Kiyohime and the Heartless Priest
(A Japanese Folklore Revised by BoSt)
According to Japanese folklore Kiyohime (or simply Kiyo) was the daughter of a village headman named Shōji, on the Hidaka riverbank. The family was wealthy enough to entertain and provide lodging for traveling priests, who often passed by on their way to a shrine famous for ascetic practices.
One day a handsome visiting priest named Anchin, having arrived at dusk, accepted the gracious invitation to be Shoji’s guest for the night.
He was served a sumptuous meal and, was treated very well all during the evening with his needs generously provided for. He was even given the best bedroom. Unfortunately during the course of the night his attention was taken by Shoji’s rather bashful, beautiful daughter Kiyo.
As Anchin was rather a debonair, handsome young priest with suave manners and eloquent tongue, Kiyo quickly became smitten by him.
Anchin seeing that his feelings were reciprocated, and so wanting more time to get to know Kiyo, he deferred his morning departure and instead made up a plausible excuse so as to extend his stay for a few more days.
It was a beautiful time of year, when the Earth wore the bright coloured cloak of spring and frolicking birds and insects filled the air with cheerful melody. A few surreptitious, fervent meetings led to intimacy and Anachin, having totally lost his head, fell deeply in love with Kiyo.
Unfortunately Anchin, being a principled, devout individual most dedicated to his vocation, just as quickly snapped out of his infatuation and regained his senses,. From then on his demeanor was icy cold towards her and he refrained from any further covert meetings. Poor Kiyo wracked her brains for any explanation for this sudden change in Anchin and, failing to do so, fell into deep dismay.
In her view she’d been taken advantage of and most cruelly and reprehensibly victimized by Anachin; especially since until then she had been virtuous and proper. The rejection by this heartless rogue Priest fed the furies of her emotions fanning them into intense hatred.
When one afternoon Kiyohime was away visiting a neighbour, Anachin took advantage of her absence to escape this sticky situation. He quietly made his excuses to his host Shoji and quickly departed.
She was incensed when she returned and found him already gone without a word. Beside herself, she dashed out of the house leaving her baffled father behind.
Tears coursing down her cheeks she ran and ran in hot pursuit of the unfaithful lover, with her heart in a terrible grip of fiery rage.
Kiyohime eventually caught up with Anchin at the edge of the Hidaka River. Anchin, sighting her first, quickly hired the moored ferryman to help him across the river. Once on board, Anchin pressed the boatmen to gain speed. Paying him additional funds, he further cautioned the boatman not to let her cross after him.
Poor, distraught Kiyohime was crushed when she saw Anchin’s icy, heartless glare before he turned his face away to urge the boatmen for speed. She was so incensed; she bit her lip until blood trickled down her chin. Oblivious to her pain she dove into the rapid flowing river and started to swim towards them. She wanted some explanation, even a feeble excuse for his breaking his promise to her. While swimming in the torrent of the Hidaka River, thrashing this way and that, her heart was so filled with rage that it literally burst. Suddenly pitch darkness engulfed the waters. At that same moment she underwent a transformation, growing scales, becoming misshapen, and stretching until she turned into a fierce Dragon.
When Anchin looked back and, this time, saw her in the altered state of a monstrous Dragon effortlessly gliding through the foamy tumultuous waters, his heart skipped a beat. Fortunately the boat had just reached the other shore. Bypassing the boatman who was trying to moor his craft, he simply jumped onto the shore. His feet firmly planted on the ground, he raced towards the temple called Dōjō-ji. His heart still in his mouth, sweating profusely and panting heavily, he begged the priests of Dōjōji for their cooperation and help in escaping this monster, the terrible evil spirit scourge that had taken on the form of a Dragon. They believed in Anchin and quickly lowered the bell of the temple to hide him under it.
The Dragon at first hesitated to enter the temple. But then her icy breath blew open the enormous doors in a miasmic cloud of fog, dust and debris and she manifested inside.
“Where is he?” She roared. But no one was there to answer her as all the priests had taken flight and hid. Her fiery breath could have razed the temple to the ground but she still retained some benevolence and instead forcefully restrained her wrath.
She looked about her for a time, and then her keen sense picked up the frightened odor of Anchin quaking terribly, though well hidden, inside the giant bell.
Seething, the Dragon sliced through the air right across the room and coiled her enormous tail around the bell. She thrashed the bell loudly for several times. Anchin was nearly driven insane with all the noise and vibration. However he was trapped and deep down he knew he would pay for his sin. So he started to pray quietly for absolution.
For just then the Dragon having tired of this fruitless torment, gave a gigantic belch of fire that engulfed and quickly melted the bell with Anchin inside.