A bitterly jealous brother, a samurai who makes the ultimate sacrifice, a cold-hearted husband, a monk who mistakes desire for piety, a fraudulent merchant who meets his match in a supernatural river otter — the motives underlying these traditional Japanese folktale characters are explored with haunting results.
Prompted by the sometimes illogical and perplexing actions of folktale characters (Why doesn’t the wolf kill Little Red Riding Hood right away?), master storyteller Rui Umezawa revisits eight popular Japanese folktales, delving beneath their sometimes baffling plot lines to highlight the psychological motivations behind the characters’ actions.
In “Betrayal,” a treacherous husband poisons his wife so he can marry another woman. In “Paradise,” a young man saves the life of a sea turtle, who takes him to a luxurious underwater palace, where his every whim is fulfilled. A brother in “Rage” is consumed by jealousy when his brother’s dog digs up a cache of gold. In “Honor,” a samurai kills himself to keep a promise made to his blood brother.
Tales of addiction, bravery, sex, greed, abuse and control — these stories take their inspiration from the great Japanese storytelling traditions, as well as from Noh and Kabuki. Sometimes laced with ironic humor, sometimes truly horrifying, these stories of the strange and supernatural will appeal to readers of all ages, but they particularly speak to teenagers.
Evocative and haunting illustrations by the stunningly talented Mikiko Fujita add to the eerie beauty of this collection. A detailed afterword outlines the author’s storytelling approach and provides source material for each tale.
Available in the museum shop.