Monday, March 5, 2012

Translating Japanese Fairy Tales

Japanese fairy tales are by turn both strange and exotic, yet also surprisingly familiar, for folktales of all sorts are tenacious having a tendency to get passed from village to village and to survive through generations across the world. Thus we have stories of the heavenly maidens and their magical shawls in both Greece and Japan, and motifs between Japan and Native American countries which are surprisingly similar. In many ways stories survived better in Japan then either of these two places  thus while we have for the most part forgotten about the spirits of bears and deities which people once believed lived in Europe's rocks these are still present in the Japanese fairy tale "The Bear Stone." In which a bear is saved by a woodsman and so the bear becomes the guardian of the village through generations. They are also present in the tale of "The Thunder Kami" in which a Grandfather and Granddaughter climb a mountain to pray to a stone for rain. Similar stories are seen among the Sami, the Celts, the Finns, and the people of Iceland, we have just forgotten most of these, or they have changed  as Europe changed.
In addition to these tales there are strange wondrous stories such as "The Snow Woman" in which a fearsome but beautiful girl brings storms which freeze woodsmen until she falls in love with one. Yet as with European tales such stories rarely have happy endings. The world of humans isn't necessarily meant to met the other world after all.
Because of the fascinating array of stories has been translating Japanese fairy tales into English to make them freely available for people to enjoy.

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