An old man lived with his two sons in a Japanese village. The old man had always wanted daughters. He waited eagerly for his sons to grow up so that when they married, he would finally have daughters in the house.
At last, both his sons got married. The old man was affectionate towards both his daughters-in-law. The two girls, who were friends from another village, loved and respected their father-in-law.
Many months passed. The girls started missing their home. They missed their friends, the love of their own parents. They wished to visit their village for a few weeks. Both went together to seek the old man’s permission to leave home for a few weeks.
The old man turned sad. He had waited for so many years to get daughters. How could he simply let them go, even if it was for a few weeks? He did not give them permission.
The girls were dejected, but they respected the old man’s wishes. After a few months, they went to him again, asking him if they could leave for their village. Again, the old man said no.
A few more months passed. The girls decided to try their luck again. The old man knew the girls would continue to ask him. So, he thought of an idea. “You can go if you want, but only one condition.”
The girls were so eager to leave the hastily said, “Yes, yes, of course father, we will do anything for you.”
“Each of you must bring me a gift,” said the old man. He turned to the elder daughter-in-law, “You must bring me fire wrapped in paper.” Then turning to the younger daughter in law, he said, “You must bring me wind wrapped in paper.”
The girls nodded without thinking. The old man continued, “If you do not bring me these gifts, you may never leave this house again.”
So, the girls went home happily without a thought for the gifts. The weeks went by quickly. Soon it was time to return to their husbands’ home. The girls remembered that they had to find the two gifts. But how could they find fire wrapped in paper? Fire would immediately burn the paper. And wind wrapped in paper — what did that even mean?
The two girls were very worried. They asked the wise man of the village. The man was shocked. “Fire wrapped in paper? Impossible! Wind wrapped in paper? That can never be done!” he said.
The girls were sad. They asked many other people in the village. But no one knew of any paper that would wrap fire or wind.
At last, the two girls left their village with a heavy heart. The paper would never be found. They would never return to their village. They came to a forest. Here they rested, and started crying. Their tears flowed freely and fell on the ground.
Suddenly they heard a voice. “Stop crying, you two! Salt in the water is not good for the trees.”
“What else can we do? We will never be able to go back to our village, the place where we grew up,” said the girls. They were so sad they did not find it strange that a voice had spoken to them.
“Who is stopping you from visiting your village?” asked the voice.
The girls told him the whole story. “There is no such paper in Japan that can wrap fire or wind.”
The voice laughed, “Such a paper can be found anywhere.”
The girls were shocked. Every wise man had told them that no such paper existed. A piece of paper floated in front of the girls. Even as the girls blinked, the paper wrapped itself up into a beautiful container-like object. “Just place a candle at the centre. The fire will never touch the paper. And you have fire wrapped in paper.”
The elder girl was happy. She had found her gift. The younger girl started crying again, “But what about me? How can wind be wrapped in paper?”
The voice laughed again, “Easy!”
Another piece of paper floated in front of the girls. A few thin twigs fell from the tree above on the paper. The paper started folding itself along the twigs. Lo and behold, the paper had wrapped itself into a semi-circular fan! “Move the paper and wind blows on your face. Isn’t that wind wrapped in paper?” said the voice.
The two girls brought both gifts to their father-in-law. Hearing their story, the father-in-law felt very happy. His daughters had put in so much effort to bring him the gifts. He now knew that they would never leave him.
He hugged the two daughters, and all lived happily with the two wonders made of paper.
Adapted from a Japanese folktale.