Japanese Tales of Fantasy & Folklore

Ninety Stories of Ghosts, Demons and Other Supernatural Beings from the Konjaku Monogatari

Tuttle Publishing
Translated by Naoshi Koriyama, Bruce Allen, foreword by Karen Thornber
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Supernatural tales from the most famous anthology in all of Japanese literature!

The Konjaku Monogatari Shu is a collection of tales from Buddhist and popular Japanese folklore that was compiled in the twelfth century. The stories in this book tell of fearsome demons, tengu goblins, kitsune fox spirits, flying hermits and gods who suddenly appear out of nowhere to rescue foolish humans. There are tales of vengeful animals, robbers, bandits and murderers, as well as ordinary people from all walks of life.

This volume contains the largest collection of Konjaku Monogatari stories ever translated into English. It presents the low and the high, the humble and the devout, and the flirting, farting and fornicating of everyday men and women.

The ninety tales in this book include:

  • A Clerk from Higo Province Escapes from a Demon's Scheme — A man riding his horse to work loses his way. A woman invites him to rest in her house, promising to help him, but the man soon realizes she is a demon, and flees. He hides in a cave, while the demon woman eats his horse. From deep in the cave comes the voice of another demon, and the man prays to Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, to save him. His prayers are heard, the demons release him, and he devouts himself to a life of piety.
  • Empress Somedono Is Abused by a Tengu Goblin — A beautiful empress is plagued by an evil spirit, but an exorcism by a mystical high priest banishes the spirit. Delighted, her father asks the priest to live with them in the palace, but the priest ends up falling in love with the empress. The only way he can live with himself is by taking the form of a tengu goblin and casting a spell over the empress so that she will give in to his demands.
  • A Fox Whose Ball is Returned Repays a Man's Kindness — A sorceress called to exorcise a haunted house discovers the spirit is a kitsune fox. A beautiful white ball materializes, belonging to the kitsune. A samurai, watching the exorcism, takes it. Desperate, the kitsune begs for its ball back, promising to protect the samurai, who reluctantly, agrees. One night, lost in the dark, the samurai calls on the kitsune for help and is guided safely home.
Contributor Bio

Naoshi Koriyama taught at Toyo University in Tokyo and is now Professor Emeritus. He is the translator of Like Underground Water: The Poetry of Mid-Twentieth Century Japan and numerous other books of verse.

Bruce Allen is Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Seisen University in Tokyo. He has translated several works of the Japanese writer Ishimure Michiko, including her novel Lake of Heaven.

Karen Thornber (foreword) is professor and chair of comparative literature, Harvard University; she is also chair of Harvard's Regional Studies East Asia Program and holds an additional faculty appointment in Harvard's Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Her books include Empire of Texts in Motion: Chinese, Korean, and Taiwanese, Transculturations of Japanese Literature and Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures.