Long ago, a man named Isamu inherited a great fortune. He lived happily for many years. But when he began to grow old, terrible thoughts began to haunt him. He did not wish to die.
All his life, Isamu had heard stories of the hermits who lived in the mountains and had created the Elixir of Life. One day he decided he must find those hermits, and so he set off in search of them. He wandered everywhere, climbing the highest mountains, asking everyone who crossed his path if they knew of the magical hermits.
After many months of his fruitless search, Isamu came to a temple in the mountains. He walked inside and began to pray for many days.
"Please let me find the hermits and the Elixir of Life," he said. "I want to live forever."
On the seventh night of Isamu's prayer vigil, the door to the temple opened, and the god of hermits walked inside.
"How do you expect to find the Elixir of Life?" he scolded Isamu. "You have lived your whole life pleasing only yourself."
Isamu began to tremble, for he knew this was true.
"Only men who are spiritually disciplined can drink the Elixir of Life," the god of the hermits declared.
"Please," Isamu begged, "tell me what to do, and I promise, I will follow your guidance."
And so the god pulled a delicate paper crane from his robes, and he gave this to Isamu. "This crane will take you to the land where no one dies," the god of the hermits said. "Follow its lead."
At first Isamu stared at the crane, but soon it began to grow and grow. When it was large enough, Isamu climbed on its back and they flew away.
On and on they flew until at long last, just as the sun began to set, they landed on a beach. Isamu dismounted and soon spotted a man in the distance.
"Where am I?" Isamu asked him.
The man smiled. "You are in the land of everlasting life," he said.
Isamu was overjoyed.
He found a home and settled down, but soon noticed strange happenings around him. He saw there were poisonous mushrooms growing everywhere that the people ate. They also caught and embraced poisonous snakes and bleached their hair white and grew long beards.
Isamu observed this for many weeks, and finally he summoned his courage to find out what was going on.
"Why do you act so strangely?" he asked his neighbors.
"We wish to die," they said.
"We are tired of living forever."
"We want to go to the place called Paradise. We have heard of its beauties."
"We do not want to go on any longer. We are weary."
Isamu could not believe his ears.
Years passed into decades. Decades became centuries. Isamu lived on and on.
One day he was walking along the beach and recalling his arrival to this land of everlasting life, when he suddenly understood what his neighbors had meant. Isamu missed the world he had once inhabited. He wished he could feel again what it was like to be an ordinary man surrounded by regular people and dreaming of the possibilities of this world.
Isamu reached into his pocket and felt the delicate paper crane that he always carried with him. "Help me," he whispered. "I do not wish to live forever. I was wrong to think that I did."
Before his eyes, the crane grew larger and larger. Once again Isamu climbed on its back, and off they flew, heading toward the land of the living.
As they were flying over the sea, a terrible storm descended, and the paper wings of the crane began to crumple. The crane crashed into the sea, and Isamu cried out for help as he splashed about. When a shark began to circle him, he cried out, "Save me! I don't want to die!"
In the next moment, he found himself on the floor of the mountain temple, crying out to be saved and to live forever.
The door to the temple opened and a divine being appeared before him.
"I am the messenger from the god of hermits," the being said. "When you asked to live forever, the god sent you to the land of everlasting life. When you asked for death, he sent a storm and a shark. Once again, you begged for everlasting life. I am sorry to tell you this, but the god of hermits now understands that you have no spiritual strength. It's clear that the secrets of eternity are not for you."
Isamu sat silently, absorbing the messenger's words.
"Return to your home," the messenger said. "Learn to be content with your life. I will give you the book of wisdom. If you follow it and work hard, provide for your loved ones' future, help your neighbors and are kind to strangers, your fear of death will disappear."
With those words, the messenger vanished.
Isamu returned to his home carrying the book of wisdom. He consulted the book every day, and he always followed its teachings. He worked hard to provide for his loved ones, his neighbors and strangers. He was kind and generous to everyone.
After many years, Isamu's day came to die. On that day, he was happy, for he was satisfied with all that he had done in this world.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.