『赤い蝋燭(The Red Candle)』by Nankichi Niimi

Reading material

About Nankichi Niimi

Nankichi Niimi (1913-1943) was a renowned Japanese author known for his enchanting and poignant children’s stories. He was born in Handa City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Despite his short life, Niimi’s literary works left a lasting impact on Japanese children’s literature.

Niimi’s stories often revolve around themes of empathy, compassion, and the beauty of nature. His writing style was characterized by its simplicity and ability to capture the hearts of both children and adults. He had a unique talent for weaving magical and imaginative elements into his narratives while addressing universal emotions and human experiences.

Some of Niimi’s most famous works include “Gon, the Little Fox” (Gon no Tora) and “Night on the Galactic Railroad” (Ginga Tetsudō no Yoru). “Gon, the Little Fox” tells the heartwarming story of a young fox and his journey to become human. It explores themes of identity, sacrifice, and the importance of family bonds. “Night on the Galactic Railroad” is a captivating allegorical tale about a young boy’s dream-like journey through the stars. It delves into existential questions, friendship, and the search for meaning in life.

Niimi’s stories continue to be cherished in Japan and have been translated into various languages, captivating readers worldwide. His ability to convey profound emotions through simple and accessible language has made him one of the most beloved children’s authors in Japanese literature. Despite his untimely death at the age of 29 due to tuberculosis, Nankichi Niimi’s legacy lives on, inspiring generations of readers with his timeless stories of hope, love, and the human spirit.




A monkey that had gone from the mountains to the village to play picked up a single red candle. Red candles were not something that were plentiful. Because of that, the monkey mistakenly believed that the red candle was a firework.

The monkey carefully carried the red candle back to the mountains. It caused quite a commotion there. After all, no one, be it a deer, a boar, a rabbit, a turtle, a weasel, a tanuki, or a fox, had ever seen anything like fireworks before. And now, the monkey claimed to have found fireworks in the form of a red candle.

“Oh, how wonderful!” “This is a marvelous thing.”

The deer, boar, rabbit, turtle, weasel, tanuki, and fox jostled and peered at the red candle. Then the monkey said, “It’s dangerous, dangerous! You mustn’t get too close. It will explode.” Everyone was surprised and backed away.

So, the monkey described to everyone how fireworks made loud noises and spread beautifully across the sky. Everyone thought that if it was such a beautiful thing, they wanted to see it.

“In that case, let’s go to the top of the mountain tonight and launch it from there,” said the monkey. Everyone was overjoyed. They envisioned fireworks bursting in the night sky, like stars scattering.

Now, nightfall arrived. Everyone excitedly made their way to the top of the mountain. The monkey had already tied the red candle to a tree branch and was waiting for everyone to arrive.

Finally, the time came to launch the fireworks. However, a problem arose. No one wanted to light the fireworks. Everyone loved watching fireworks but didn’t like the task of lighting them.

With no one willing to light the fireworks, they wouldn’t go off. So they drew lots to decide who would go and light them. The lucky one was the turtle.

The turtle summoned its courage and went towards the fireworks. But could it successfully light them? No, it couldn’t. As soon as the turtle got close to the fireworks, its head instinctively retracted and didn’t come out.

So they drew lots again, and this time it was the weasel’s turn. The weasel was slightly better than the turtle because it didn’t retract its head. However, the weasel had severe nearsightedness. As a result, it just wandered around the candle, looking around.

Finally, it was the boar’s turn. The boar was a truly brave and fearless animal. The boar managed to go and light the fireworks successfully.

Everyone was surprised and dove into the grass, covering their ears tightly. Not only their ears, but their eyes were also tightly shut.

However, the candle simply burned quietly without making any sound.



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