The Boy Who Drew Cats
A long time ago, on a farm there lived a boy named Kenji with his mother, father and four older brothers. They all worked hard in the fields all day but Kenji was small and frail and could not work for long. The family all knew how much he loved to draw, and his mother said to him “never mind child, why don’t you draw some of your beautiful pictures for us instead.” They watched him draw cats, birds, fish, bamboo stalks and flowers at the edge of the fields as they worked. The family never had enough to eat and Mother worried that Kenji would not be able to live well out in the fields and one day brought him to a monastery, hoping he might be taken in as an acolyte. Kenji and his mother were greeted by an old solemn priest with a long beard, and a younger priest with a cheerful expression.
Kenji tried hard to make himself useful, but with each chore he did and each scroll he copied, he would quickly lose focus and start to draw. He liked to draw cats the most. The young priest loved the cat drawings, and so Kenji would draw cats for him whenever he could. The old priest however, began to grow very impatient at Kenji’s habits, until one day he caught Kenji drawing cats again. He said “I will not tolerate laziness in my temple!” and sent him away. The younger priest appeared as Kenji was leaving, holding the package that Kenji had brought with him when he first arrived at the temple. He also handed Kenji a box that contained the most beautiful set of brushes and inks Kenji had ever seen, and said “you were meant to be an artist, not a priest.” The younger priest led Kenji out of the temple, and they parted, he left him with one last piece of advice, to “avoid large places at night – keep to small.”
Too ashamed to return to his home, Kenji set off to find another temple where he might try again to be an acolyte. He headed toward the next village where he learned was a big wealthy temple. Little did he know that no one ever visited this temple, as it belonged to the terrible Goblin Rat. When he arrived at the temple, he was met by nothing but dust, cobwebs and the stench of decay. It was getting dark, so all Kenji could do was go inside and wait for the priests to return. He walked into a room where he saw a small candle burning, and walls of empty screens. Kenji thought “I will decorate these screens as I wait and the priests will see that I am worthy!” and got to work. He filled the screens with majestic and graceful cats.
Kenji filled every screen so that by the time he was finished, he was exhausted. He was about to sleep right where he stood, but remembered the advice to “avoid large places at night – keep to small” and found an empty cabinet, where he curled up in, closed the doors and fell asleep. He was awoken in the middle of the night by horrible screams and growls. He heard things crashing, and felt the floor tremble, but he was frozen with fear and dared not look outside.
Everything had become still again when morning came and Kenji crawled out of the cabinet. The screens where he had drawn his cats were all empty and torn, except for one, where the King of Cats sat, with the sword of the Goblin Rat at his feet. His cats had come to life and defeated the Goblin Rat and his minions! The villagers soon found out and were so grateful that they invited Kenji to stay and work at the newly re-opened temple. There he became a great and famous artist, whose specialty was cats.