Story Time Reviews: A Japanese Fairy Tale

Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale told on the Myths and Legends podcast, episode 161 titled Japanese Folk Lore: Karma.  The orginal story, “The Old Woman Who Lost her Dumpling,” may come from Hearn, Lafcadio, translator. Japanese Fairy Tales: The Boy Who Drew Cats. Tokyo: T. Hasegawa, 1898. This podcast includes two stories. “The Old Woman who lost her dumpling” is the first story told on the podcast. Duration 16 minutes and 14 seconds. 

The Story

Image of a page of from the story "The Old Woman Who Lost Her Dumpling" on lynettemburrows.com for her Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale post.

Making Dumplings Making Dumplings. The old women liked to make dumplings and laugh. One day she drops a dumpling to the floor. It rolls through a small hole in her home’s floor. She reaches into the hole and the dirt beneath her cracks open. She drops. She survives a long drop and though the land is weird, she sees her dumpling rolling away and she runs after it. She stops and catches her breath leaning against a Jizo-san statue. (Weiser gives us an aside at this point explaining the relevance and meaning of a Jizo-san statue in Japanese culture.) The statue warns her not to follow her dumpling because a wicked Oni lives down there, who eats people. But the old woman doesn’t heed his warning. 

True to it’s fairy tale genre there’s a lesson learned. 

The Author

Image of Lafcadio Hearn, translator of Japanese Fairy Tales on lynettemburrows.com for her Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale post.

Unfortunately the podcast does not identify where the story came from nor who the author was. I made an assumption that that the story was from Hearn, Lafcadio’s translation Japanese Fairy Tales: The Boy Who Drew Cats

From  Encyclopaedia Britannica online, “Lafcadio Hearn, also called (from 1895) Koizumi Yakumo, (born June 27, 1850, Levkás, Ionian Islands, Greece—died Sept. 26, 1904, Ōkubo, Japan), writer, translator, and teacher who introduced the culture and literature of Japan to the West.”

Another assumption I make is that Hearn translated this story as told by storytellers and not the original author. 

Hearn did the world a great service by translating many works, particularly those of Japan. However, since he’s not the author of the story it’s not appropriate to give more of his biography here. If you wish to learn more, read this.

The Voice Talent

From the Myth and Legends podcast description: Jason Weiser tells stories from myths, legends, and folklore that have shaped cultures throughout history. Some, like the stories of Aladdin, King Arthur, and Hercules are stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories you might not have heard, but really should. All the stories are sourced from world folklore, but retold for modern ears.

These are stories of wizards, knights, Vikings, dragons, princesses, and kings from the time when the world beyond the map was a dangerous and wonderful place.

Weiser’s short bio includes this line:  “In addition to history and world folklore, he’s a fan of his wife and child, dachshunds, hiking, Batman, and cake (the dessert, but the band’s ok, too).”

Weiser’s voice is pleasant and his story telling engaging. 

My Opinion

I was not prepared for Weiser’s storytelling presentation style. It took me by surprise when he “interrupted” the story for an aside about the Jizo-San statue. Despite needing to adjust my expectations, I enjoyed the story and Weisner’s interpretation of the fairy tale.

He related this rather old story with some modern word choices. For me, that did not enhance the story. Those asides and modern expressions pulled me out of the story. I believe I would have enjoyed the story more if he’d given it a more traditional presentation. YMMV

His style became less intrusive as he got further into the story.

My biggest disappointment is that he did not identify where the story came from, who the author was, or even title the story. This is a major flaw in my opinion.

Conclusion

I’m glad I listened to the story. It’s sweet, engaging, has mystical lands and creatures, and the ending allows the listener to make an interpretation as to the meaning of the story. (Hint, it may be deeper than it appears.)

I am only slightly familiar with the Eastern story telling traditions and this story definitely made me want to learn more. And now that I’m aware of the style of the podcast, Myths and Legends, I will probably listen to more of these tales. However, if the telling of the stories continues to ignore details of the story title, the author’s name, or some indication of the story’s origin–I will recommend the podcast for further listening.

Did you enjoy Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale? Have you missed past episodes of Story Time Reviews? Check out Story Time Reviews Operation Haystack or Story Time Reviews The Last Question. Do you listen to stories? I hope you find Story Time Reviews helpful. Please, share your favorite stories in the comments. 

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