Momotaro is one of the most famous heroes in Japanese fairy tale. His story has represented in various intermediates since 1753. It has the oldest story version, a recomposed version, foreign countries version, movies, and even games. Those variants have both similarities and differences, which formed Momotaro with characteristics of brave, kindness, and unyielding to the world.
In the very old version, which was written in 1753, describes that one day an old woman found a huge peach. Then she ate one bite and became a beautiful young lady. Her husband heard that also ate the peach and turned young, too. Momotaro is the baby after they made love that night. However, Japanese government recomposed the story from the original version in order to bring it into school curricula, so the one that exists on our textbook is the most popular version.
In the recompose version, Momotaro was inside of the huge peach and found by the poor old woman on the river. When the old couple tried to cut the peach, Momotaro started to speak to them and told them that he was sent by the God. So the old couple felt glad about it and took very good care about Momotaro. After he turned to fifteen years old, he started his conquer to the Ogres’ land. On the way to Ogres’ land, he met a dog, a monkey and a pheasant. Momotaro used the millet dumplings, which made by the old woman, to make three animals follow him and helped him to defeat the ogres. With this version which has applied in Japanese education, there are various foreign version of Momotaro coming out.
Similarly, in the Chinese version of the story, Momotaro was found by the old woman. However, he can’t speak when they cut the huge peach but crying. The old couple felt that he was a gift from God and carefully took care of the baby. This scene seems more reasonable than the Japanese style because infant can’t speak at first. Moreover, Momotaro grew very fast by eating the millet dumplings which made by the old woman. Several days late, he already became a strong juvenile. By comparing to the Japanese version, the Chinese version use hyperbole to describe Momotaro’s growth instead of regular growth. In this way, it brings more magic to the millet dumplings and foreshadowing the development part when Momotaro meets the animals. Then, Momotaro heard about the ogres’ land and decided to destroy those enemies. As a result, he started his journey to the ogres’ land. Same as the previous version, Momotaro met three animals; nevertheless, Momotaro used his kindness replaced with brave while trading these three animals. When he met each animal, his heart melted with pity, and offered his millet dumplings to them. His compassion moved those three animals so that they want to be his attendants in order to reward Momotaro’s kindness. This recompose indicated the Chinese traditional belief—Man’s nature is good. It shows that not only Momotaro has a mercy heart, but also those animals have a grateful heart. On the other hand, the Japanese version described that each animal threats Momotaro for the millet dumpling; in addition, Momotaro intimidated back to them. In this scene, both sides are aggressive to each other. Also, Momotaro showed his courage and brave under those situations, which suggests one of the nation’s spirits in Japan. Foreign version stories keep the main part from the original country but add more nations’ civilization into the story to make it more adapt to the public’s taste. It just likes the fast food brand in foreign countries, such as McDonald and KFC, different country has the same menu but with different taste.
Besides the foreign version, Momotaro’s story also appears in the movie industry. In 1945, Mitsuyo Seo produced the movie Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (Momotaro’s Sea Eagles) in order to propagandize the World War II. In this 37 minutes film, it narrates the war between Momotaro and the Ogres. The same segment of the fairy tale is that Momotaro has dog, monkey, and pheasant as his attendants. The difference is the number of those animals is not only one but in group. The movie formed an army for Momotaro which is stand for Japanese Army during the WWII. The ogre in here represented for America in the war period, and this movie was produced in order to encourage Japanese people that do not afraid of enemy. Momotaro’s warriors use fighters instead of the boat in the recompose version, which seems more serious than a fairy tale. In this movie, Momotaro has a strict facial express on his face, which made him looks like a mature and thoughtful person. The animal army was well trained and has good group works. However, they still play with each other even they were on the way to the enemy’s land. It is understandable because they are animals. They look cute and innocent than humans. And they are playfulness just like children, which made the war environment not depressing any more. These happy animals exist made a contrast with Momotaro. The animals set him off with aspiring and steady traits, which the stories didn’t reveal by Momotaro’s facial expression. Also, even animals have brave and energetic attitude when they face to the enemy, to say nothing of human beings. The story use animals rather than humans make it more impressionable and acceptable to the audience.
Generally speaking, Momotaro is the main role in the story; however, different versions give different positions about him. In the 1753 year’s story, Momotaro was born by an old couple who ate the huge peach and turned to young. On the contrary, in the following recomposed version, god sent Momotaro to a lonely couple instead of giving birth by them. Furthermore, Momotaro is the leader of those animals in the story; similarly, he is the captain of his animal army in the movie Momotaro’s Sea Eagles.
The millet dumplings also play an important role in this fairy tale. In the traditional version, it is the link that connects Momotaro to three animals. Because he has those dumplings, animals all want that so that they started threaten Momotaro. And the story could keep going on. In Chinese version, the millet dumplings not only connect those characters, but also stand for energy and power. Momotaro can get grown up fast by eating millet dumplings, and when he faced to his enemy, he can get confidence and power from the millet dumplings. These give the millet dumpling a mystical veil which made readers feel it’s magic. Furthermore, in the movie Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors, the millet dumplings were given to those warriors who went to the ogre’s land. This symbolized their expectation of conquering the ogres. Moreover, this millet dumpling also has been used in other Japanese stories. For example, it has been existed in the Japanese anime Doraemon. Similar to the millet dumplings, Doraemon has a dumpling from his pocket which can docile the monsters listen to Nobita’s order. Here has the intertextuality with Momotaro’s millet dumpling.
In addition, there are movies about Momotaro keep coming out after that. For instance, in 1987, Taiwan produced the Child of Peach, and in the next year it produced the Child of Peach 2. Meanwhile, there are other intermediates recomposed Momotaro’s story, such as the game Momotaro Densentsu.
In conclusion, Momotaro’s story has so many different variants, but his characteristic has formed in the same features. He is smart, strong, fearlessness, and kindness. Because of those traits which be sought after by human, his name can be handed down to generations and different nations.