Tag Archives: folk tale

Can I Be More Than a Stonecutter?

In the early sixties, when my father hauled trash, he would bring me gifts which were cast-offs from other people.  One time he brought me a large carton of textbooks from the 1940s, which an elementary school had thrown away.  They were primarily English and social studies texts, and in these books I discovered a wide variety of stories which my brain played like a never-ending movie projector in my head.

One of my favorites was the Japanese folk tale, “The Stonecutter.”  In this story, the protagonist is a laborer who cuts rock out of the mountainside.  The man doesn’t realize it, but a spirit lives inside the mountain.  This spirit has the power to grant wishes.  The man wishes to become a rich man so he doesn’t have to labor so hard, and he becomes one.  Later, he sees that the prince has power over the rich man and wishes to become a prince.  You know what happens.  He becomes a prince, of course.

In his quest for something more, he hadn’t realized that even a prince has his limitations until he discovers that the sun has more power.  He wishes to become the sun.  As he continues his quest, he becomes a cloud and then a rock, which is the rock of the mountain.  The most powerful of all.

As a rock, he suddenly feels pain and discovers that a man is chipping away at him.  He wishes once again for power over his own life and becomes a man–a stonecutter cutting away at the mountain.  He’s right back where he started before he wished his life away.

Outside my bedroom window

I’ve never forgotten this story, although sometimes I move too far from the lesson itself.  The power is mine to live my own authentic life, even if I am the stonecutter, chipping away at the mountain in front of me.


Writing, though, is not always like life.  As a writer, I believe that it’s possible to do more than live my own life.

Mindful of my work, by some miraculous force, I can be the stonecutter and the mountain at the same time.

Have you ever had that feeling when you were involved in the process of writing?


Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory