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Two Brothers, Two Rewards

A Story Told in China, Korea, and Japan

Long ago, there were two brothers who were as different as could be. Everything came easily to the older brother. He was able to save a great fortune without a great deal of work. But despite all his wealth, he was an unhappy man who always wanted more.

His younger brother, on the other hand, had no luck when it came to making money, but managed to be happy with the little he had. The oldest brother thought him a fool and never helped out, even though he had plenty of money for both of them.

One day, the younger brother found a sparrow with a broken wing. He took the bird home and nursed it back to health. By springtime the sparrow was strong enough to fly on its own. The brother took the bird out to his garden and said, “Go on, little bird, it’s time for you to fly home to your family.” Much to his amazement, the sparrow replied, “You have been very kind to me. Even though you expected nothing in return, please take this pumpkin seed as a reward. Plant it in your garden and wait for it to ripen.”

Pumpkin to the MoonThe younger brother planted the seed and watered it carefully. Soon a pumpkin vine sprouted out of the ground. By summer’s end, the vine was filled with beautiful orange pumpkins. When he cut one open, gold and silver and diamonds poured out! Every one of the pumpkins was filled with the same riches. He was now the wealthiest man in the town.

The news of his poor brother’s sudden fortune reached the older brother. He didn’t want anyone – and certainly not his younger brother – to have more money than he had. Going quickly to his brother’s house, he demanded to know how he had become rich so suddenly. The younger brother didn’t like to lie, so he told him all about the sparrow he had nursed back to health.

The older brother was determined to get his own reward. So the next day, he went into the woods to find a wounded sparrow. He couldn’t find one, so he took out his slingshot, shot a sparrow, and broke its wing. He rushed over to pick up the bird and said, “Oh, you poor thing! Come back to my house and I’ll take care of your injuries. But if I nurse you back health, you must give me a reward.”

The older brother was very good to the sparrow, but not because he was kindhearted. The sooner it got better he thought, the sooner he’d get his reward. At last the bird had enough strength to fly away. The older brother said to it, “Go on, return to your family. But before you go, I expect to get my reward.”

The sparrow replied, “Don’t worry. I would never forget to give you something in return. Please take this pumpkin seed. Plant it in your garden and wait for it to ripen.”

The older brother planted the seed right away. As he watered the plant, he thought, “It won’t be long before I’m richer than my brother once again!” He was surprised to see that the plant did not grow along the ground. Instead, it grew straight up. Higher and higher it grew until it seemed that it had reached the moon. But he wondered why there were no pumpkins to be seen. He thought, “I’ll bet my reward will be even greater than my brother’s. I’ll climb up and collect all the gold and silver of the moon. When I return, I’ll be the richest man in the whole land!”

The older brother began to climb and climb and climb. When at last he reached the moon and stepped onto it, the vine disappeared! And if you look up into the sky on a moonlit night, you’ll see that he’s still up there, for the greedy man has lived all alone on the moon ever since.

About the Story

Every culture seems to have one or more stories about the spots or markings on the moon. The markings are caused by the way the moon’s surface reflects sunlight. The dark shadows are actually places where molten rock poured out long ago. These areas do not reflect sunlight as well as the mountainous regions.

It would be impossible for human beings to live on the moon for may reasons. To start with, temperatures there are extreme. The moon’s days and nights each last fourteen Earth days. While the sun shines on the moon, the surface temperature is hot enough to boil water. But during the fourteen-day “night,” the moon is dark and much colder than ice.

Tips for Telling

Show the great difference between these two brothers by using your voice and face, as well as body movements. Have a scowl on your face and a nasty tone in your voice whenever the older, greedy brother speaks. From the time he receives his pumpkin seed from the sparrow, have his greediness build and build. Pretend to look up into the sky and see the vine stretching all the way to moon. Make him sound extremely greedy and very excited at the end when he thinks he’s going to climb the vine and collect riches.

For more storytelling ideas, visit August House, the award-winning publisher of storytelling guides and folktale anthologies.

© 2000, How and Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read and Tell

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