A Treasury of Japanese Folktales

A Treasury of Japanese Folktales (Bilingual English and Japanese Edition)
by Yuri Yasuda, illustrated by Yoshinobu Sakakura and Eiichi Mitsui.
Tuttle Publishing, 2010.

 Have you seen The Tale of the Princess Kaguya? Nominated alongside Song of the Sea (both lost to Big Hero 6) for Best Animated Feature at the 2015 Academy Awards, it is a hauntingly beautiful film, directed by Isao Takahata for Studio Ghibli. My daughters and I watched it a few week ago and were mesmerized by it.  

It's based on a very, very old Japanese folk tale, "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter." A bamboo cutter finds a glowing piece of bamboo. Cutting it open, he is surprised to find a tiny, beautiful girl inside. He and his wife raise her for their own, and she grows very fast. Many suitors come to woo her, but she insists she never wants to leave her parents. She sends them out to perform impossible tasks, in an effort to dissuade them. Finally, the Emperor himself comes to see her. She rejects his advances, but stays in touch with him. It's around that time that Kaguya sees the full moon. It makes her weep. She confesses that she was never from Earth. She is a princess from the moon, and the time is coming when she will be forced to return, and made to forget all she loved on Earth. The movie is faithful to the original story, although it fleshes it out quite a bit.

I'll leave it there. It's such a strange, melancholy tale.

We wanted to read a version or two ourselves. I own a Japanese folk tale book, but that story isn't in it. I lucked out at the library, where I found two different books containing the tale. This is the first.Originally published in English as Old Tales of Japan, this new version by Tuttle Publishing features a new Japanese translation, which makes up the bottom half of the text.

I cannot read it, of course, but it is attractive next to the lovely art.

Our story is presented as "Kaguya Hime (The Luminous Princess.)" It's a simplified version, leaving out the impossible tasks. Big Sis said immediately, "I like the movie better. It's more detailed."

Well, of course it is, sweetie. The version here only takes up nine half-pages of text.

"Kaguya Hime (The Luminous Princess)"

There are many great stories collected here. Some I had read before in other books, such as "Urashima Tarō (The Fisherman and the Tortoise)" and "Momotarō (The Peach Boy.)" The illustrations were created for Old Tales of Japan by two artists. There seem to be two different styles, but I have no idea who illustrated what.

"Shitakiri Suzume (The Tongue-Cut Sparrow)"

"Kintarō (The Strong Boy)"

"Kintarō (The Strong Boy)"

"Nezumi No Yomeiri (The Marriage of a Mouse)"

"Urashima Tarō (The Fisherman and the Tortoise)"

"Momotarō (The Peach Boy)"

"Momotarō (The Peach Boy)"

"Kachi Kachi Yama (The Kachi Kachi Mountain)"

"Kobutori Jiisan (The Old Men With Wens)"

"Issunbōshi (The One-Inch Boy)"

"Bunbuku Chagama (The Lucky Cauldron)"

"Sarukani Kassen (The Monkey-And-Crab Fight)"

The last page of the book.

I'll have another book to share with you tomorrow. It contains many of the same stories, but the art is completely different. I'll leave with a two-word hint: Giant. Golden.

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  1. I haven't yet seen the movie, but I've wanted to for some time. The book looks great, amazing illustrations!

    1. It's a very cool book. Tuttle Publishing puts out some great stuff. They published the book I own, too.

      The movie is BEAUTIFUL. It's very quiet, and the animation is so dreamy.

  2. Do you remember Little Peach - by Rumer Godden? I think it followed up Miss Happiness and Miss Flower? Looking forward to your next post!

    1. Confession: the only book by Rumer Godden I've read was The Story of Holly and Ivy. :( You would think with my whole doll thing I would have read more.

      But it does make me think that I should start a collection of her books for Little Sis, my resident doll freak.

    2. I can't WAIT to see that movie!! And your book is divine. I have a few Japanese fairy books but not this one! This is gorgeous!! Love the Moon Princess fairy tale so much. I love Japanese fairy tales so much - they have a totally different feel to them than Western fairy tales, don't you think?

    3. Oh, yes! Actually, I think I'll hit publish on the second book post now. Wait until you see it!


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