- Preface to the Special Issue on the Fairy Tale in Japan
One of the motivating forces behind this special issue of Marvels & Tales was the scarcity of scholarship dealing directly with the influence of folktales and fairy tales on contemporary Japanese writers and artists. Scholarly articles that have dealt with the subject tend to be scattered pell-mell in books and journals dedicated to Japanese rather than fairy-tale studies, and when books are dedicated to individual authors, there is nary a mention of their engagement with the fairy-tale genre. In this context “fairy-tale genre” is something of a catchall term, as it includes fairy tales, folktales, myths, and legends—in other words, the classical literature and premodern tales that continue to inspire contemporary Japanese writers and artists.
Since the 1970s there has been a renewed interest in folktales and fairy tales in Japan, especially, but not exclusively, among women writers who, as elsewhere in the world, appropriated these tales to question identity, gender politics, and the role of women in contemporary society. The work of some of these women writers—Kurahashi Yumiko, Ōba Minako, Ogawa Yōko, and Tsushima Yūko1—is discussed in the articles by Luciana Cardi, Michiko Wilson, Lucy Fraser, and Charlotte Eubanks. The articles by Deborah Shamoon and Melek Ortabasi examine the influence of fairy tales and the demons (oni), monsters, and supernatural creatures (yōkai) of Japanese folktales on manga and anime. This special issue of Marvels & Tales also includes articles on the photography of Yanagi Miwa, by Murai Mayako, and the theater of Terayama Shūji, by Steven Ridgely. The issue concludes with translations of Terayama’s unique re-vision of Charles Perrault’s “Little Red Riding Hood” and Tawada Yōko’s “Futakuchi otoko” (The Man with Two Mouths). [End Page 172]
Several of the articles in this issue consider how contemporary Japanese writers have appropriated tales from the European fairy-tale canon. Luciana Cardi analyzes Kurahashi Yumiko’s retelling of the Grimms’ “Snow White,” Lucy Fraser discusses Ogawa Yōko’s appropriation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” and Steven Ridgely explores Terayama Shūji’s engagement with Perrault’s “Bluebeard.”
After briefly discussing the way in which Perrault’s fictional Bluebeard has been confused with the fifteenth-century child-murderer Gilles de Rais, Ridgely goes on to explore Terayama’s engagement with the Bluebeard narrative. In the first of these Bluebeard projects, Terayama conflates factual and fictional history as he parodies the views of an idealistic scholar who insists on the authority of the text and the meaning inherent in the words on the page. In the second project, Terayama grafts Bluebeard onto his own reworking of a Japanese legend: a deliberate contamination of the original nativist text that allows him, in Ridgely’s words, to “destabilize the Japaneseness of the narrative.” The third of Terayama’s Bluebeard projects, Aohigekō no shiro (Duke Bluebeard’s Castle), which takes its title from the Balázs/Bartók opera, is, as Ridgely writes, “a self-referential project about the metaphysics of theater.”
At about the same time that Terayama was working on his play Aohigekō no shiro (which premièred in 1979), he was also working on a fairy-tale collection called Boku ga ōkami datta koro: sakasama dōwa shi (When I Was a Wolf: Topsy-Turvy Fairy Tales). Terayama’s topsy-turvy fairy tales have much in common with the Bluebeard projects delineated by Ridgely. In “Akazukin” (Red Riding Hood), for example, Terayama is less concerned with repeating and reworking the themes and motifs of the fairy-tale classic than he is with drawing attention to its intertextuality. In much of his work, including his revisions of Perrault’s classic tales, Terayama provocatively challenges his readers (and his theater audiences) to be actively engaged in producing (rather than passively consuming) his work. In other words, as Ridgely points out, Terayama saw the liberational potential of “taking possession of narratives by rewriting and remixing them.” The translation of “Akazukin,” which is actually my translation of Terayama’s appropriation of Eguchi Kiyoshi’s translation of Perrault’s text, is a case in point; and, as it undermines...