The Legend of the Paper Spaceship
It is remarkable that many authors (both women and men) in the various sub genres of fiction are able to convincingly endow their characters with so much humanity, pathos, character and reality. Some folks think that reading fiction is a waste of time. However, many fictional stories have intriguing plots (many with suspense), well developed characters, and often possess a good theme (lesson or “moral” to the story). In addition to being pleasant to read, many such fictional stories can challenge you to think about various values, issues, possibilities or challenges facing individuals, families, or all of mankind. As well, well written fiction with realistic characters can poignantly convey a range of feelings and emotions from sorrow and despair and grief to relief, hope, love, and joy. (Some stories will bring a tear to your eyes.)
One such talented writer was Tetsu Yano (1923 – 2004) of Japan. His short story, The Legend of the Paper Spaceship (1978?, (c)1986) is a haunting tale found in The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories (paperback, copyright 1997). Known for making Godzilla movies and cartoon animation such as Speed Racer, the Japanese also write some good science fiction. This moving story has come to mind several times since I first read it in 2006 or 2007.
As with many short story collections or anthologies, the reader would likely find about 1/3 of these stories to be great reads, 1/3 as passable to pretty good, and the remaining 1/3 to be “duds”. This, of course, is subjective and different readers will likely have different choices as to what the best stories are.
For more on contemporary Japanese fiction, you can visit this WordPress site:
The main character in the story, Osen, is a very beautiful female of a humanoid alien race. Although never made fully clear, apparently she is the sole survivor of an alien spaceship visit to the Earth in some distant past. Humans wrecked the alien ship and killed the rest of the crew. She is virtually immortal by human standards.
Osen appears to be mad or to be an idiot, and the villagers opportunistically take advantage of her. (Parts of the story read more like a cultural anthropologist’s field study of the people of a remote mountain village and their sexual mores and not so repressed sexual behavior. That aside, the story does have its appeal.) Osen is often seen chasing after a paper “airplane” she has made and throws into the air. She sings a song with a hidden meaning as she does this. The odd thing is that the “airplane” she folds and then hurls away stays up in the air for a long time and covers a great distance.
Eventually, poor Osen is impregnated by one of the male villagers who have been regularly violating her. She gives birth to a son with unusual telepathic and mind reading gifts. Her son, as he grows up, begins to suspect that his mother’s “madness” is her way of retreating or escaping from something too horrible or too painful to bear.
The story ends with more questions in the reader’s mind than satisfying answers.
The story captures the longing of a person for her/his home and how that feeling of longing (and emptiness) does not fade or weaken with the passage of time. Who has not been “homesick” and missed their loved ones and friends and familiar surroundings? (For some spiritually inclined readers, Osen’s longing might be interpreted as a metaphor for our longing for our true home – which to many is not this world.)
We cannot do justice to this moving story in this brief essay.
Let me briefly quote from the last 2 short paragraphs of the story (formatting in original).
At the Sai no Kawara, the earthly shore where children come to bewail the passing of those who have crossed over the Great Waters, there is a weather-beaten sign of wood inscribed with characters that can only be spottily read:
It seems so easy to wait one thousand –nay, ten thousand years . . . driven mad with longing for the Star of my native home . . .
Thanks for reading. Not desiring to end on a sad note, we include some upbeat lyrics from The 5th Dimension’s song, Up, Up and Away (late 1960s). The song’s setting is in a hot air balloon.
” . . . . if by some chance you find yourself loving me – we’ll find a cloud to hide us, we’ll keep the moon besides us . . . . if you hold my hand we’ll chase your dream across the sky.”
The photo below is from yesterday (10/20/12) and the activity is feeding the hungry ghosts in a Chinese cemetery in western North America. (Pagan practices and customs persist even among Christians).