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When I first read the script for One Thousand Cranes, I didn’t know the legend behind the story and I had no idea who Sadako Sasaki was. What I did know was that the crane is a symbol of longevity and good fortune in many cultures, but I had never made an effort to find out why.

Sir Bear, who wrote said manuscript, is something of a Japanophile. He was the one who told me about the Senbazuru (千羽鶴) tradition in which you fold 1,000 paper cranes. This can be done as a gesture of goodwill, but it may also be a ritual where you pray and ask the gods for favours.

The Story of Sadako Sasaki

Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of how the simplest of gestures can bridge all sorts of boundaries. Folding a few papers doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it? Maybe it’s a bit more of a chore if there are a thousand papers in the folding pile, but still… It’s time-consuming, but not exactly hard work. This is true for most menial tasks until we affix a value or a meaning to them.

So how’s this for meaning?

Let me introduce you to the tale of Sadako Sasaki. It began in the ashes of US President Harry Truman’s horrific decision to atomic bomb Nagasaki and Hiroshima to force the Japanese forces to surrender. (Yes, this is my value judgement, and no, it’s not an invitation to a lengthy discussion on pros and cons of various methods of warfare. They are all horrific – especially the ones that harm children.)

Sadako was a wee two-year-old baby when the bombs were dropped, and at first, it seemed like she was a survivor. A little one that would grow up and build a new country, a new future, from the ruins around her. Alas, what seems to be true and the truth can be two very different things.

Not even the babies who had survived would be spared the devastating consequences of the bombs. Ten years later, Sadako was diagnosed with atomic bomb disease, these days better known as leukaemia. She was admitted to hospital and told she only had one year left of her life. And she wasn’t the only one.

When a local school club sent paper cranes to the hospital, Sadako’s friend, Chizuko Hamamoto, told her the old legend of the cranes. If you folded 1,000 origami cranes, it said, you would be granted a single wish. Well, Sadako obviously wanted to live, so she started to fold all the papers she could find and that was not an easy feat.

She used her medicine wrappings and asked the other patients for theirs too as well as the gift wrap paper from any presents they got. Her friend helped by bringing papers from school as well. According to Sadako’s brother, Masahiro, she folded more than 1,300 cranes, but sadly she did not get her wish. Sadako was 12 when she died in her hospital bed in October 1955, but her story lived on to become a peace movement.

Her friends from school raised money for a memorial to Sadako and all the children who died because of the atomic bombs. The statue of her with a golden crane in her hand is in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The plaque reads: This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.

The Legend of the 1,000 Cranes

The ancient Japanese legend of the cranes says that if someone folds 1,000 origami cranes, they will be granted a wish. The crane is a mystical, holy creature in Japan, said to live for a thousand years, which is why you have to fold one thousand origami cranes. One for each year of a crane’s life.

There are many different versions of the legend, but the most common one suggests that it began in the 16th century with Tsuyu, a samurai who had been wounded in battle. He learned about the legend of the 1,000 cranes in the temple where he was recovering and decided to give it a go hoping he would be healed.

Tsuyu diligently folded origami cranes every day for months and was miraculously healed when he finished the last one. His story spread throughout Japan, and the legend of the cranes became a symbol of hope, resilience and perseverance. It teaches us that no matter how dark and hopeless it seems, there is always hope and that we can literally move mountains as long as we are prepared to work hard.

One Thousand Cranes

In the book by Leto Armitage, Sakura believes in the legend of her ancestors. Her wish is a big one so the sacrifice she must make has to be equal in proportion. But instead of folding origami cranes, she has her friend Helen tattoo them over her spine.

Crane by crane, painstakingly added to her chain using the old Japanese needle method, she suffers and prays that her wish will come true. What makes the story even more interesting, is how it’s set in modern-day America where Helen works in a tattoo parlour and Sakura is a game developer. Ancient Japanese legend playing out against a backdrop of virtual reality gaming – what’s not to like about that?

I fell in love with this story on the first read-through and I really wanted to be the one to make it look as pretty as it reads. We released this book in July 2022 and I just repackaged it for wide release which meant I had to read it again. I loved it just as much on this read-through.

Hope. The value affixed to the crane in the old legend, in Sadako’s story and in this book is hope. Hope that resilience and action can lead to positive change. That dreams do come true.

These are some deeply unsettling times, but as long as we keep making cranes of some description there is always hope. Read Sakura’s story. Fold an origami crane or a thousand. Make a wish. Share this post. We may not have the power to stop every disaster from happening, but maybe our cranes can be made out of good deeds, random acts of kindness and gestures that instil hope. Who knows? Perhaps our actions can fold enough cranes that a brighter future may not seem so far-fetched after all.


a blue ship's door with the sign "LINNEA LUCIFER"
author bio

Linnea Lucifer is the Captain of the imaginary, yet very real, pirate ship Resilience and her merry crew of indie authors and omnivorous readers. But that is not all – amateur liar, weaver of stories, peddler of merch, lifelong spoonie, ancient dragon lady and Maddox Rhinehart’s irreverent pet are a few more words often used to describe the bearer of many names.

The Captain was named after a delicate little flower that grows in mossy, Swedish pine forests, and a certain fiery fallen angel. She spends most of her days daydreaming and writing fantasy, smut and painfully crappy poems. A diva of delight, she takes great pleasure in everything that tickles the senses and adds a sprinkle of magic and spice to our world.

Linnea writes fantasy rooted in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore under the pen name Saga Linnea Söderberg. She also writes Sweet’n’Spicy Spoonie romance together with Leto Armitage under their joint pen name Linn Rhinehart.


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