The Ant

    &

 The Mushroom

by Miyazawa Kenji

Translated, illustrated
and narrated by Tom Vincent
00:00 / 04:18

The sentry ant walked back and forth under the forest of big, green ferns, through the damp mist that blanketed the mossy ground, looking sharply left and right from under the peak of his iron helmet. From over beyond a soldier ant came running towards him.

“Halt! Who goes there!”

“Runner from regiment 128!”

“Where you going?”

“Regiment 50 Headquarters.”

The sentry kept his Snider-Enfield rifle pointed at the runner’s chest while he checked him over carefully - the shine of his eyes and shape of his jaw, the pattern of his jacket sleeves and the state of his shoes.

“Clear to pass. Carry on.”

The runner hurried away through the fern forest.

Gradually the droplets of mist got smaller leaving a faint, milky-colored smoke, and the air was filled with the sound of grasses and trees sucking up the water. The sentry began to feel sleepy.

Two child ants came along holding hands and laughing at the top of their lungs. Then suddenly they saw something under the big oak tree and stopped in surprise.

“What’s that? There’s a big white house over there!”

“That’s not a house, it’s a mountain.”

“Well it wasn’t there yesterday.”

“Let’s ask that soldier.”

“Okay.”

They ran to the sentry.

“Mr. Soldier, what’s that over there?”

“Shut up, go away!”

“Mr. Soldier, are you asleep? What’s that over there?”

“Be quiet you lot! What d’ya mean? Eh?!”

“There wasn’t anything there yesterday.”

“Hold up, this means trouble. Hey, you two, you might be children, but there are times when you must do your duty, y’hear? You, you go into the forest and find Commander Alkyl right away. And you, you run as fast as you can to the Land Survey Department. And this is what you both must say: “Large unidentified construction at 25 degrees North, 6 points East.” Repeat!"

“Large unidentified construction at 25 degrees North, 6 points East.”

“Good. Now, off you go. I’m not leaving here til you get back.”

The children ran off as fast as they could go.

The sentry gripped his sword and stared at the thick white pillar and huge roof of the construction. It seemed to be getting bigger and bigger, and he could see the white silhouette shining dimly, and shaking.

Then all of a sudden everything went dark, the moss began to shake, and the sentry held his head in his hands for all he was worth, and when he opened his eyes the pillar had broken in two and the big white building was lying upside down.

The children came running back.

“Mr. Soldier, he says not to worry. That thing’s called a mushroom. It’s nothing. Commander Alkyl laughed out loud when I told him. And then he said I did a good job.”

“They said it will soon disappear, no point putting it on the map. They said if they were to go putting those things in every time they appeared or disappeared they would need a hundred Land Survey Departments. Oh, it’s fallen over!”

“It fell over just now,” the sentry said, looking a bit disgruntled.

“Did it? Oh, look what’s appeared over there!”

A strange grey mushroom the shape of a fish-bone with little branches and hands was pushing out of the ground, glowing oddly. The children pointed at it and laughed and laughed. 

Just then the big red sun cut though the mist turning the ferns and moss a brilliant green, and the sentry ant gripped his Snider-Enfield sternly and marched off to guard the south side.

~~

The sentry ant walked back and forth under the forest of big, green ferns, through the damp mist that blanketed the mossy ground, looking sharply left and right from under the peak of his iron helmet. From over beyond a soldier ant came running towards him.

“Halt! Who goes there!”

“Runner from regiment 128!”

“Where you going?”

“Regiment 50 Headquarters.”

The sentry kept his Snider-Enfield rifle pointed at the runner’s chest while he checked him over carefully - the shine of his eyes and shape of his jaw, the pattern of his jacket sleeves and the state of his shoes.

“Clear to pass. Carry on.”

The runner hurried away through the fern forest.

Gradually the droplets of mist got smaller leaving a faint, milky-colored smoke, and the air was filled with the sound of grasses and trees sucking up the water. The sentry began to feel sleepy.

Two child ants came along holding hands and laughing at the top of their lungs. Then suddenly they saw something under the big oak tree and stopped in surprise.

“What’s that? There’s a big white house over there!”

“That’s not a house, it’s a mountain.”

“Well it wasn’t there yesterday.”

“Let’s ask that soldier.”

“Okay.”

They ran to the sentry.

“Mr. Soldier, what’s that over there?”

“Shut up, go away!”

“Mr. Soldier, are you asleep? What’s that over there?”

“Be quiet you lot! What d’ya mean? Eh?!”

“There wasn’t anything there yesterday.”

“Hold up, this means trouble. Hey, you two, you might be children, but there are times when you must do your duty, y’hear? You, you go into the forest and find Commander Alkyl right away. And you, you run as fast as you can to the Land Survey Department. And this is what you both must say: “Large unidentified construction at 25 degrees North, 6 points East.” Repeat!"

“Large unidentified construction at 25 degrees North, 6 points East.”

“Good. Now, off you go. I’m not leaving here til you get back.”

The children ran off as fast as they could go.

The sentry gripped his sword and stared at the thick white pillar and huge roof of the construction. It seemed to be getting bigger and bigger, and he could see the white silhouette shining dimly, and shaking.

Then all of a sudden everything went dark, the moss began to shake, and the sentry held his head in his hands for all he was worth, and when he opened his eyes the pillar had broken in two and the big white building was lying upside down.

The children came running back.

“Mr. Soldier, he says not to worry. That thing’s called a mushroom. It’s nothing. Commander Alkyl laughed out loud when I told him. And then he said I did a good job.”

“They said it will soon disappear, no point putting it on the map. They said if they were to go putting those things in every time they appeared or disappeared they would need a hundred Land Survey Departments. Oh, it’s fallen over!”

“It fell over just now,” the sentry said, looking a bit disgruntled.

“Did it? Oh, look what’s appeared over there!”

A strange grey mushroom the shape of a fish-bone with little branches and hands was pushing out of the ground, glowing oddly. The children pointed at it and laughed and laughed. 

Just then the big red sun cut though the mist turning the ferns and moss a brilliant green, and the sentry ant gripped his Snider-Enfield sternly and marched off to guard the south side.

~~

This translation, illustration and narration of The Ant & The Mushroom is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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