from India include three different kinds of stories:
jatakas or "birth stories" of the Buddha;
animal stories from the Panchatantra tradition; and
Indian fairy tales - which you will probably find to be amazingly
similar to European fairy tales (there are scholars who have
argued that many popular fairy tales of Europe have their
origins in India). Be warned: you will not find any Hindu
mythology in this unit, although the Resources
page provides some Hindu mythology links if you would like
to learn more about that.
Here are some quotes:
When the Bodhisatta reached mid-forest the Demon showed
himself. He made himself as tall as a palm-tree; his head
was the size of a pagoda, his eyes as big as saucers, and
he had two tusks all over knobs and bulbs ; he had the face
of a hawk, a variegated belly, and blue hands and feet. "Where
are you going ?" he shouted. "Stop! You’ll
make a meal for me!" Said the Bodhisatta: "Demon,
I came here trusting in myself. I advise you to be careful
how you come near me."
The king gave him eighty pounds of mustard seed, and
told him to crush all the oil out of it that day, and bring
it next morning to him to the courthouse. "Whoever
wishes to marry my daughter" he said to the prince,
"must first do all I tell him. If he cannot, then I
have him killed. So if you cannot crush all the oil out
of this mustard seed you will die."
The stepmother then said, "To save my life, you
must kill the seven daughters of your first wife, and put
some of their blood on my forehead and on the palms of my
hands, and their death will be my life." At these words
the Raja was very sorrowful; but because he feared to break
his word, he went out with a heavy heart to find his daughters.
He found them crying by the ruins of their mother’s
from Japan also contain a variety of different
types of folktales, including some animal tales and trickster
tales about the magical creature called "tanuki"
(do you remember "Tanooki Mario" from Super Mario
Brothers?). There are also some classic fairy tales - including
some fairy tales where everyone lives happily ever after,
but also some fairy tales that do not end so happily. Most
importantly, you will get a chance to read one of the most
beautiful and famous of all Japanese folktales: the story
of Urashima Taro, a kind of Japanese "Rip Van Winkle".
Here are some quotes:
Quick as lightning the Tanuki not only put on the woman's
clothes, but, as he was a magician, assumed her form as well.
Then he took the wood, kindled the fire, and very soon set
a large dinner before the old man, who was very hungry, and
had forgotten for the moment all about his enemy...
When everything was ready for the feast, and the bride
was dressed in the most beautiful embroidered dress to be
found in Japan, the maids took hold of the helmet to lift
it off her head, so that they might do her hair in the latest
fashion. But the helmet would not come, and the harder they
pulled, the faster it seemed to be, till the poor girl yelled
with pain. Hearing her cries the bridegroom ran in and soothed
her, and declared that she should be married in the helmet,
as she could not be married without it.
Peeping cautiously between the wooden pillars of the
chapel, he saw a troop of hideous cats, dancing furiously,
making the night horrible with their yells. The full moon
lighted up the weird scene, and the young warrior gazed with
astonishment, taking great care to keep still, lest he should
be discovered. After some time he thought that in the midst
of all their shrieks he could make out the words, 'Do not
tell Schippeitaro! Keep it hidden and secret! Do not tell