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Japanese Tales (The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) Paperback – August 13, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0375714511 ISBN-10: 0375714510 Edition: Reissue

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Japanese Tales (The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) + Tales of Old Japan: Folklore, Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories and Legends of the Samurai + The Norse Myths (The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)
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Product Details

  • Series: The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; Reissue edition (August 13, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375714510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375714511
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

These legends and popular tales220 in all, ranging from one to three pagesopen windows upon tradition and reality in medieval Japan. These vigorously and colloquially translated tales recall worlds conjured by Chaucer, Boccaccio, Perrault, and Grimm; East and West meet in common pursuit of ways to endure social and natural adversity. The social adversaries are often robbers, miscreant monks, or retired emperorsbut above all women, especially when disguised as foxes. The natural adversaries are ghosts and demons, snakes and dragons. One survives them all by wit and faithand a dollop of good luck. The Japanese tale shares with the German elements of violence and vulgarity but is finally closest to the hearty bawdiness and comic earthiness of the French and the English tales. Arthur Waldhorn, English Dept., City Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Few readers who start the book will be able to resist going through to the end."
-- New York Times

"Fresh, imaginative, and uniquely organized...told in a style clear, homey, and unpretentious, [they] yield great pleasure."
-- Kirkus Reviews

"Enchanting....The stories are variously witty, allegorical, mystical, gross, funny, and enigmatic....Tyler provides a helpful introduction, and his poised translations are something of a masterpiece."
-- Publishers Weekly

"Translated with exceptional skill, this is a perfect example of scholarship concealing scholarship. Tyler has made these tales read gracefully and effortlessly. He writes in a lively and colloquial style that effectively captures the spirit of the originals without being jarringly modern. This is an important book."
-- Donald Keene, Shincho Professor of Japanese, Columbia University

"Royall Tyler's translations are nothing short of superb -- crisp, restrained, ably balancing the ribald and the profound. The results make available masterpieces from five centuries of Japanese literature. This book is a stellar addition to Pantheon's "outstanding folklore series."

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 38 customer reviews
The stories are well written and easy.
Japanese Tales is a collection of 220 stories and each is more interesting than the last.
Stanley Ways
An excellent book, belong on the shelf of anyone with an interest in Japanese folklore.
Zack Davisson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Merrily Baird on February 4, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For my money, everything that Royall Tyler touches turns to gold, and that is as true of "Japanese Tales" as it is of his more recent translation of "The Tale of Genji." In "Japanese Tales," he has assembled and artfully translated 220 stories published between the ninth and fourteenth centuries in Japan, stories that are often difficult if not impossible to find elsewhere in English. For the most part, these are not the extended stories that we tend to call fairy tales in the West, and the book is not designed to provide reading material for children. What it does provide is a very solid sampling of the types of tales the early Japanese used to provide moral guidance, explain how things came to be, and record historical moments. And if that were not enough, Tyler's outstanding introduction, 35 pages in length, provides a lucid understanding of life in Heian-period Japan and beliefs about everything from serpents and mountains to deities and demons. This is simply a book you cannot afford to miss if your interests in Japan are those of either an enthusiastic amateur or a focused scholar.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
Overall, the book a very good general introduction to Japanese folk tales and mythology. The book is aimed at giving just enough information to orient the reader in Japanese culture, and then letting the tales do the rest of the telling. This is both good and bad. It puts the various stories deservedly at the center, but it also leaves the backround very undeveloped for use in research. People looking for a good reference book might want to search elsewhere. People looking for some really entertaining stories will find them here.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By "beaubow" on March 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
Royall Tyler is one of the best, if not _the_ best translator working to translate classic works of Japanese literature into English. This collection of short tales provides a wide sampling of many stories told and retold in Japan for many centuries, and range from the humorous to the romantic to the bizarre. Some are very short while others are much longer.
Each of the originals had a simple style derived from the oral traditions that preserved them. Some of them constitute the oldest folk tales ever written down, dating to collections made by gentlemen scholars of the 12th century who wrote down tales they heard for their own entertainment.
But the collection pulls in tales from many different eras of Japanese history and many different aspects of Japanese culture, providing a truly diverse and entertaining set of stories for the reader who wishes either to enjoy a good tale, or for the serious student of Japan who wants to understand the culture more deeply.
Royall Tyler also made the definition translation of _The Tale of Genji_, the 11th century classic novel that is the crown jewel of Japanese traditional literature and one of the world's great novels. _Genji_, running approximately one thousand pages in English translation, written in the elegant language of the Imperial Court, is the very opposite of these short, vernacular folktales and stories. That Tyler can do justice to both sorts of work is a rare and admirable quality in a translator.
Serious students of classical Japan will find that the tales included in _Japanese Tales_ that date to the same era as _Genji_ offer a valuable alternate perspective to life and society during this time period. Any library that carries _The Tale of Genji_ on its shelves ought to carry _Japanese Tales_. The two works serve as bookends to the opposite ends of the Japanese traditional literary spectrum.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Japanese Tales" is probably the best collection of Japanese folk tales available. Every conceivable piece of folk lore is packed in this book, categorized and deftly translated into English. A host of monsters, ghosts, demons and heroes are packed in tightly, their stories waiting to be discovered.
Of course, with 220 stories in one volume, some of the stories are very short indeed, lasting a half-page at best. Many are just the right size for a child's bedtime story. Some of the stories are longer, but I don't think any of them run over 2 or 3 pages. Some stories have a moral, or tell a cautionary tale, while many are merely there to entertain, frighten or amuse.
As interesting as the book itself is the author's introduction, a 35 page quick course on Japanese folklore and mythology. In it, he outlines some fundamental themes as well as showing the logic behind his categorizing of the stories.
An excellent book, belong on the shelf of anyone with an interest in Japanese folklore.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Stevens VINE VOICE on December 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Japanese Tales" boasts an incredibly rich assortment of old Japanese stories, most either from or about the Heian period, an early classical golden age of Japanese culture and literature. The stories themselves evoke a great number of moods, and cover topics that run the gamut from vulgar (even the Japanese aristocrats of a thousand years ago enjoyed fart jokes) to austere. Most interesting is the incredible juxtaposition and intertwining of the spirit world with the "real" world. Asking the people of this classical age whether they believed in demons, fox spirits, bodhisattva, and the like would be about as ridiculous as asking people of the modern age whether they believed in puppies and bunnies. It's not a question of belief--these creatures and deities simply "exist".

The translations are excellent, and it is an incredible credit to Royall Tyler that these stories--set in a time a millennium removed and half a world away from the reader--are so accessible and easy to read. Tyler effectively groups the stories by topic, giving the reader a bit of structure to the wonderfully diverse range of tales. The introduction is packed full of information, but perhaps my only (small) complaint is that with the large number of place names mentioned it would have been nice if a map had been included. Overall though, this collection of tales is an excellent addition to the canon of English translations of ancient Japanese literature and provides great insight to the mind and world of Heian Japan. "Japanese Tales" should be a must-read for all people interested in the folklore and literature of Japan.
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