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Japanese Tales (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  744 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Here are two hundred and twenty dazzling tales from medieval Japan, tales that welcome us into a fabulous, faraway world populated by saints and scoundrels, ghosts and magical healers, and a vast assortment of deities and demons. Stories of miracles, visions of hell, jokes, fables, and legends, these tales reflect the Japanese worldview during a classic period in Japanese ...more
Paperback, 341 pages
Published August 13th 2002 by Pantheon (first published 1980)
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Community Reviews

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Yeah so I'm reading 7 books at once, what's the problem?

Robert Darnton wrote in the Great Cat Massacre that if you read a joke from another country and another era and you are not laughing, then you know you need to do more research into that culture.

This book of folktales will bring you right up to ancient Japan. The stories in it are bizarre, sad, funny, incongruous, inconclusive, and altogether magnificent. But if you can't laugh at fart jokes, you will not enjoy this book, and you may even
Things I've learned from reading chinese and japanese folk stories:

- Never trust a beautiful young widow, it's probably a fox spirit.
- Never go inside dilapidated places, they're probably haunted.
- Never spend the night in dilapidated places.
- That animal you saved / rescued is probably a god.
- Always pay attention to any messages or orders you receive from beings in your dreams.
- Always chant the Heart Sutra
- A dragon lives in the nearest lake
This collection was very disappointing. The stories are very short (most are less than two pages) and in some cases are truncated versions of longer, well-known tales (such as "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter", which like all stories appears under a different title made-up by Tyler).

The translation is really poor. There is none of the linguistic nuance or poetry one would expect from professional translation of a foreign tongue, just bland standard English. In some cases, Tyler blatantly uses Engl
I loved this collection. Definitely read the introduction first--it provides much needed context. These tales are great--many are short, only one to two pages. Some are haunting, others disturbing, some are raunchy, and others romantic, quite a few are funny. You'll find emperors, monks, princesses, foxes and snakes, all kinds of demons, warriors and gods. The scholarship that went into this volume is impressive--there are extensive source notes and the tales are really well organized. As others ...more
The translation and layout gets a solid 4.5 stars. I personally like a foot note or two, some of these tales are pretty remote...

The content is ~ 3 stars. Much of it is from the "Konjaku", and so they're Buddhist sermons thinly veiled as stories. The rest are pulled from miscellaeneous source materials, pieces of anthologies, and letters. And I think I ran into some of the same issues as I had reading the 'Manyoshu' - namely that these works are just floating in time and space, unattached to any

Commento del 10 aprile 2013

Il volume propone una selezione di 77 testi tratti dalle due principali raccolte di setsuwa – il Konjaku Monogatarishū (1120 - periodo Heian) e l’ Uji Shūi Monogatari (periodo Kamakura) –, ma anche dal Kokonchomonjū (dell’aristocratico Tachibana no Narisue, 1254), dall’ Hosshinshū (a carattere religioso, 1208 – 1216), dall’ Heike monogatari (capolavoro assoluto del genere gunki monogatari, redatto nel XIII secolo) e da molte raccolte “minori” compilate tra gli a
Nov 12, 2014 Yume rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
An interesting collection of tales - they are well-written and the variety is interesting. I was surprised, though, that among the 200, I only recognized one (the old woman who rescues the sparrow). There are quite a number of common ones (common enough that a half-Japanese girl has heard of them) that are missing here - this is more of a survey than a compendium, despite the comprehensive size of the compilation.

