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Japanese Animal-Wife Tales

Narrating Gender Reality in Japanese Folktale Tradition

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Fumihiko Kobayashi

A familiar, beloved, and yet misunderstood character in the Japanese folktale tradition is the animal-woman, an earthly animal that assumes the form of a female human. In order to articulate the characteristics that make Japanese Animal-Wife tales unique, this trailblazing book Japanese Animal-Wife Tales: Narrating Gender Reality in Japanese Folktale Tradition challenges long-held characterizations of them in folklore scholarship. By re-examining the gender-specific behaviors of both the animal-woman and her human spouse, the book recovers the sociocultural and historical contexts that underlay their behaviors to demonstrate the actual gender characteristics that shaped the original Japanese Animal-Wife tales, highlighting the assertive, rather than naïve, personality of women in early Japanese folktale tradition. This new approach to the study of Japanese folktales and culture will interest researchers and students in a variety of fields, including Japanese studies, comparative folklore studies, culture studies, Asian studies, and anthropology.
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Appendix I: Inada’s Tale-Types of Japanese Animal-Wife Tales

IT 218: The Fish-Wife Tale-Type4

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The following eight Japanese Animal-Wife tale-types are based on tales compiled in Inada’s General Survey and Analysis of Japanese Folktales (1998).1 He regards folktales as combinations of one or more motifs that, according to his theoretical explanation, fall into the same sequence, in spite of commonly recurring tale-type variants.2 While the understanding of the definition of motif still varies among researchers, each tale-type classification standard of Animal-Wife tales in the above Inada’s tale-type index depends on the animal woman’s species, which affects neither the tale’s episodic structure nor the four-pillar episodes.3

While Seki’s tale-type index includes folktales widely circulating in the Japanese main islands, Inada’s tale-type index contains folktales circulating in the Ryūkyū Islands (which are located in the southwest of the Japan Main Island) and also among Ainu people living in Hokkaidō (which is the second largest island of Japan, located in the north). This makes a distinctive difference between Inada and Seki in the way of understanding what ethno-cultural elements characterize Japanese folktales and, therefore, Inada’s exemplified tales are sometimes different from those of Seki’s. ← 123 | 124 →

                                                   

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