The Ashes That Made Trees Bloom by William Ellot Griffis is a story that underscores values such as honesty, compassion, diligence, etc. with a hint of magical realism. The spirit of the dog is the old couple’s make-believe determination to get past personal setbacks and begin anew.
In the 19th century Japan there lived an old couple. Their only companion was a little pet dog named Muko. They loved it as if it were their baby. They gave it pieces of fish and boiled rice to eat. Muko also loved its noble master.
The old man was rice farmer. He worked hard with his spade from morning till sunset. Muko followed him everyday to the field. It did not attack the white heron bird which used to kill corn worms. The farmer was kind to all the living creatures.
One day the dog came running to its master. It motioned him to some place behind. The old man followed Muko to the place, where it began to scratch. The old man used his hoe to dig the earth. He found a lot of gold there. The old couple became rich. They bought land, hosted a party to their friends and gave generously to their poor neighbours.
In the same village there lived a wicked old man and his wife. They were unkind to all dogs. When they heard of their neighbour’s good luck, they called Muko to their garden and offered it fish. They hoped that Muko would find treasure for them also. But Muko refused to eat any fish. The dog took them to a pine tree in the garden. The greedy old fool danced with joy. He began to dig. But he found only a dead cat in the pit. In a fit of anger he beat Muko to death.
The owners of Muko mourned for their pet. They put flowers and water on its tomb. That night the spirit of Muko appeared to the old farmer in a dream. It asked him to cut down the pine tree over its graves, make a mortar for rice pastry and a mill for his bean sauce. Soon the old farmer made a hollow place in the tree trunk. He with his wife made a hammer of wood for pounding rice. They baked the pastry and suddenly the whole mass changed into gold coins.
The jealous old neighbour noticed bean sauce turning into gold. The old couple were rich again. So the neighbours also did the same. But their pastry and sauce turned into worms. They destroyed the mill borrowed from the old couple and burnt it.
The good old man had another dream. The spirit of their pet dog told him to take the ashes of the mill and spread it on the withered pine trees. He assured him that they would bloom again.
The old man brought some ashes of mill. He spread a pinch of it on the cherry tree. The tree was covered with blossoms. The greedy wicked couple gathered the remaining ashes of the wooden mill.
The wealthy landlord of the village was to pass by that road. According to the custom all the people had to shut up their high windows. Nobody was allowed to look down on lordship. They also knelt upon their hands and knees until the procession passed by. A tall man marched ahead asking the people to get down on their knees.
But the good old man didn’t kneel down. Instead of it he scattered a bit of ashes over the withered cherry tree. Suddenly it burst into blossom. The landlord got out to see the wonder. He thanked the man, offered him presents and also invited him to the castle.
When the greedy neighbour heard of it, he also took the magic ashes to the highway. He waited until the landlord’s train came along, and instead of kneeling down like the crowd, he climbed a withered cherry tree. When the landlord was directly under him, he threw handful of ashes over him. But the tree showed no change. The dust rather blew into the nose and eyes of his lordship. The man who was escorting the lord dragged the greedy man from the tree and threw him into the ditch. He also beat him soundly. The greedy man thus died in the mud. The kind owner of Muko lived happily to a green old age.