The Whiffy Wife

A poor young man lived with his mother, and when the time came to be married, he travelled to a village over the mountains to find a bride.  He thought himself very lucky when the most beautiful girl in the village agreed to the match.  Together the young people walked home. The mother was also delighted with her daughter in law, and over the next two weeks she proved herself kind, diligent and attentive – everything a Japanese wife should be.  However, one evening at dinner, the mother noticed that her daughter in law was looking very pale. She asked if anything was wrong.  “Well, “ said the girl, clutching her belly, “There is a problem, but I am not sure I can tell you”.  “Go on” the mother encouraged her “Do you have a stomachache?” “No, it’s not that – but, um, I need to um, pass wind.  I need to fart”.  The mother laughed loudly “Don’t worry my dear, that happens to all of us, just go ahead!” “Well, all right then, but – you’d better hold onto the fireplace” “Why on earth should I do that?” asked the mother. “Don’t ask, just do it!”  So the mother grasped the hearth and the girl screwed up her face  !It’s coming, it’s coming, it’s…Bokaaaaaaaaaan!  (Blow)  Hyuuuuuuuuuuuuu (Wind)”

The fart was so strong it blew the mother right out of the door and into the turnip field where the son was working.  He was very surprised to see her.  The old lady picked herself up and explained what had happened.  “She can’t stay, it’s too dangerous! She’ll have to go back to her family!”

So very sadly the wife packed her belongings and set off with her husband.  On the way they passed a field with a large pear tree. All the lovely juicy pears were at the top, out of reach of the men who were trying to shake them down.  The Lord of the place was standing impatiently by.  The girl noticed the problem. Bravely, she went up to the Lord and bowed.  “If you want those pears, sir, I think I can get them down for you”. “What, a little thing like you, when all my men have faield? I don’t think so!!

“I’ll show you” said the girl. “Please turn your backs and hold onto the fence!” The Lord and his men did so.  The girl bent over and let off one of her huge farts. Boom! The pears came tumbling down from the tree.

The Lord was delighted. “What a wonderful skill!”, he said, and rewarded the young couple with gold.  They went happily back home. “My wife” said the man “Is a treasure!”


About this story.

First heard from storyteller Takiko Imai, this is a very popular folktale, and there are different variants – sometimes the husband rejects the wife, sometimes she solves three problems – getting a cart up a steep hill, launching a becalmed boat and moving bags of rice.  The story shows us comically how even a very socially embarrassing “defect” can be turned to good effect.  The wife is I think brave in being prepared to expose overcome her shame- in one version of the story she does it for her angry husband, to win back his love.  


Multisensory activities

•Wind (of course) smells, nice and nasty.

•Burp cushion. Hide the cushion and play a version of musical chairs, where you swap chairs and whoever sits on the cushion is out (but gets the chance to hide it for the next person!)

•See how far you can blow some objects. Have a blowing race (use straws)

•Practise with blowing through different kinds of tube to make different sounds



•Is there a solution to the wife’s enormous farts?  What can you think of to solve the problem for the family? (in the story, sometimes she is asked to go outside and face the mountains, or they build her a special hut or room)


•Can you think of some other tasks the wife could carry out for the Lord? Imagine him faced with a problem and write the letter he sends to her.  (for example, demolishing walls, dealing with enemy attacks).


•Are there other surprising jobs that people can do?

Look at history and contemporary practice – blind people were often piano tuners or musicians (a lot of blind jazz and blues singers); people in wheelchairs excel at basket ball; people with autism can often accomplish tasks that others make mistakes with. There is a story of an autistic man who got a job sorting pills and never made an error; a young man with learning disabilities who was a very early riser accompanied the milkman on his rounds.

Real world links

Joseph Pujol (1857-1945) was known as a “fartulist” possessing the extraordinary ability to deliberately inhale and exhale air through his bottom.  He was famous in his day for his stage  musical entertainments! entertainment,