日本語

ふくろう

ENGLISH

The owl


二、三百年前、人々が今ほどずる賢くなく悪知恵が働かないとき、小さな町で奇妙なことが起こりました。どういうわけか、ワシミミズクという大ふくろうが一羽、夜の間に近くの森から町の人の納屋に入りこみ、このふくろうが現れると恐ろしい叫び声をあげる他の鳥たちを恐れて、夜が明けてもこの避難場所から二度と出ていこうとしませんでした。

朝に、下男はわらをとりに納屋に入って行った時、片隅にふくろうが止まっているのを見てひどくおどろいたので、逃げて行って、主人に、「生まれてこのかた見たこともない怪物が納屋にいて、いとも簡単に人を食いそうにして、目をぐるぐる回しているんです。」と知らせました。「お前というやつを知ってるよ。」と主人は言いました。「お前は野原でつぐみを追いかけ回す勇気はあるが、めんどりが死んでるのを見ると近くへ寄る前に棒を持たなくちゃいけないんだからな。わしが自分で行ってどんな怪物か見てこなくてはならぬな。」と主人は付け加え、全く平気で納屋に入って行き、辺りを見回しました。

ところが、自分の目で奇妙なゾッとする生き物を見たら、下男に負けず劣らずびっくり仰天しました。二回跳びはねて外へ出て、近所の人たちのところへ駆けていき、見たことのない危険なけものをやっつけるのに手を貸してくれ、さもないと閉じ込めてある納屋から抜け出るようなら町中が危険にさらされるぞ、と泣きださんばかりにお願いしました。町の通りがみな大騒ぎになり、町の人たちは、まるで敵に立ち向かっていくかのように、槍や熊手や草刈り鎌や斧で武装してやってきました。

最後に、町長を先頭に議員たちがやって来ました。みんなは広場で整列し、納屋に行進して、周りを取り囲みました。そのあとすぐ、一番勇気のある男が進み出て槍を構えて入っていきましたが、すぐ後で悲鳴を上げたかと思うと死人のように青ざめて駆け戻ってくると、一言も口を言えませんでした。それでもあと二人が入って行きましたが、同じような結果になりました。とうとう、戦争の手柄で有名な大きな力のある男が出てきて、「あんた方、ただ見ていたって怪物を追い払うことにならん。ここは本気にならなくてはいかんのに、あんた方はみんな女に変わってしまったようだの。誰ひとりとしてそいつと戦おうとせんのか。」と言いました。

男はみんなに鎧をくれと命じ、刀と槍を持って来させ、身支度を整えました。男の命を心配する人も多かったのですが、みんな男の勇気を誉めたたえました。二枚の納屋の戸が開かれ、みんなにふくろうがみえました。ふくろうはその間に大きな横げたの真ん中にとまっていました。男ははしごを持って来させ、立てかけると上る支度をしました。周りで見ていたみんなは、勇敢に頑張ってくれよと声援をおくり、竜を退治した聖ジョージに、この人をどうぞお守りください、と祈りました。男が上に着いた途端、ふくろうは男が自分を狙っているとわかり、また大勢の人と大声にどぎまぎして、逃げ場がわからないので、目をぐるぐる回し、羽を逆立てて、翼をばたばたさせ、くちばしを鳴らし、ホーホーと耳障りな声で鳴きました。「グサリやれ、グサリやれ」外の人たちが勇敢な戦士に叫びました。「おれがいるところにいれば」と男は答えました。「誰も『グサリやれ』と叫ばないだろうよ。」男ははしごの一段上に足をのせることはのせましたが、震え出し、半ば気を失って戻って来ました。さあ、これでそんな危険に身を置く人は誰も残りませんでした。

「怪物は」と人々は言いました。「おれたちの中で一番強い男に、毒を吹きかけ死ぬ目にあわせたのだ。くちばしを鳴らし、ただ息を吹きかけるだけでな。おれたちも命をかけねばならんのか」みんなは町がすっかり破壊されないようにするにはどうしたらよいか相談しました。しばらくの間どの案も役に立ちそうに思えませんでしたが、とうとう町長が間に合わせの手立てを見つけました。

