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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hearn - The Goblin Spider - Keeping the Public in Public Domain


Today's story recorded by Lafcadio Hearn is short but will give many chills.  It's deeply ingrained in Japanese folklore and art as seen in these pictures, both traditional and modern, I've inserted in the story. 
Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) - Woodblock triptych print

Daniel Aranda The Sweet Life Tattoo Shop
Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) - Woodblock triptych print, Minamoto Yorimitsu Shitenno, Raiko's retainer, about to kill the earth spider in its web.

 Utagawa Kuninaga (歌川國長) - Woodblock print, triptych. Raiko with giant spider,

Photo from Borde Hill in Sussex  from Kay Susan Warner's embroidery blog, SMockerySmArt  "A nice day out"  Sculptor is unknown.

Earlier I mentioned the Goblin Spider is "deeply ingrained in Japanese folklore and art." In a perfect example of how a later or slightly altered search can change results, if you go to Google and try "goblin spider Japanese folklore" there is a large page on Images.  I rejected many because, although the Jorōgumo is a type of Yōkai, a creature, ghost or goblin of Japanese folklore, it turns into a seductive woman before becoming a goblin spider.  That is a totally different tale.

Only after creating my own attempts at providing today's story did I find New Mexico stamp dealer, George C. Baxley, has the original book complete with illustrations (the illustrator is not named in English) and it is one of the five books published by Takejiro Hasegawa where Lafcadio Hearn was the translator.  Knowing the work of Lafcadio Hearn, I would dispute that a bit as the cover says it is "Rendered into English by Lafcadio Hearn."  This and the other stories all speak with Hearn's voice and style, but I also believe he tried to remain faithful to their Japanese origins.  Where does translation become creation?  While at Baxley's Hasegawa link you can also find the other four stories offered.  They include last week's Chin-Chin-Kobakama as well as The Boy Who Drew Cats, which I posted a few years ago.  The two other tales from the series are the strange, but not necessarily spooky The Fountain of Youth, and the jolly The Old Woman and Her Dumplings, which has Oni in it.  (Oni can be translated as a kind of Yōkai from Japanese folklore, variously called demons, devils, ogres, or trolls.)  That link also gives a great deal of information about the publisher, whose work was from 1885 to 1930, and gives hints about Hasegawa's Fairy Tale Series which I found covered more to my interest in Wikipedia's listing of over thirty tales Hasegawa published.  It's certainly a list of the best known Japanese stories in the western world, which was the publisher's intent.  I've a certain bit of satisfaction Wikipedia quotes a publication from Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, "By 1903, the series reached 28 volumes in two series. Most of the stories were based on well-known Japanese folk tales, but some of the later books, including several by Lafcadio Hearn, are thought to have been invented rather than translated, or perhaps combine elements of several folk tales."  The Kyoto University publication has a slightly longer list of the series.  The publication is called "Crepe Paper Books and Woodblock Prints at the Dawn of Cultural Enlightenment in Japan" and is from a rare book exhibition.  I enjoyed prowling it beyond the Fairy Tale Series and especially finding one book about Japanese Story-Tellers only to discover it on the Baxley site, too, since it was yet another Hasegawa publication.  Since some of my readers are storytellers, I suggest the Kyoto University article for its explanation and then read the book on the Baxley site.

In a bit of fact being stranger than fiction, Samurai fighting spiders exist, but these are arachnid fighting clubs with spiders trained to fight each other annually in the southern Japanese town of Kajiki.  (If spiders strike you as creepy, this link is going to being too much.)

The rest of this month I will be sure to give some less well-known stories from Lafcadio Hearn.

Here's my closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

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