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341 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1980
Royall Tyler's Japanese Tales boasts a wide array of folktales from medieval Japan. First, Tyler provides a helpful pronunciation guide that gives less familiar readers an understanding of how names are pronounced within the texts. Next, the editor presents a detailed introduction, which explains how the world of the tales differed dramatically from the contemporary world. In fact, Tyler's introduction is the most helpful and illuminating due to its careful emphasis of the ways that these two world differ, such as the fact that servants were a constant presence for the most classes in medieval Japan: "The writers of the time did not insist on this since it was obvious to them...but we need to be reminded" (xxviii). Tyler's introduction also offers a brief historical contextualization with a wide variety of details on the many themes covered within the texts. Finally, Tyler gives his explanation of the patterns of the book and the arrangement of the tales.
There is a wide range of "types" of tales present within Royall Tyler's Japanese Tales. The tales range from those concerning the laity to the esoteric. Similarly, the collection of tales illuminate a spectrum of the supernatural realm of magic, demons, and paradise to the mundane world of desire, gender, and diarrhea. Of course, many of these tales also blur the lines of these supposed binaries, highlighting how "Medieval Japan was as steeped in religion as medieval Europe, and [how] people thought in religious terms far more often than nowadays" (xxix). As a translator, Royall Tyler skillfully and subtly provides context by emphasizing key facets of the medieval world so that modern readers are able to effortlessly enjoy these texts.