Tayu (1870 Portrait – Unknown – Public Domain)
A number of things inspired the new Legend of the The Golden Flower Story for Christmas Smorgasbord. It is about the loss of childhood innocence and poses the question: What is truth?
As a child I read a Japanese folktale about the chrysanthemum. It was in one of those ‘Stories from Around the World’ books, we must have all been bought as kids for Christmas. In the story a girl with a dying mother, does an old man a kindness. He is a powerful spirit (kami). He rewards her. Her mother will live a month for each petal on a chrysanthemum flower. Only a few petals remain, so she cuts them into slivers, creating the much loved chrysanthemum pompom and giving her mother a long life.
Imperial Japanese Chrysanthemum seal & cultivated variety (Adapted)
The chrysanthemum was cultivated in China 3,500 years ago. It was arrived in Japan around than 2,000 years later. One legend says the Chinese Emperor sent the chrysanthemum to Japan hoping to exchange it for the magical herb of youth, so he could become immortal. When the flower arrived in Japan the 16-petal chrysanthemum became the symbol of the sacred Emperor.
The story is set in the 1650s during the Edo period of Japanese history. In the Edo period, chrysanthemum growing took off and endless varieties were created. During the Edo period Japanese culture blossomed. After centuries of civil war the country was at peace under a strong warlord (shogun) dynasty. Traditional Kabuki theatre originated in the Edo period. I wanted to incorporate the story of kabuki as it always fascinated me. I only learned over the past year it started out as an entertainment revolution.
In the Edo Period, large numbers of young Samurai warriors were made redundant by their warlords. They became Ronin – without a master. Ill-suited to work they ended up as hooligan gangs. Izume no Okuni was going out with a ronin samurai. She was a “priestess” (your guess as to her actual duties are as good as mine).
To make money for her boyfriend she started busking: singing and dancing in Kyoto. Like a Japanese Madonna she dressed outrageously and became a star. She taught a troupe of women a mixture of burlesque and farce, and set up a theatre company – think Bette Midler and the Harlettes. They were a massive success and so wild they were called the Kabukimono: the crazy ones.
Izume no Okuni (Unknown: Public Domain)
The Shogun banned them because they were causing public disorder and represented a satirical seditious element in a country only recently tamed. The fact they knocked about with bad-boy samurai didn’t help. He accused the kabukimono of being prostitutes. To be fair he was right. In Japan prostitution was not viewed like it was in the West. It was a career. His clamp-down created ‘business’ districts. In Kyoto this was Shimabara.
The story’s brothel owner is Yarite-San. Yarite means Madam. San at the end shows respect. She calls her old apprentice Fujiko-chan. Fujiko, a woman’s name, means Wisteria. Chan is a term of endearment. Yarite-San has black painted teeth. The Emperor’s court painted their teeth with black enamel. As most people had bad teeth, I though this levelled the playing field.
The opposite was true. It was a lengthy and expensive procedure, done weekly, to prevent tooth decay.
Prostitution was organised in Japan. There were different levels, from street walkers to high class escorts. The lowest prostitutes were kept in behind bars. No, not bars as in “do you fancy going for a drink after work?” This was to stop clients pawing them before paying up.
Yoshiwara_Girls (Kusakabe Kimbei – Public Domain)
High class escorts were orian. As skilled entertainers, they offered more than horizontal services. The highest orian (Japanese use the same word for singular and plural nouns) were called Tayū.
The charge for one night with a tayū cost more than working blokes earned in a year. Tayū were skilled in music, dance, flower arranging, poetry and the all-important tea ceremony. Clients had to go through a middleman to meet a tayū.
Shimabara Tayu (mfa.Org)
Tayū eventually became geisha (Art-Person). Originally geishas also offered personal services. Today they are strictly entertainers with no extras.
Young girls were sold to brothels at the age of 10 by poverty stricken parents. They became maids to the courtesans. Around 14 they became trained in artistic skills and worked their way up the courtesan grades. Officially they did not start sleeping with clients until 18 or 19.
Believe that if you will. Like in lots of other countries, including 18th century Europe, their virginity was sold to the highest bidder.
Girls were given 10-year apprentice contracts. When they paid the Yarite back they were free to leave. Very few did. Clothes, make-up and training cost money – they were kept in debt.
The Yarite made 90% on every deal. Depressingly syphilis was rife and abortion practices barbaric, many girls died young.
If a girl was lucky, a rich man might buy her contract and she would become his courtesan or even his wife. As wife or courtesan she was property with no rights. He could kill her with impunity.
Japan isolated itself in the Edo period and did not let foreigners back in until the American Pacific expansion after the 1899 American war in the Philippines. (Theodore Roosevelt fought in that as young man.) This is what Puccini’s 1903 opera Madam Butterfly is about: the affair between a geisha and an American Naval Officer.
