The Teahouse of the August Moon

“‘And what’s that hole in the ground you’re digging there?’

Fisby considered. ‘Oh, that must be the lotus pond, sir.’

The veins in Colonel Purdy’s temples stood out. ‘Wonderful, Fisby. Wonderful. Here I send out every available man to help drain off stagnant water, and you’re collecting it. So now you’re raising mosquitoes as well as goats. And what about that new school building?’

The Colonel seemed to grow another foot, and Fisby gripped the wheel. ‘By golly, sir, I’ve been so busy lately it slipped my mind.'”

The Teahouse of the August Moon, by Vern Sneider, was originally written in 1951 and then later adapted for a stage play and MGM technicolor movie. The story is set in Okinawa just after the end of WWII, where the American military has set up a makeshift governing system on the island. Colonel Purdy, thanks to input from his wife at home, has strict ideas about how the place should be run, complete with Women’s Leagues and octagonal schoolhouses. The village of Tobiki, on the other hand, seems to have a hard time falling in with these practices.

The problem begins when Captain Fisby is gifted with two lovely geisha girls, who have been already passed around by the leaders of the other villages. Though proper ladies, their presence makes the local women jealous and the men distracted. First Flower and Lotus Blossom decide that what the village really needs is a proper teahouse, which sets into motion a chain of events and necessities long enough to foreshadow If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Colonel Purdy sends in a spy, Doc MacLean, but the doctor soon falls under the spell. Is it possible that geisha girls know more about running a village than the American military?

The book is wonderfully comic in the way that events build upon each other, and Sneider effectively portrays Fisby’s exasperation and sense of being overwhelmed with the job. He creates a subtle lesson in understanding what is best for the people., as well as what it takes to create a thriving society. According to the dust jacket flap, the book draws heavily from his own experiences in Okinawa.

I think the story would transition well to live action, an I’ll have to keep an eye out if it ever comes on TCM. As  I was reading the book several people seemed to have at least heard of the movie, though I had not. Is anyone else familiar with it?

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Published in: on June 10, 2010 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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