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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 III: Korean and Chinese Pond-Snail Wife Tale-Types

The Episodic Structure of the Korean Pond-Snail Wife Tale-Type (KT 206)

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The following tales about a pond-snail wife circulate in Korea and China. The episodic structure of Korean Pond-Snail Wife tale-type is almost identical to that of Chinese one. The episodic structures of these resemble that of Pond-Snail tale contained in the fourth-century Chinese book In Search of the Supernatural (Sou shen ji 捜神記). It appears that the book’s Pond-Snail tale shaped the plot development of both Korean and Chinese Pond-Snail Wife tales, but any of deep investigations into these three tales’ relationship have yet to be done.

Inhak Choi, a leading Korean folklorist, has classified various versions of the Pond-Snail Wife tales that have circulated throughout Korea, and analyzed them in the Pond-Snail Wife tale-type section of his book, A Study of Korean Folktales with Tale-Type Index (Korean Tale-Type; hereafter, KT 206).1 He characterizes the episodic structure of that tale-type as follows:

The Chinese book In Search of the Supernatural lacks the last episode of Korean Pond-Snail Wife tale-type that describes the conflict between the couple and the feudal lord. Generally speaking, the episode of this conflict characterizes Korean folktales. Eberhard specifies the episodic structure of that tale-type as follows:

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