a japanese fairy-tale with a thousand variations goes like this:
a lonesome farmer was walking through the forest one dark and snowy night when he heard a rustling just off his path. there he found a wounded crane.
he took the crane home and nursed it back to health. by spring the crane was well enough to set free. it made the man feel sadness and joy at the same time, watching the crane fly.
shortly before the summer season began, a young woman came to the farmer's village, and soon the two were in love and became married.
the next two years brought a terrible drought, and the farmer was distraught for his wife and himself. his wife then told him of her knowledge of weaving.
she wove such lustrous fabrics that they never came back home once they'd been to market; everyone wanted them. the farmer was delighted. but there was one catch. his wife told him he must never never view her weaving. and he promised.
time stretched on and for three years the farmer tended to his farming, loved his wife, and became a happy man. he wasn't one to question. but other farmers in the town questioned him about his wife, her weaving. how did she make these fabrics? their wives wanted to know! eventually the farmer began to wonder as well.
one afternoon he returned home from the fields earlier than expected, tiptoed into the house, and quietly lifted the curtain behind which his wife's loom was to be found. and there he saw a beautiful white crane, and beside her a basket of feathers for the weaving.
the next day, the man was alone again; he knew the secrets, and they were worth nothing to him at all.