Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for the Trickster Teakettle

I have a friend who refers to himself as "purebreed teakettle" on every possible online forum and media. Once upon a time I promised him a story about a magic teakettle; he is the biggest trickster I know, and when you put "Trickster" and "Teakettle" in one sentence - you get Bumbuku! At least in Japan.

The story starts with an old priest who is very fond of drinking tea; one day he finds an old, rusty teakettle in a secondhand shop, and he feels like the kettle is more than just rust. He takes it home, polishes it up, and then decides he is going to boil some water in to make tea for himself and his two young pupils. But as soon as the kettle startes getting hot... it suddenly sprouts a tail! And four tiny feet! And the head of a Tanuki dog! (very often trasnlated as "badger", but much more than that).
"OUCH!" yells the kettle and jumps off the fireplace "It burns! It burns!" and starts skittering around the room.
As surprised as the old priest is, he yells at his pupils: "Catch the kettle! Don't let it get away!"
The pupils chase the kettle down with a broomstick, but by the time they catch it, the head, the tail and the four tiny feet are gone. It looks like an ordinaty kettle, and not a kettle crossbred with a badger and a turtle...
The old priests decides the kettle must have been bewitched (duh!) and he does not want such a troublesome utensil around, so he sells it for a low price to the first junkman who comes around.
The junkman takes the kettle home; that night he is awakened by a voice calling to him, and when he opens his eyes, there is the kettle, with the head and the tail and the four tiny feet. They make a deal: if the junkman treats the tanuki right and never puts him on the fire, Bumbuku ('good luck') will help him make his fortune.
And this is how their show, Bumbuku The Magic Teakettle, is born: people pay good money and come from far away to see the tanuki do his magic tricks. The junkman grew rich; and as time went by, he felt like he had enough money to stop making the kettle perform. He offered Bumbuku to take him to the temple where he can live in peace and quiet. Bumbuku was afraid that the old priest was going to put him over the fire again, but the junkman went with him and explained everything to the priest.
The end of the story? They say Bumbuku still lives in the temple; they feed him rice cakes, and they never, ever put him over the fire!

I don't know about you, but I would love a pet tanuki that turns into a kettle. How cute is that! Tanuki in Japanese tales are usually tricksters; but in this story, Bumbuku uses his tricks for something good for a change. Kids love this story!


  1. Cute story- I had never heard that one. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge blogs this month. My alphabet is at

  2. I love it! that was beautiful. And your profile picture is really cute!

  3. Sounds familiar but I'm happy to be reminded of this story. I'll have to search for the version I first heard & let you know if there are any substantial differences. Thanks for posting!