Plays DataBaseTorioi-bune (Driving off Birds from Aboard a Boat)

It is called “Torioi (Driving off Birds)” in the Hōshō school while is “Torioi-bune (Driving off Birds from Aboard a Boat)” in the other schools.

Photo from National Noh Theatre

A man known as Higurashi, the lord of Higurashi village in Satsuma Province, Kyushu (in the present day, the vicinity of Torioi-chō in the city of Satsuma-sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture), went to Kyoto to pursue a legal matter and has been away from his village for more than ten years. During his absence, his retainer, Sako-no-jō, has been entrusted with protecting Lord Higurashi’s wife and his son and heir, Hanawaka. This year, no one has been available to drive off the birds that ruin the rice paddies, so Sako-no-jō goes to Higurashi’s house and urges Hanawaka to use clappers and hand drums and scare away the birds by making noise from aboard a boat. Because Sako-no-jō makes his request quite forcefully, going so far as to mention their being forced to leave their home, the mother and son can hardly decline his request and end up boarding the boat and scaring away the birds.

Lord Higurashi’s legal case has now been successfully completed and he finally arrives at his village. On the way to his house, he decides to take in the view of the boats as they scare away the birds. At that very moment, Sako-no-jō is in one of the boats, pushing the downhearted mother and son to hurry up and scare away the birds. The mother and son start to drive off the birds, but for Lord Higurashi’s wife in particular, the sight of the startled birds scattering as they fly away reminds her of a separated couple, like she and her husband. When all of the birds are finally gone, Lord Higurashi calls out to them. Finding his master has returned, Sako-no-jō brings the boat to the bank and formally greets his master. When Lord Higurashi sees that the menial labor of driving off the birds was being done by his wife and son, he is so irate that he is going to slash Sako-no-jō with his sword. At that point, Lord Higurashi’s wife intervenes and remonstrates him, as his absence of more than ten years is the cause of the entire incident. Having forgiven Sako-no-jō, he has Hanawaka succeed him as the head of the clan. The Higurashi clan prospers for generations.

The origin of this human drama is thought to be a legend about driving off birds, passed down in the Sendai area of Kagoshima Prefecture. The original legend, handed down locally, is a dark tragedy describing the separation of a mother and her children. (As the result of an evil plot hatched by Sako-no-jō, Lord Higurashi divorces his wife and marries another woman. The first wife’s two children can only see their mother staying on the other side of a river and are forced to work at scaring away birds. The legend ends as, in a state of despair, the children drown themselves in the river.) This Noh play is also dramatic, with ups and downs, but unlike the legend upon which it is based, has a happy ending. In this play, shite (the lead character), the wife of Lord Higurashi, laments their misfortune, is considerate of her son Hanawaka, and shows dignified reserve toward her husband. This play vividly describes such feelings and behavior of hers, creating an atmosphere of elegance and refinement that is augmented by the quaint custom of scaring away birds from aboard a boat. Among the play’s many highlights, especially noteworthy are the conversations between Sako-no-jō and Lord Higurashi’s wife, the scene of driving off the birds that resonates with the wife’s emotional landscape, and the scene in which the wife admonishes her husband as he is about to kill Sako-no-jō. While the male characters have their own reasons for acting rashly and selfishly, in contrast the level-headed, caring, and courageous stance of the wife leaves us with a very favorable impression of her.

STORY PAPER : Torioi-bune (Driving off Birds from Aboard a Boat)

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Torioi-bune (Driving off Birds from Aboard a Boat) Story Paper PDF Sample

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