Browsing my Bookshelves

Jack Cady wrote (through a character in one of his stories): “Either ghosts are a metaphor for history, or history is a metaphor for ghosts.” There are no actual ghosts in this post, but I do have a bit of history.

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I don’t know how long this has been sitting on my bookshelf; I do vaguely remember picking it up, a long time ago, in one of the back rooms of Green Apple Books. It’s anyone’s guess how long the book had been living there.

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The book is a collection of selected fairy tales by Iwaya Sazanami, who seems to be the Japanese equivalent of the Brothers Grimm, or perhaps Hans Christian Andersen. He compiled a twenty-four volume collection of Japanese folk tales and legends, twelve of which were translated into English in 1914, as Iwaya’s Fairy Tales of Old Japan. He founded and served as editor for Shonen Sekai (Boy’s World), an early Japanese children’s magazine.

As far as I can tell, Hokuseido Press bought the copyright to Fairy Tales of Old Japan after it went out of print, and republished it (again in twelve volumes) in 1938. My little book has six stories from that collection, packaged specifically as a children’s book. As you can see from the cover page, one of the fairy tales collected here is “Momotaro, the Peach Boy”, which is a fairly well known story here in the West. I also recognized the tale of the Tongue-Cut Sparrow; the rest of the stories were new to me.

I already have Yei Theodora Ozaki’s Japanese Fairy Tales, and several of Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folktales and ghost stories, all courtesy of Project Gutenberg. There doesn’t seem to be an e-version of Fairy Tales of Old Japan out there (how cool would that be?), and this little volume is limited.

Still, there is intrinsic value to the physical connection that I feel to 1938, and to fellow folktale lovers, when I hold this book in my hands. And the illustrations are absolutely beautiful.

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Definitely worth plucking it out of the depths of Green Apple.

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