BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Japanese Folktales: Classic Stories from Japan’s Enchanted Past by Yei Theodora Ozaki, foreword by Lucy Fraser [in Booklist]

Nasty neighbors, otherworldly children, and malevolent monsters populate some of the 22 traditional Japanese folktales in Ozaki’s century-old collection, reissued with an introduction by Australian academic Lucy Fraser. In her 1903 preface, Ozaki – whose father was Japanese, mother, English – that her “stories are not literal translations . . . though . . . all quaint Japanese expressions have been faithfully preserved.”

Among the recognizable characters are childless couples blessed with unusual offspring, including “peach boy” Momotarō and the Moon-child. Japanese versions of Western fairy tales include Rip Van Winkle-esque “Urashima Taro” and Snow White-reminiscent “The Mirror of Matsuyama.” Deserved get-rich-quick rewards happen in several tales, while envious greed begets just punishment in others.

Drawn from many Japanese sources and enhanced with dozens of woodcut-style drawings by Tokyo artist Kakuzō Fujiyama, the stories succeed in meeting Ozaki’s intention “to interest young readers of the West.” Most intriguing is Fraser’s encouragement of a more critical reading, with an eye toward imperialist expansion, indigenous conflict, and gender inequity, issues as prevalent today as in centuries past.

YA/General Interest: As an introduction to Japanese folklore, young adult readers will appreciate this collection as both entertainment and cultural history.

Review: “Folklore,” Booklist Online, July 18, 2018

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 1903, 2018 (new edition)


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