Wednesday, November 18, 2009

 

Guest Blogging for Keplers Books: "Japanese Fairy Tales"

Post number two for Keplers went up today: it's on Japanese fairy tales and a bit of my personal background. Also, there's a link to the lecture I've been delivering in NYC (and its environs), and will give in Berkeley, CA, on November 30th.

A sample of the post:





"Fairy tales cast a spell on the mind. And not just because they often feature magic cauldrons or evil witches. We imprint on fairy tales when we are young. We learn about brave men on dragon-battling-quests and women yearning to get out of towers. Over time, the predicaments of these princes and princesses don’t seem too far from the psychological reality of the real world.

Something else happens too—we learn to expect certain things from stories. They will unfold in a certain manner. We will encounter danger, but this tension will resolve. And even though the modern novel has come a long way from ending either in a wedding or a funeral, I think there’s still something in our culture that looks for and yearns for this kind of conclusion: the prince and princess end up together, or we will find redemption despite loss, or even death.



My mother, who is from Japan, tried to teach me her language. I resisted, but she had a powerful arsenal: Japanese fairy tales. Seductively, she’d pull out the story of “Kaguyahime: The Bamboo Princess,” who was discovered by a poor bamboo cutter inside a fat bamboo stalk. The baby grew up to be the most beautiful and accomplished woman in Japan. Men came from all the corners of the island to try to woo and win her love. Except, unlike a western fairy tale where someone would eventually succeed, no prince ever managed to capture the bamboo princess’ heart. The story takes an unexpected and dramatic turn when Kaguyahime reveals her true identity—she is from the kingdom of the moon—and flies away, leaving everyone broken-hearted. Something about this accomplished but unattainable woman always captivated me. My mother and I would sit together and she would read a line in Japanese. Then I would read a line. Then I would read a page. On we would go until we were finished, and then we would begin again."


For more, head over here (where the weather is always about as perfect as it can be . . .)

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