What's interesting about reading this collection is how the story structure feels m
Tyler is one of the premiere translators of Japanese into English. His book of Japanese No dramas (1992) and his translation of Genji (2003) are ground-breaking works, deftly blending great scholarship and learning with lucid yet faithful translations. His book of No plays opened my eyes to the beauty of Japanese art, literature and culture 11 years ago, and though I find the late Seidensticker's 1970s translation of Genji more readable and beautiful, I can still recognise Tyler's translation fo ...more
I couldn't bring myself to finish this collection because all of the tales are thoroughly male-centric -- the few women characters don't even have names! I know it's a sign of the eras in which they were written (many date back to the 700s), but still.... Also, many of the tales are very, very short, so there's literally not much to them (no character development, history, etc.).
I have many shelves full of fairy tale collections, but I won't be keeping this volume.
This is one quirky book. I thought this would be like English folk tales, with the lessons and conclusions neatly laid out at the end, some of these stories end in the middle it seems. That is not to say they are bad and, if you want insight into early Japanese culture you could find less interesting ways to do so. Some are funny some do have lessons and some just show us what was important to a far away culture many centuries ago. You do need to come at this book the right way though, you shoul ...more
Those looking for novel stories from Japan would do well to pick up this book. All the tales presented come from the era after the unification of Japan and are quite diverse. Moreover, though stories like Urashimataro and The Bamboo Cutter's Daughter (forgive my momentary lapse on the actual name of the story) are present, there are a number of tales here I have not read anywhere else. I'd also highly recommend anyone reading this book to read the introduction, as it provides invaluable informat ...more
Japanese tales/folklore are filled with monks, demons, gods, and foxes. The stories got to be a little repetitive, but were still interesting. Favorite lines:
1. "It's not the rules that really count, it's the person" (59).
2. "Hate has brought me an eternity of suffering. A grudge against someone else is just like a grudge against yourself" (138).
3. "A man values his life more than anything and he never forgets what he owes someone who's saved him" (140)!
4. "Kannon's vow to save suffering beings
James Eckman
A collection of anecdotes, fairy tales and very short stories from early Japan. Some of them are extremely odd by modern standards, like the brief note about the noble who was about to ravage a maiden when she farted. Oh the disgrace! I might have to become a monk. Always interesting reading outside your normal cultural boundaries.
If you can get over the atrocious amount of typos in this book , it is a fantastic read. Most of the typos aren't that conspicious anyway.
There are over 200 tales in this collection, and many of them are tiny. Taken alone, each one is fascinating. But with so many together, one right after the other, I began to tire of them and had to force myself to keep reading. By the time I was done, my head was full of gods and demons, monks and monkeys, badgers, snakes, and foxes. The introduction by the translator gives a thorough picture of the Japan of the period in which the tales were told, and how each of the characters figures into an ...more
Winter Sophia Rose
Informative, Enchanting & Fascinating!
An interesting look at medieval Japan's folklore and religion.

The introduction gives a good background to the culture and the beliefs of the time and indicates how daily life was influenced by tradition, and how those traditions gave rise to these stories.

The stories themselves vary from haunting to relationships to monks seeking Enlightenment. I enjoyed reading them and seeing how these tales have a different aesthetic to Western stories.
The introduction detailing the Japanese history and culture that these folk tales came from was well-written and informative. The tales themselves, on the other hand, were extremely repetitive and dully written. The tales are very short--some as much as a half page long--and are organized rather haphazardly by theme, which doesn't work particularly well as there is much overlap.
Great fairy-type tales from ancient Japan. Nice short tales that are great to read when you just have a few minutes to relax. I also like to read this book at work between phone calls. I can usually read one or two tales before being called back to reality by a complaining client.
Interesting collection of traditional japanese stories. Very differently structured their more western fables. Often you are left wondering.."what was the point of that story?". But the book shows you how the same story was told many different ways. Also, unintentionally funny.
An interesting and large collection of Japanese medieval stories. Without a better historical/cultural context to understand them, they can start to kind of wash over you after a while, but there certainly are at least a few real gems.
Agata Waluśkiewicz
Nie otwierać pudełek i pamiętać o Sutrze Lotosu.
I tried to read this in the late '90s after this came out, but there was more diarrhea than I expected. Might try again one day.
This is one those books that I would keep by my bed stand and read a couple of stories from every night. I loved this collection of tales and will probably re-read this many more times in the future.
I enjoyed reading all these folk tales I had mostly never heard of before. They were often quite short. I feel like I understand the Japanese culture better through these stories.
Rita Varian
My favorite was the one about the tapeworm. Also, there are a bunch of stories that had people turning into demons, so so now I know where the demons in anime come from.
This is a fantastic anthology about Japan. The editor did put a lot of effort in bringing ancient Japan close to readers.
Great collection of short folk stories of Japan ranging from the hilarious to horrors to the grossest.
a collection of stories, ranging from myths to modern stories.
Very interesting and a very good mix of them from funny to sad.
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What are your favorite stories from this collection? 1 4 Jul 28, 2013 05:03PM  
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Royall Tyler (born 1936) is a Japanologist. He is a descendant of the American playwright Royall Tyler (1757-1826). He was born in London, England, and grew up in Massachusetts, England, Washington D.C., and Paris, France. Between 1990 and 2000 he taught at the Australian National University. He was Reader at that university and is now a visiting Fellow in ANU's Faculty of Asian Studies. He has tr ...more
More about Royall Tyler...
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