Ghost Story review: “The Soul of the Great Bell” by Patrick Lafcadio Hearn
This story opens by describing a bell called Ta-chun sz’, “The Tower of the Great Bell.” The bell resounds in a tongueless voice, “KO-NGAI!” that shakes the little dragons on the high-tilted eaves of the green roofs. The porcelain gargoyles tremble on their perches and the hundred little bells on the pagodas quiver with the desire to speak. After this comes the sound, almost of a woman weeping, “Hiai!”
Every child in the city knows the story of the bell, why it says “Ko-Ngai” and “Hiai.”
Some 500 years earlier, the Celestially August, the Son of Heaven, Yong-Lo, of the Illustrious or Ming dynasty, commanded the worthy official Kouan-Yu the he should have a bell made of such size its sound might be heard for 100 li. It must be made of brass, gold and silver. Their first two attempts failed. The Son of Heaven decided the third attempt better work or head would roll, quite literally.
This is a sad story of love and sacrifice, of a daughter’s love for her father. It is a 19th century story and probably would be considered too much of a downer to read today, but there is a loveliness to it that strikes the reader.
Born in the Greek Isles, author Lafcadio Hearn was of Irish and Greek parentage, but spent much of his adult life in Japan and became a Japanese citizen.
Title: “The Soul of the Great Bell” first published Some Chinese Ghosts 1887
Author: Patrick Lafcadio Hearn AKA Koizumi Yakumo (1852-1904)
Last review: “The Monster” by Randall Garrett
Last ghost story: “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral” by M. R. James
©2015 Denise Longrie
Image Credit »