The Crane Wife is an album by The Decemberists, released in 2006. It was produced by Tucker Martine and Chris Walla, and is the band's first album on the Capitol Records label. The album was inspired by a Japanese folk tale, and centers on two song cycles, The Crane Wife and The Island, the latter of which was inspired by William Shakespeare's The Tempest. National Public Radio listeners voted The Crane Wife the best album of 2006. The album cover was made by Portland artist Carson Ellis, long-time girlfriend (and now wife) of Colin Meloy, who has created artwork for each of their albums. The Crane Wife is an old Japanese tale. While there are many variations of the tale, a common version is that a poor man finds an injured crane on his doorstep (or outside with an arrow in it), takes it in and nurses it back to health. After he releases the crane, a woman appears at his doorstep with whom he falls in love and marries. Because they need money, his wife offers to weave wondrous clothes out of silk that they can sell at the market, but only if he agrees never to watch her making them. They begin to sell them and live a comfortable life, but he soon makes her weave them more and more. Oblivious to his wife's diminishing health, his greed increases. He eventually peeks in to see what she is doing to make the silk she weaves so desirable. He is shocked to discover that at the loom is a crane plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into the loom. The crane, seeing him, flies away and never returns. Band leader Colin Meloy found a version of this story and decided to write music based on it. In a January 2007 interview given on the NPR show Fresh Air, Colin Meloy gave this synopsis of the story: "It's a story about a peasant in rural Japan who finds a wounded crane on an evening walk; there's an arrow in its wing. He revives the crane and the crane flies away. A couple days later, a mysterious woman shows up at his door and he takes her in. Eventually they fall in love and get married. But they're very poor, so she suggests that she start weaving this cloth which he can in turn sell at the market—the condition being that when she's weaving it, she has to do it behind closed doors and he can't look in. So this goes on for a while and they actually become kind of wealthy. But eventually, his curiosity gets the best of him and he looks in at her while she's weaving and it turns out that she's a crane and she's been pulling feathers from her wings and putting it into the cloth, which is what makes it so beautiful. But him having seen her breaks the spell, and she turns back into a crane and flies away. That's the end." Read more on Last.fm.
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