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Japanese Tales (Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library) Paperback – 1 Oct 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House USA Inc; Reissue edition (1 Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375714510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375714511
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.6 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Few readers who start the book will be able to resist going through to the end."
"-- New York Times"
"Fresh, imaginative, and uniquely organized...told in a style clear, homey, and unpretentious, [they] yield great pleasure."
"-- Kirkus Reviews"
"Enchanting....The stories are variously witty, allegorical, mystical, gross, funny, and enigmatic....Tyler provides a helpful introduction, and his poised translations are something of a masterpiece."
" -- Publishers Weekly"
"Translated with exceptional skill, this is a perfect example of scholarship concealing scholarship. Tyler has made these tales read gracefully and effortlessly. He writes in a lively and colloquial style that effectively captures the spirit of the originals without being jarringly modern. This is an important book."
-- Donald Keene, Shincho Professor of Japanese, Columbia University
"Royall Tyler's translations are nothing short of superb -- crisp, restrained, ably balancing the ribald and the profound. The results make available masterpieces from five centuries of Japanese literature. This book is a stellar addition to Pantheon's "outstanding folklore series."

From the Inside Flap

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 civilization. Masterfully edited and translated by the acclaimed translator of The Tale of Genji, these stories ably balance the lyrical and the dramatic, the ribald and the profound, offering a window into a long-vanished though perennially fascinating culture.

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Format: Paperback
Royall 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 seven years ago, and though I find Seidensticker's 1970s translation of Genji more readable, I can still recognise Tyler's translation for it's very great merits.

This anthology collects together a wide range of Japanese tales from a period roughly spanning from about the C8 to the C16. You will find many of the tales in this collection scattered about in different versions in other collections, for example in Mitford's Tales of Old Japan from the end of the C18, and collections of Akutagawa's (English translations available) work. However, the versions in this book are the most faithful versions you will find in English. Sometimes the more freely translated versions (Mitford) or the more freely re-told versions (Akutagawa) have more literary merit, but the versions in this book are the real thing. On the whole, the stories are often not as evocative or as beautiful as their freer counterparts, or of other similar tales based on old Japanese tales (the most evocative and beautiful probably being Lafcadio Hearn's stories, published at the beginning of the C19, though he never mastered Japanese and his tales are dubious in their faithfulness to their varying sources). Tyler's introduction is, as you would expect, scholarly and illuminating, and is worth reading in its own right.

The stories in this book demonstrate the enormous range of Japanese literature from the period. There are some genuinely scary ones about ghosts and demons.
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Format: Paperback
By using his extensive knowledge in the Japanese literature, Royall Tyler collected and translated Japanese stories into English and into one volume entitled "Japanese Tales." This book drives the readers to experience the enchanting Japanese folklore and ancient short stories of spirits, demons, monsters, gods, monks, heroes, snakes, robbers, foxes, love, and families. There are 220 tales in this book, which are grouped into sets of four to six tales with each having its own theme or heading. In addition to the sets of the book, there is an introduction which describes the history of Japanese lore and mythology; and the culture of Japan including the capital, provinces, the emperor, ministers, houses, the manners of the Japanese people, and the religion during the period of 9th to 13th centuries. Throughout the selected sets of "Japanese Tales," one can understand the Japanese culture from 9th to 13th centuries by looking at the influences of Buddha and Lotus Sutra, the interferences of gods and goddesses, and the stories of snakes and foxes.

"Japanese Tales" explores the influences of Buddha and Lotus Sutra in the medieval Japanese culture as seen in the sets of 'Monk Jokes,' 'Beyond the Rules,' and 'Parent and Child.' Since the religion of Buddhism officially came to Japan in the mid-sixth century, large temples were built and respected monks were scattered across Japan in which people viewed them as saints, frivolous, worldly, and rich (p. xxxvi - xxxvii). However, the tales in the set of 'Monk Jokes' demonstrated as a way of insult to the Buddhist monks because of their sexual behavior, and this set has a twist and humorous end. But the religion of Buddha also had great positive influences on the Japanese people as their view of life and death.
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Format: Paperback
Superbly compiled and translated by Japanese scholar Royall Tyler, this eloquent anthology presents a great deal of diversity as far as materials are concerned. Ranging from exploits of shinto dieties, mythological monsters and animals, playful to erotic tales about samurai, courtesans and ladies, Particularly interesting are the religiously-oriented tales involving various Boddhisattvas and dieties, most notably Kwannon (the buddhist diety of compassion) This book is an inexpensive, accessible and entertaining source to anyone interested in Japanese traditional society.
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