Green Willow Retold by Paul Jordan-Smith


Green Willow is a Japanese folk tale that is from the 19th century in Japan. In it a priest, Tomotada, looks into his younger years as a Samurai and his time with his wife Green Willow. The priest tells his story about Green Willow to a monk.


Tomotada - A young samurai in the service of the daimyo of Noto

Green Willow - Tomotada's wife

Lord of Noto - Tomotada's daimyo

Old Man - Green Willow's father

Old Woman - Green Willow's mother

Itinerant Monk - The Monk to whom Tomotada tells the story of Green Willow

Section One:

  • Tomotada is a talented, well-respected samurai that was in the service of the daimyo of Noto
  • Tomotada was given a mission by the Lord of Noto to complete a special quest to the Lord of Kyoto and he was given permission to see his widowed mother as his orders made him pass though Echizen
  • "Heavy" snowstorms forced Tomotada to seek shelter of which he found a cottage with an old couple and their daughter where he found care for his horse, food, respect and a place to stay
  • Tomotada was brought into the house as a noble and he was offered a place to stay although the "old man" thought his cottage "unworthy"
  • The "old man" had touched Tomotada's heart and Tomotada was glad to afford the opportunity to see the young girl more
  • Green Willow's father called Green Willow "clumsy" and "ignorant" but in the eyes of Tomotada she moved with "grace" and he was very attracted to Green Willow
  • Green Willow and Tomotada address each other with poems
  • Tomotada asks for Green Willow's hand in marriage
  • Tomotada remembers his quest for the Lord of Noto:"Alas for the Lord of Noto's quest!"
  • The "old man" and his wife were in "immeasurable" gratitude and the "old man" knew he could not refuse Tomotada's request to marry Green Willow because of Tomotada's status as a noble
  • The "old man" gives his daughter away as a "gift" to do his will unto
  • Tomotada did not expect permission for the daimyo of Noto unless his quest was completed
  • Tomotada was in a dilemma as to whether or not to bring Green Willow to Kyoto, more importantly, he was worried that the Lord of Noto would not give Tomotada permission to marry Green Willow and even take her beauty as the Lord of Noto's own
  • Instead of completing his mission, Tomotada became a "simple farmer" in the mountains
  • Tomotada says again for the second time:"Alas for the Lord of Noto's quest"
  • Tomotada spends five years with Green Willow in bliss, joy and happiness until she dies in a heart-felt good-bye; Green Willow:"I have not even the strength to weep, not the time..."
  • Green Willow had told Tomotada,"the soul of a tree is my soul, the heart of a tree is my heart, the sap of a willow is my life."
  • Green Willow vanished in the very sight of Tomotada's "astonished and grief-stricken" eyes, her robe fell to the ground
  • Years later, a monk came across a stream where three willow trees were, two old and one young and there was also a memorial
  • The monk was told about the story of Green Willow by the priest
  • The priest was lost in thought about the shrine when asked about Tomotada by the Monk
  • The priest thought about the mission he was supposed to complete for the Lord of Noto and in the chilly night broke free of his dreams; Tomotada says for the third and last time,"Alas for the Lord of Noto's quest!"
  • He asked the monk to forgive him as he remembered "memories of a young samurai"

Other Notes:

  • A "daimyo" is the powerful territorial lord in premodern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings. In the term, "dai" literally means "large", and "myō" stands for myōden (名田), meaning private land.
  • Era of Bummei in Japan was 1469-1486
  • Samurai was a professional soldier that was both elite and noble
  • Echizen was an old province in Japan well known for washi (traditionally produced paper)

© 2009 copyright Green Willow | Paul Jordan Smith