Japanese Fairy Tales



Japanese Fairy Tales, as well as all the others, are usually defined as fanciful tales of legendary deeds and creatures usually intended for children.

Japanese Fairy Tales

These stories are simple narratives typically of folk origin dealing with supernatural beings. They may be written or told for the amusement of children or may have a more sophisticated narrative containing supernatural or obviously improbable events, scenes, and personages and often having a whimsical, satirical, or moralistic character.

The term embraces popular folktales such as "Cinderella" and "Puss in Boots," as well as art of later invention, such as those by Hans Christian Andersen.

It is often difficult to distinguish between tales of literary and oral origin, because folktales have received literary treatment from early times, and literary tales can often be traced back to oral tradition.

Fairy Tales is the usual English term for a group of oral narratives centered on magical tests, quests, and transformations, which are found throughout Europe and in many parts of Asia too. They are defined by their plots, which follow standard basic patterns, and have been classified by Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson, The Types of the Folktale (1961); their function is to be oral entertainment for adults as well as children, and telling them well is a skilled art.

Japanese Fairy Tales The term ‘fairy tale’ only appeared in the 18th century, almost certainly as a translation of the French Contes des Fées, the title of a book by Madame d'Aulnois published in 1698 and translated into English the following year. It is universally understood, but not in fact accurate, since many of the best-loved stories have no fairies in them, though magic abounds; consequently some scholars prefer the terms ‘Wonder Tales’ or ‘Magic Tales’.

These tales are found in oral folktales and in literary form. Their history is particularly difficult to trace, because only the literary forms can survive. Still, the evidence of literary works at least indicates that they have existed for thousands of years, although not perhaps recognized as a genre; the name "fairy tale" was first ascribed to them by Madame d'Aulnoy.

Japanese Fairy Tales

Literary tales are found over the centuries all over the world, and when they collected them, folklorists found them in every culture.

The work of the Brothers Grimm influenced other collectors, both inspiring them to collect tales. They believed the tales of a country were particularly representative of it, to the neglect of cross-cultural influence.

Andrew Lang was able to draw on not only the written tales of Europe and Asia, but those collected by ethnographers, to fill his "coloured" fairy books series.

They also encouraged other collectors, as when Yei Theodora Ozaki created a collection, Japanese Fairy Tales (1908), after encouragement from Lang.

The RNU Press specialises in Accurate Reprints of Japanese Fairy Tales and others for clients who want to capture the original beauty and flavour of these wonderful books.

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