Once there was a woodcutter. He was very poor but very kind. Never would he tear off the living branches of a tree to make firewood. Instead he would gather only the dead branches on the ground. He knew what happened when you tore a branch off a tree. The sap, which is the blood of a tree, would drip and drip, just as though the poor tree were bleeding. So, since he didnt want to harm the trees, he never tore off the branches.
One day he was walking beneath a high pine tree hunting for firewood when he heard a voice, saying:
Sticky, sticky is my sap,
For my tender twigs are snapped.
The woodcutter looked and, sure enough, someone had broken three limbs off the pine and the sap was running out. Skillfully, he mended them, saying:
Now these tender twigs Ill wrap,
And in that way stop the sap.
And he tore a piece from his own clothes to make a bandage. No sooner had he finished than many tiny gold and silver things fell from the tree. It was money – a lot of it! The surprised woodcutter was almost covered up with it. He looked at the tree and smiled and thanked it. Then he took the money home.
There was a great amount and he slowly realized that he was now a very rich woodcutter indeed. Everyone knows that the pine tree is the sign of prosperity in Japan, and sure enough, the grateful pine had made him very rich.
Just then a face appeared in the window. It was the face of another woodcutter.
But this woodcutter was neither nice nor kind. In fact, it was he who had torn off the branches of the pine and had broken its twigs. When he saw the money he said: Where did you get all that money? Look how nice and bright it is.
The good woodcutter held up the money so the other could see. It was oblong in shape, the way money used to be in Japan, and he had five basketfuls. He told the bad woodcutter how he had got the money.
From that big pine tree?
Yes, that was the one.
Hmmm, said the bad woodcutter and ran away as fast as he could go. He ran right up to the old pine tree, and the tree said:
Sticky, sticky, is my blood.
Touch me, youll receive a flood.
Oh, just what I want, said the bad man, a flood of gold and silver. He reached up and broke off another branch. The pine tree suddenly showered him. But it showered him with sticky, sticky sap – not gold and silver at all.
The bad woodcutter was covered with sap. It got in his hair and on his arms and legs. Since it was so sticky he couldnt move and though he called for help, no one could hear him. He had to remain there for four days – one day for each branch – until the sap became soft enough for him to drag himself home.
After that, he never broke another branch off a living tree.