Reading Japanese Short Stories Online
An Ancient Japanese Monster Story with a Modern Lesson
There is not a great deal of Japanese literature in translation online. This is largely due to the fact that most of the translations even of older works are still not in the public domain. Happily I know of at least one online literary magazine, Words Without Borders that has a number of translated short stories online (no fees or registration required) including stories by some famous highly regarded authors as well as works by lesser known authors. Dolce Bellazza wants to make her Japanese Literature 5 challenge as inclusive as possible so if you simply read and complete a post on one short story you can list the challenge as complete. I know, as I have been there, that a lot of people like to complete reading challenges just for the fun of it (and to support the book blogging community) so you can participate in JL5 without spending any money or even leaving your home!
Here is the link to read Japanese Short Stories (maybe 15 in all) . I also have a link to some short stories from prior to 1920 and I will post it soon.
Chiba Mikio (1941, Miyagli, Japan)is a scholar of Japanese mythology focusing on monsters and a highly regarded author of children's stories. Monsters play a big role in Japanese art (think about all those horror movies with the monster destroying Tokyo!) and "Granny Long Tongue" is kind of a children's story rewrite of an ancient myth with a modern lesson. Here is the attention catching opening of the story:
"This story is set in the time when monsters were still living up there in the mountains and down here in the forests. Granny Long Tongue and Red Ban the Ogre lived high up on Mt. Okuyama, at Okumata Pass. The woman's tongue was longer than a snakevine, stronger than a stable boy's whip. Red Ban's face was broader than a cottage window, and when he bared his tusks and moved his face up close to yours, he was so scary that even the mountain bears rolled their eyes in fright."
Granny Long Tongue and Red Ban were the best of friends and they loved to scare people who came up on their mountain. But they begin to notice that fewer and fewer people are coming. Granny and Red are not really mean they just like to have a little fun. Granny, riding on Red Ban, decides to go down from the mountain to see what is wrong. They notice that all the trees in the once beautiful forest have been cut down. Granny tells Red Ban that the next rainy season there will be bad floods because of this and she is very upset. Granny sees all the once fertile top soil is washed away and at first they can find no people to scare (Red Ban is a monster and Granny has a 20 foot tongue.) When they do find people they are too weak even to be scared! They tell Granny they barely have enough to eat and lack the power to run from her and Red Ban. The people tell Granny that the river where they used to get their water from is blocked by fallen logs. The people ask Granny if she and Red Ban can help them. At first Red Ban says the job of a monster is to scare people not help them but Granny tells him in times of crisis all must work together if any are to survive. Soon the balance of nature is restored, the people have learned a lesson and Granny and Red Ban enjoy seeing their friends when they come up the mountain but not before they have scared them first!.
"Granny Long Tongue" is a simple reworking of ancient monster tales into a story made all the more moving by the recent tragic natural events in Japan. It was translated by Michael Emmerich.