The Princess Who Loved Insects

Japanese Title: 虫愛ずる姫君 (Mushi mezuru himegimi)
Taken From: 堤中納言物語 (Tsutsumi Chūnagon monogatari)

Next door to the princess who loved butterflies, there lived the daughter of the Grand Counselor of Regional Inspection. She was not of ordinary elegance; and, since her parents took great care in raising her, she had no equal.

This princess said, “People who love things like flowers and butterflies are foolish and strange. Since we are able to comprehend the inner nature of things, what is truly amusing is tracing something to its origins and understanding its essence.” She thus collected various types of insects with great passion. Saying, “I want to see the way they change,” she put them into several small boxes, among which she declared that “It is the profundity of the caterpillars that is elegant.” Day and night, tucking her bangs behind her ears, she placed them in her palms and watched them carefully.

Because her ladies in waiting were afraid of insects, she summoned young boys of low social standing to catch them for her. She would ask the names of the insects and delight in naming her newest acquisitions.

Proclaiming, “It’s not good to fuss over one’s appearance,” she completely neglected to shave her eyebrows. Moreover, saying that “It’s annoying and dirty,” she did not blacken her teeth. Smiling with her blindingly white teeth, she would lovingly play with her insects.

Her ladies in waiting, thinking that her behavior was quite strange, would flee in fear and raise a great fuss. To these frightened young women, she would say, “You’re being rude and indecent,” all the while glaring at them from under her coarse black eyebrows, and they would become all the more perplexed.

Her parents would think “How extremely strange that she is so different.” And yet such thoughts were followed by embarrassed musings, such as, “Perhaps there may be some sense to her way of thinking. It’s strange. Whenever we think to say something to her, she becomes irritated. She’s a very intense child.”

They would say to her, “Well, you may be right, but you’re getting a bad reputation. What people like is a pleasing appearance. If you keep amusing yourself with those creepy caterpillars, and people were to get wind of it, that would be terrible.”

In response, she would say, “That doesn’t bother me. It is in inquiring after everything in this world and seeing how it ends up that is important. What you’re saying is immature. After all, caterpillars become butterflies.”

She would take out some caterpillars that were entering metamorphosis and show them to her parents.
“What people call silk and wear on their bodies comes from silkworms that haven’t grown wings yet; and, when these silkworms become butterflies, it’s as if they had put on mourning clothes, since they have become worthless.”

When she would make such statements, her parents had nothing to say in response and would give up. Of course, the princess was careful not to show herself to them, thinking that it is better for demons and women not to be seen. She would roll up the bamboo blinds in the dim interior of the main house just a little; and, screening herself off behind multiple blind frames, address her parents in this clever way.

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