The Chief Warlord in the Edo period was called the Shogun, like the book by James Clavell. The book is based on fact. A British pilot on a Dutch ship got to Japan, which had previously been the domain of the Portuguese. He lived during the reign of my shogun’s granddad.
Like all warrior societies homosexuality was tolerated in Japan, as it was in Ancient Greece and Rome and among the Janissaries in the Ottoman Empire. In many societies, masculinity was defined in terms of who was on top. Homosexuality and prostitution was not outlawed until Japan started adopting Western ideas in the 1900s.
Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (Public Domain)
When shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, banned women performing in Kabuki, the troupes became all-male. Happily this did not stop Kabuki being associated with prostitution. Pretty young boys playing the female roles were in a lot of demand.
Tokugawa Iemitsu preferred boys to girls, although he had lots of wives, concubines, and children by them. At 20 he murdered his samurai male lover in a hot tub after a spat. He ordered his popular brother to commit ritual suicide (seppuku).
Tokugawa Iemitsu was not a fan of foreign influences, especially Christianity. There were half a million Christians in Nagasaki. (Yes, the city we dropped the atomic bomb on was the biggest Christian city in Japan.) He threw out foreigners, including the Christian priests, and demanded Japanese Christians renounce their faith. There was a rebellion in Nagasaki. He crushed it mercilessly, crucifying the rebels.
The Japanese religion of Shinto, believes everything has a soul and the spirit world intermingles with ours. After 100 years even tools and household objects acquire a soul.
Creatures that never made the final cut of the story include an umbrella kami (spirit) and a possessed lute that encouraged to girl to play beautifully. They were taken out because they slowed down the story.
Creatures the girl meets are genuine kami (spirits) and Yokai (demons); lovingly told to her by her mother’s maid. My favourite is the Kitsune, the fox kami. Foxes are semi-divine guardians of shrines. When a fox reaches 50 years old, it learns how to shapeshift into a woman. At 100, it becomes a celestial fox with 9 tails.
Finally, if you haven’t dropped off …
I said at the beginning, this story is also about truth.
It is never explicitly said whether the spirits and demons the girl sees are real. Everything is there in the story for the reader to make up their own mind. Whatever conclusions you reach are valid.
You won’t get this until you read the story, but let me draw your attention to the Nat King Cole song: A Blossom Fell …
“The Gypsies say, and I know why
A falling blossom only touches lips that lie”
There is an argument that says we never objectively see truth. Every truth is our own subjective version. We are the hero in the story of our life. When we recall incidents we filter them through opinions and emotions and adjust them to suit ourselves. Memories are liquid.
Different versions of a story are equally true. None are absolutely true. History is simply agreed fiction.
I hope you enjoy my fiction and decide your own truth as to what this story says to you.
Exterior & interior of traditional Japanese House (Adapted)
About Paul Andruss
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.
Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.
The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.
The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?
The latest review for the book
I stumbled across this book one day while reading a historical piece written by the author. He had included an image of this book cover at the bottom of his article which immediately drew my attention. This author often writes long historical dissertations so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I took a chance and purchased the Kindle edition. What a delightful surprise! I couldn’t put the book down!
What I found was a fantastic story about one of my favorite subjects, faeries! Not only was it geared to the YA genre, but it also included a fair amount of historical fact to make the story shine.
When Jack’s older brother Dan is abducted before his very eyes, he is stunned by the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance. The fact that Jack witnessed the strange abduction and doesn’t tell his parents only adds to his troubles. Jack’s mother is suffering from a chronic illness and his greatest hope is that the situation will rectify itself, and Dan will come home on his own.
One night, Jack starts receiving cell phone calls from Dan, and when he answers, there’s no one on the line. He tries to tell his parents and the police the truth about what happened, but every time he opens his mouth to speak, his throat closes up and he is unable to utter a single word. Faery glamours? Could be!
In the meantime, Jack starts seeing a dirty tramp hanging around his house who only speaks in rhyme. It becomes apparent that no one can see the tramp but Jack, so he enlists the help of his friends to help him solve the mystery behind his brother’s disappearance.
Jack and his friends are thrust into the magical world of the fey where the kids experience the light and the dark, of a failing faery kingdom. They learn about ley lines and how the fey evolved beside mankind. The story progresses with plenty of magic and suspense until you reach the satisfying end.
Let me just say, that this is one of the most creative books I have ever read about the fey. Jack’s friends are reminiscent of the characters in the Harry Potter series and I had no problem connecting with their personalities. The plot is brilliant, although I had a hard time separating fact from fiction. That’s what I call good writing!
I enjoyed this novel and will read it more than once. I feel children and adults of all ages will enjoy this book. Do you love magic and all things faery? Then, have a read because this book is reasonably priced and will keep you entertained for hours.
MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5 Reader Engagement: 5
Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC
Connect to Paul on social media.
My thanks to Paul for sharing the background and research for this amazing story, that you can read in full The Legend of the Golden Flower
As always we love to receive your comments. Thanks Sally