「わしの意見は」と町長は言いました。「町の金でこの納屋と中に入っている麦、わら、干し草などいっさいの分を支払って持ち主に埋めあわせするんだ。それから建物と恐ろしいけものを一緒に燃やす。こうすれば誰も命を危険にさらさなくてよいではないか。今は費用を考える時ではないし、けちけちするのは当てはまらないだろうよ。」みんなはこれに賛成しました。それで納屋の四隅に火をつけ、納屋と一緒にふくろうは惨めにも燃やされてしまいました。

信じない人はそこへ行って自分で尋ねてごらん。
Two or three hundred years ago, when people were far from being so crafty and cunning as they are now-a-day, an extraordinary event took place in a little town. By some mischance one of the great owls, called horned owls, had come from the neighboring woods into the barn of one of the townsfolk in the night-time, and when day broke did not dare to venture forth again from her retreat, for fear of the other birds, which raised a terrible outcry whenever she appeared. In the morning when the man-servant went into the barn to fetch some straw, he was so mightily alarmed at the sight of the owl sitting there in a corner, that he ran away and announced to his master that a monster, the like of which he had never set eyes on in his life, and which could devour a man without the slightest difficulty, was sitting in the barn, rolling its eyes about in its head. "I know you already," said the master, "you have courage enough to chase a blackbird about the fields, but when you see a dead hen lying, you have to get a stick before you go near it. I must go and see for myself what kind of a monster it is," added the master, and went quite boldly into the granary and looked round him. When, however, he saw the strange grim creature with his own eyes, he was no less terrified than the servant had been. With two bounds he sprang out, ran to his neighbours, and begged them imploringly to lend him assistance against an unknown and dangerous beast, or else the whole town might be in danger if it were to break loose out of the barn, where it was shut up. A great noise and clamour arose in all the streets, the townsmen came armed with spears, hay-forks, scythes, and axes, as if they were going out against an enemy; finally, the senators appeared with the burgomaster at their head. When they had drawn up in the market- place, they marched to the barn, and surrounded it on all sides. Thereupon one of the most courageous of them stepped forth and entered with his spear lowered, but came running out immediately afterwards with a shriek and as pale as death, and could not utter a single word. Yet two others ventured in, but they fared no better. At last one stepped forth; a great strong man who was famous for his warlike deeds, and said, "You will not drive away the monster by merely looking at him; we must be in earnest here, but I see that you have all tuned into women, and not one of you dares to encounter the animal." He ordered them to give him some armour, had a sword and spear brought, and armed himself. All praised his courage, though many feared for his life. The two barn-doors were opened, and they saw the owl, which in the meantime had perched herself on the middle of a great cross-beam. He had a ladder brought, and when he raised it, and made ready to climb up, they all cried out to him that he was to bear himself bravely, and commended him to St. George, who slew the dragon. When he had just got to the top, and the owl perceived that he had designs on her, and was also bewildered by the crowd and the shouting, and knew not how to escape, she rolled her eyes, ruffled her feathers, flapped her wings, snapped her beak, and cried, "Tuwhit, tuwhoo," in a harsh voice. "Strike home! strike home!" screamed the crowd outside to the valiant hero. "Any one who was standing where I am standing," answered he, "would not cry, strike home!" He certainly did plant his foot one rung higher on the ladder, but then he began to tremble, and half-fainting, went back again.
And now there was no one left who dared to put himself in such danger. "The monster," said they, "has poisoned and mortally wounded the very strongest man among us, by snapping at him and just breathing on him! Are we, too, to risk our lives?" They took counsel as to what they ought to do to prevent the whole town being destroyed. For a long time everything seemed to be of no use, but at length the burgomaster found an expedient. "My opinion," said he, "is that we ought, out of the common purse, to pay for this barn, and whatsoever corn, straw, or hay it contains, and thus indemnify the owner, and then burn down the whole building, and the terrible beast with it. Thus no one will have to endanger his life. This is no time for thinking of expense, and niggardliness would be ill applied." All agreed with him. So they set fire to the barn at all four corners, and with it the owl was miserably burnt. Let any one who will not believe it, go thither and inquire for himself.




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