The General and
the Three Physician Brothers

The three physicians cured the physical stiffness and the mental rigidity of the general General Son Ba-yu had come home after many, many years fighting in the desert. He was totally exhausted and, to his dismay, had a slight problem, of which three physician brothers relieved him. His problem was that, having ridden his horse continuously through thirty years in battle, he couldn't dismount--his legs had stiffened and stuck firmly to his saddle! This humorously told story conjures surrealistic images with its combination of the general's strange plight and vivid descriptions of his troops, who were so exhausted that they looked like a foggy gray mass, and the three physician brothers, whose cure not only loosened the general's stiffened legs, but seems to have touched his soul to soften his rigid mind as well.

The exhausted troops coming home from the desert The story takes place in Layu, a capital situated somewhere in Inland Asia. One day the people hear the sounds of bugles and drums, and later the clanking of armor and clatter of hooves, all gradually growing nearer. Alarmed, Layu's inhabitants close the gates of the city ramparts all tight and peer out through the loopholes in the fortress walls.What they see is a great mass of exhausted troops who "were all gray and shaggy, so that they looked, almost, like a great column of smoke."
They learn that the soldiers were of a great army that had gone forth into the desert, led proudly out the city gates some thirty years before by General Son Ba-yu, Guardian of the Northern Frontiers--now back as a weary old man of seventy. The marching had been hard in the desert, where it was cold and dry winds had raised the sand. The soldiers thought themselves quite lucky to be back home again, as the whole enemy had perished of beriberi.
The general couldn't dismount Great excitement prevailed in the town and an envoy of the king came to welcome the general and his men. General Son tried to get off his horse to salute him, but he couldn't dismount: "His legs seemed to have become fastened to the horse's saddle, which in turn was stuck firmly to the horse's back" as a result of thirty years' heavy duty on horseback without even once dismounting. The envoy was nearsighted and misunderstood, thinking the general was refusing to dismount; concluding that this must be a rebellion, he returned to the palace. But General Son sent a messenger to the king to explain his condition, and he himself went to visit the Dr. Lin Pa, who he had heard was the most gifted doctor around.
Treatments by three physician brothers General Son Ba-yu rode his horse into Dr. Lin Pa's hospital, only to be told to wait his turn since there were many patients--ninety in all-- ahead of him in line to see the doctors. Set in his ways with age and rude as well, the general threatened, "If I'm not seen to at once, I'll kick the place to pieces!" But Dr. Lin Pa did bat an eyelash, and a young woman assistant standing by the doctor took a flower from a vase and gave it to the general's horse to eat. The horse suddenly folded his four legs and nodded off to sleep, which made the general most upset; but Dr. Lin Pa had just made the horse lie down, so he could examine the general. He doused general's helmet, which had been stuck tight, with medicine, then gave it a shake with both hands and slipped it off the general's head.

Next, General Son--following Dr. Lin Pa's advice--went to see Dr. Lin Pu next door. Dr. Lin Pu fed the horse a red rice cake that made the horse tremble, give off a rancid smoke, and break out in cascades of sweat. After a while, the smoke thinned, and the doctor shook the saddle twice. "All at once, the saddle came clean away and the general fell to the floor." Thus General Son was freed and his stiffened body began to loosen. Finally, General Son visits Dr. Lin Po, a plant-disease specialist who lived next door. Dr. Lin Po cleared away a strange gray fuzz that had grown across the general's face, making his skin perfectly smooth again, and General Son smiled for the first time in thirty long years.

The recommendation as the state physician At the end, the general is granted an audience with the king. He asks to be allowed to retire to his home and is ordered to name five successors. The general recommends four generals to take his place, then requests that the king appoint the three brothers Lin to be state physicians.
Material in quotation marks is
from Once and FOREVER, the tales of kenji miyazawa,
translated by John Bester, published by Kodansha International.

Humor in Kenji's Stories
Various professions
Ihatovo and foreign land
The World of Kenji's Works
The World of Kenji Miyazawa