A Mighty Figure and its link – Millet Dumplings

Momotaro story, as a well-known Japanese folklore, is being positioned in such state when people use to refer characteristic like leadership, camaraderie and loyalty. There has numerous folklores are been passed by from older generation to younger generation throughout the history of Japan. For instance, the story of Yuki-onna, the story of Kaguya- hime and the story of Urashima Taro and the Ryugu-jo.  Unlike the other Japanese folklore stories, the story of Momotaro tends to be more portraying on family warmness, loyalty of bushido and advocating righteousness. Moreover, the protagonist of this story, Momotaro, also represents heroic characteristic like brave, kindness and adamancy Food is placed in significantly important role in the story. Whilst Momotaro, or Peach-Boy, is named after his birth from a giant peach, however, the keystone food that links Momotaro with his family, and relationship between Momotaro and his three animal followers is millet dumplings.

The story opens up with background of how is the Old Man and the Old Woman’s life before they find that giant peach. Here is a hidden flag that neither the Old Man or the Old Woman is being bothered by Oni, or in other word Ogre, which Momotaro is going to conquer later in the story. The husband and wife have lived peacefully in a certain place for about 60 years. One day, the Old Woman finds a giant peach which flows down with the river. She plans to give it to her husband as a surprise gift in his 60-year-old birthday. When they try to cut the peach in half to feast for the birthday, a voice comes out from inside of the peach, and Momotaro appears to them as the peach is divided into half by itself. Momotaro tells the two that he is sent by god of the Heaven to them as to be their son. The husband and wife have not yet gotten any children, so they are extremely happy and appreciate to god for the gift. Many years pass by and Momotaro has grown up to a fifteen old young man. He recalls his quest promises his family will be return to them after he conquer the Oni island. With tears and cares, the Old Man and Old Woman have prepared millet dumplings for Momotaro upon his departure for his journey. In his way to Oni Island, Momotaro is able to meet and make the Spotted Dog, the Monkey and the Pheasant become his servants. When he makes these animals be his servants, he gives out half of a millet dumpling to each of them. In end of the story, Momotaro and his servants conquer the Oni Island and bring out all the treasures the Ogres have hidden; as Momotaro has promised, he returns to the Old Man and the Old Woman at very end of the story.

Momotaro’s intension to conquer the Oni Island is somehow differs from other stories. First, neither he or the Old Man or Old Woman are lived under threat from Oni. Usually a hero in a folklore builds up his heroism through steps like first undergoes difficulty that relates to its regional life, then as story proceeds, the hero overcomes his weakness and finally his enemies, and at end his story becomes an epic that is remembered by others. Notwithstanding Momotaro’s heroism is not built in steps as above process, by conquering the Oni Island and eliminating the threat to people, his heroism is represented even more superior than ordinary heroism. It’s because, first, Momotaro is not been forced to conquer the Oni Island. He has had choice not accept this task at beginning since neither him or his family are threatened by the Oni. He accepts this quest for not beneficial to him nor his family, but to all people that live under threatening. It implies that Momotaro is actually transfigured as a Godlike character in the story. In combat with the Oni, the story describes the Pheasant, the Monkey and the Spotted Dog are fighting hard in the battlefield, except that no word on Momotaro’s action in battlefield from the content. In the movie Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, it also reflects the idea of Momotaro has become a mighty figure in the film.


Mighty figure

This scene is where Momotaro gives out conclusive speech of the campaign and announces the survival of lost comrades is being confirmed. Mighty figure, in respect to the meaning in Bible, it automatically makes people think of similarity with Jesus. Likewise Jesus has told his servants that the bread is his body and wine is his blood, and offers bread and wine to his servant; in Momotaro’s story, there is also a food that similarly connects the Mighty and its servants.

Millet dumplings, as a farewell gift received from his parents, has an inestimable effort on relation between Momotaro and his servants. As prove of master-servant relation, each animal has given half piece of a millet dumplings. Millet dumplings links Momotaro, “the great General”, with his servant as their loyalty to Momotaro as “obeyed Peach-Boy’s commands, heart and soul.” (Pg32) There is a discussable point where Momotaro only gives out half of a millet to his servant. Momotaro has told the Spotted Dog that “these… are the best millet dumplings in Japan. I cannot give you a whole one, I will give you half-a-one.” Literally, it seems be to clearly explained that the reason Momotaro gives out only half a millet dumplings is because he think the dumpling is the best in Japan, so he can only give out half of one piece. However, millet dumpling is given to the Spotted Dog in response to its request, but neither the Monkey nor the Pheasant have asked for the dumplings. Therefore, it’s oblivious that dumplings offer to the Monkey and the Pheasant is from Momotaro his own will. And by giving out only a half, it is considerable that the purpose of it is not only for faireness, but Momotaro himself wants to establish a connection with those servants.


Monkey is holding his millet dumpling in the film

In the film, it also indicates the importance of millet dumplings to those servants, like the scene above. After all, millet dumplings in its original role, have fed Momotaro and his servants from starvation as food, a material object. In addition, it also symbolizes as attestation of honor and loyalty, and as a role of unifier to the Mighty Momotaro and his loyal servants.

At last, the whole story is linearly well-organized and content of story can give positive influence to young children. In addition, albeit the literary text and visual text versions are mostly in common, but the ending of these two versions are different. In literary text, Momotaro and his servants carry those treasures that are seized from Oni Island is being used by Momotaro themselves. As the ending indicates that “they with Peach-Boy, had more and more power, and they lived happily ever after, in the midst of their ever-increasing dependents and retainers.” In contrast to the other version, it indicates that “they took the ogres’ hidden treasures and piled them on a cart to give them back to their rightful owners.” As folklore’s essence, those stories are being told and spread over hundreds of years, specific contents may have been changed into many different versions. In respect to the literary version, it can possibly think that the background of that age is in Daimyo period, which Momotaro himself is likely acting like a daimyo. As of the visual version, may consider to be closer to the original folklore.


One response to “A Mighty Figure and its link – Millet Dumplings

  1. I post it in 11:34PM Nov 27th, but somehow it shows Nov. 28th.

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