Emperor jimmu (jim-moo) had been dead a long time, and ten other Tenn˘s had also been buried, when the Bravest of Warriors was born. He was the son of the twelfth Tenn˘, and was very handsome. Besides this, he was brave and quick-witted, so that his father had great confidence in him. When still a young man, he was ordered by the emperor to go to the island of Kiushiu (kyoo-shoo) to punish some people who had raised a rebellion. Before he went on board the ship that was to carry him across, his aunt, who was a priestess and very fond of her handsome nephew, gave him a queer-looking package, and told him not to open it until he was close to the rebel camp.
The young prince set sail, and arrived safe and sound in Kiushiu. He lost no time in starting for the place where the rebels were said to have their camp. He did not take many armed men with him; for he intended to pick a quarrel with the rebel chief and kill him. He knew that the rebels would submit as soon as their leader was slain. When he reached the mountains where they had their camp, he saw that it would be almost impossible to attack them, so strong was their position, and he did not know what to do.
As he was thinking about it, making many plans, which he rejected on account of the risk their fulfillment would involve, his eye fell upon his aunt's mysterious package. "Surely," he thought, "I am now close enough to the rebel camp to open it. Perhaps this gift will help me." So he carefully untied the package, and found therein a girl's dress.
At first the prince did not know what to make of it, and perhaps he thought that his aunt had chosen an odd time to play a joke on him. But after a while he was struck with an idea, and the more he considered it, the better he liked it. So he laughed out heartily, and then, stretching himself under a tree, fell asleep.
The next morning he called his trusty followers, and informed them that he would be absent for a few days; he told them what to do and where to hide, that they might be within call, and march upon the camp at a given signal. When he was satisfied that his orders were fully understood, he plunged into the forest, carrying his sword and the girl's dress provided by his aunt. As soon as he was alone, he put on the dress, and hid his own clothes. When he looked into a brook, he saw a handsome girl, instead of the young warrior who had entered the glade. He chuckled as he saw himself so transformed, and, hiding his sword under his clothes assumed a girlish gait and walked slowly in the direction of the rebel camp.
The first day he did not meet anybody; and he was rather glad, for it gave him time to practice a girl's ways and manners. The next morning, however, he met some men; and from the respect paid to one of them, he knew that he must be the rebel chief. The young prince's heart began to beat fast; and had his enemy been alone, he would have slain him at once. The chief came smilingly to meet the pretty girl and asked who she was and where she lived, but for, answer he received only blushes and smiles. Nevertheless the chief was well pleased when, after much coaxing, the girl accepted an invitation to attend a banquet to be given the next day in his cave.
Early Japanese arms.
The next day, the prince again put on the girl's dress, and he made up his mind that the time had come to kill the chief, and so put an end to the rebellion. As he went on, thinking how he might lead to a quarrel, he did not forget to assume the shy airs of a girl. When the chief saw him coming through the forest, he went to meet his guest, and leading him into the cave, invited him to sit beside him. When the banquet was at its height, the men grew quarrelsome and at last came to blows. This was what the prince had hoped for, and when the rebel chief arose to restore order, the prince drew his sword, and with one blow severed the chief's head from his body. In the confusion that followed, he gained the entrance to the cave, and gave the signal to his band. In a few moments the cave was surrounded and the rebels were captured. The men outside the cave, deprived of their leader, laid down their arms, and the rebellion was at an end.
For this daring deed the prince was named Yamato DakÚ (yah-mah-toh dah-kay), or the Bravest of the Brave. We shall call him Bravest, which is shorter and means almost the same thing. For this prince had several other adventures which must be told here.
After his return home, his father, the emperor, who was now a very old man,—a hundred and twenty years old, the Japanese books tell us,—was very much vexed because the people living to the east of his dominions would not become subject to him. So he asked Prince Bravest to take an army and conquer them. The prince gladly obeyed, and as the warriors all loved and trusted him, he had no difficulty in raising troops. Before taking leave of his father, he went to bid good-by to his aunt. She made him a present of a wonderful sword called Cloud Cluster, because it had been taken in the clouds, from the tail of an eight-headed dragon that had been killed by one of the prince's many divine ancestors. Besides this, she gave him a small bag, and told him not to open it except when in extreme danger. Prince Bravest thanked her, and after taking a respectful leave of his aged father, placed himself at the head of his army and marched away. His wife had begged him so hard to let her go with him that at the last moment he consented.
You have all heard or read in your geography of beautiful Fuji Yama (foo-jee yah-mah) or Fuji Mountain, a high extinct volcano, standing out snow-clad against the deep blue sky. The Japanese delight in painting it, and on many a picture brought from that far-away land you will see a mountain resembling white old Fuji. It was in the plain at the foot of this mountain that the enemy had made a stand. Their spies had told them of the march of the Bravest, and as they preferred remaining independent even to being governed by an emperor whose ancestor was a goddess, there was nothing to do but to fight for it.
Prince Bravest went into camp, happy in the prospect of a battle, although the enemy greatly outnumbered his army. In the morning he was awakened by the smell of smoke, and when daylight appeared he saw that the enemy had set fire to the long grass and bush of the plain. The situation of his army was now one of grave peril, and he thought of his aunt's bag.
When he opened it, he found a flint and steel. This gave him an idea. Seizing his sword, he began to mow down the grass and bushes around the camp—an example that was speedily followed by his warriors. As soon as a sufficient space had been cleared, he made a counter fire, so that his army escaped without the loss of a man. When the fire was burnt out, and the smoke had cleared away, the enemy expected to find the burnt corpses of their invaders. But when they saw that the army of the Bravest had remained unscathed, they ascribed this miracle to the intervention of the divine ancestors, and hastened to make peace by submitting to the emperor.