Story Review: The Story of the Aged Mother, a Japanese Folktale
The fear of Shinano’s despotic ruler of anything related to weak or failing health opened the hatch of abandonment to the old and weak people. It’s not as simple to the people as it appears to the barbaric ruler. Despite the emotional protest, they could not do anything but to follow or else, they would die.
The hero of the story which was not given a name was obliged to take his beloved old mother toward the summit. The summit is known as “Obatsuyama,” or the mountain of the “Abandoning of the Aged.” The climbing was tough for the road was long and steep. With aching joints and weakened muscles, it could be exhausting. But could it more exhausting than leaving an old aged mother in the mountain alone? It is said that between emotional and physical pain, the first one brings more gravity.
For the youth, it was a big hit to his morale, where after all what his aged mother had done, he would neglect her and let her die on the mountain. It was not easy for the youth to do such a merciless task. There was a tug of war happening inside him between two strong forces. Would he listen to his mind telling him to obey Shinano’s ruler or should he pay attention to the plea of his heart? After he performed his supposed to be last duty to his aged mother, he finally bid his last farewell.
Knowing that the way back to the valley was dangerous, his aged mother gave him her last instructions. The youth felt guilt. He would left her all alone and yet, she unselfishly showed her concern and love to the youth. He was moved with the loving act of his mother that he finally decided that he would not leave her. Irregardless of the punishment that might befall to the youth, he decided that he would not abandon his mother. He took his mother with him back to the valley. There he hid and took care of her in secrecy.
As I do my own reflection while reading the story I asked myself few questions. Why does the ruler did such unreasonable order? Why did he despise the old people? Doesn’t he have parents or grandparents? Or were he abandoned when he was still young that he hate those people who were supposed to look after him?
The good thing is that the story did not end in the ruler’s cruelty. Once again, he sent an order to the entire province that they should present him with a rope of ashes. Nobody knew how to do it except the aged mother that the youth hid away. The aged mother instructed the youth on how to do the rope of ashes and the ruler received what he demanded
He insisted the youth to tell him the origin of such wisdom. The youth did an act of humility. He knew that he didn’t do it all by himself. There was no way he could have accomplished the ruler’s demand on his own. But the circumstance left him with no choice other than to tell the truth that it was his aged mother’s idea.
The ruler having found out the person behind’s the youth’s impressing skills finally returned to his senses. He stepped outside of his own prejudices and respect the old people for Shinano needs more than the strength of youth. Shinano also needs the wisdom of the elders.
Oftentimes, old people are neglected because of the blind perception that due to people’s old age, they cannot do anything. As a result, they are oftentimes deemed to be just a mere burden. Should society forget the old people just because of their physical attributes? Just because they do not have that great strength anymore? I think it is one important thing that some people tend to look for granted. People should be mindful and awake. It is important for us to realize that we are all part of a community, of a society. We are all connected and by that, we have responsibilities toward one another. As how our parents took care of us when we were still little, we, in return, should do the same when they get old. Old people are keeper of knowledge and we won’t be where we are now without the elders.
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