Tuesday, October 4, 2016

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The fear of marshmallows - a traditional Japanese Rakugo in English

Late one evening around a campfire, a group of boys were trying to frighten each other by telling scary stories. One boy was talking about a snake that can open its mouth wide enough to fit a small child inside. Another told a story that had so many ghosts and ghouls and goblins that he couldn't remember which one was which by the time he finished it. While a third boy even scared himself by talking about drop bears, mysterious animals that wait up trees until someone or something wanders by before dropping down onto the face of its victim doing all sorts of harm that is too scary to even write about it.

They all then turned to one of the kids and said “Nedward, what are you scared of?”
“I really can’t believe you guys are scared of these baby stories, because I’m not scared of anything”, he said boastfully.
“What are you talking about?” they said.
“There must be at least one thing?”
“Nope. Nothing”
Another kid said, “I don’t believe you, you’re hiding something. There must be something”.
“Well”, Nedward said cautiously, “there is one thing, but I’m not going to tell you, because you’ll all laugh”.
“We won’t laugh, we promise, we won’t laugh”, they all said in unison eager to find out his fear.
“Do you swear?” asked Nedward.
“Yes, yes, we all swear, on our mothers' graves. What is it?”
“Well, ok. I’ll tell you, but you can’t say a thing, ok?
“Ok, ok, just tell us already”
“Marshmallows”, Nedward announced. “I’m scared of marshmallows”.

A few of them looked at each other. One snickered. Another giggled.
“You guys promised you wouldn’t laugh”.
“Really? Marshmallows? How could you be scared of them, when they are so sweet and round and delicious?”
“Well I am. Even if they get close to me, I just freak out and can’t control myself. It’s the sight of them more than anything else”.

Immediately one of the other boys, whose mother had packed him a huge bag of marshmallows, hatched a plan to prank Nedward. With the help of another boy, they quietly and secretly went and got a plate out of the camp kitchen and emptied the bag. There were so many that they wouldn’t all fit, so they had to carefully stack them one on top of each other and made the biggest pink and white pyramid of marshmallows you have ever seen.

They crept up behind Nedward, so that everyone else could see what they were doing, except Nedward, and then suddenly, they thrust the marshmallow mountain in front of him. Just as expected Nedward started to scream:

“Ahhh! Marshmallows! Help, Help!” He was screaming and screeching almost as loudly as the others were laughing, before his shrieks became muffled. Nedward was shovelling the marshmallows into his mouth, whole handfuls at a time.

“Nedward, What are you doing?” they cried. “We thought you were scared of them?
"I am. I am" he said in between mouthfuls.
"Then why are you eating them?”
“As long as I can’t see them, I think I’ll be ok”, he replied before shoving a few more in.

Within minutes Nedward had eaten the whole plate of marshmallows. He had calmed down quite a bit, before he turned to the boy who placed the pyramid in front of him and said with a small glint in his eyes, “Your Mum didn’t pack any lemonade did she – because I’m scared of that as well”.

Based on traditional Japanese Rakugo storytelling


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