see my home
again. I must say good-by."
was sorry to hear Taro speak these words. She cried
bitterly to think of his leaving her kingdom, and all
her little maidservants tried to persuade Taro to
remain with them forever.
did not wish to see the queen cry, but he would not
change his mind.
time came for Taro to leave. The big turtle prepared
to carry Taro to the land above the sea, and he
awaited him at the gates of the palace.
brushing away tears like pearls from her eyes, said
to Taro, "I am sorry you are leaving my palace,
Taro. But I do not wish you to be unhappy. Do not
forget me, even though you go back to your own
country and people."
Otohime showed Taro a jewel-encrusted chest and said,
"I wish to give you this as a token of farewell.
It will bring great luck to you if you keep it. But
one thing you must remember. You must never, never
open it. Do not forget my words, Taro-san. It will
only bring you luck if you keep it unopened."
the queen handed the chest to Taro.
was delighted with his gift and he thanked the queen
holding the precious chest in his hand, Taro got on
the turtle's back and amid a swirl of water and
bubbles they sped to the surface of the sea.
reached the beach, and Taro bid good-by to the
turtle. Then Taro set out for home.
he arrived at the gates of his native village, he was
surprised to see that everything was changed.
was the same as before he had gone to the Coral
Palace. Not one familiar face remained, and Taro felt
like a stranger. Taro asked many people about his old
friends, but hardly anyone seemed even to have heard
of them. Only one or two old men remembered Taro's
friends. These old men had heard their grandfathers
speak of them, but that was many, many years ago.
disappointment and sorrow heavy in his heart, Taro
looked for the home where he had once lived. But even
that was no longer there, and strange people now
lived on the site in a new house. Taro felt very
lonely in this strange town where he was but a
puzzling stranger to all the inhabitants.
plodded his weary way to the seashore and sat upon a
rock where he could see the waves roll in.
he remembered the chest the queen had given him. Taro
was so lonely he forgot the words of the little
queen, and he began to open the chest. When the lid
was open, a column of white smoke arose from the
chest. The smoke was strange and surrounded Taro. And
when the smoke disappeared, Taro had become an old
man with hair as white as snow. For Taro had really
been under the sea for many years, and now time had
caught up with him.