Gateway to the Classics: Fairy Tales of Old Japan by William E. Griffis
Fairy Tales of Old Japan by  William E. Griffis

Front Matter


[Series Page]


The dragon-fishes, taking the ship's cables in their mouths, towed them forward.

[Title Page]

[Copyright Page]


"Open Sesame"

In the old feudal days of Japan, a knight or gentleman riding on horseback within city limits was always preceded by a groom, who ran ahead and shouted to the people to get out of the way, warning the children at play, lifting the babies out of danger, and thus making a clear track for the rider who followed him. His bare back was tattooed with wonderful figures of heroes, dragons and the many strange creatures that dwell in fairy-land. Indeed, when I lived in Japan I was first attracted into the wonder-world of the people by studying the legends and marvels thus pictured on human skin. Thence I went to the flower shows and tableaux, by which, in living blooms and ingeniously blended colors, the florists of Nippon set forth the national lore. My studies were more advanced and my delight greater when, in the art and language, new doors were opened into the treasure chambers of "The Country Between Heaven and Earth."

The stories in this little volume are the direct result of what I saw and studied through these inviting doors. Some were suggested by native custom, and artists' pictures, while others were spun from my own brain. But all of them, I feel sure, reflect the spirit of Old Japan. "The Fire-Fly's Lovers," "The Child of the Thunder," "Little Silver's Dream," "Lord Cuttle-Fish's Concert," "Lord Long-Legs' Procession," and "The Gift of Gold Lacquer," exist in no Japanese text. They were suggested by what I saw of the lovely, the comic, or the pompous side of life in a Daimio's Castle. Several of the others have been adapted from native legends and operas. Such old friends as "The Tongue-Cut Sparrow," "The Ape and the Crab," "The Two Frogs," and "The Idol and the Whale," are partly folklore, and partly of definite authorship.

As for the Japanese names and phrases, I think you will have no trouble with them, if you will remember that a  is pronounced as in father, ai  as in aisle, e  as in prey, ei  as in weigh, o  as in bore, and u  as in rule, or as in boot. Thus, Fukui sounds as if spelled Foo-koo-ee, Benkei as Benkay, Rai as rye, etc.

So, "o idé nasari"  (please, honorable one, enter) as they say in Japan.
W. E. G.

Ithaca, N. Y., April, 1908.



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