Lafcadio Hearn’s Japonisms

After seeing a beautiful book at a friend’s house, I found myself perusing the work of Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek journalist born from an Irish surgeon and raised in Dublin after his 6th year. Lafcadio went to Japan for the first time in 1889 and was then known as Koizumi Yakumo. He collected several […]

After seeing a beautiful book at a friend’s house, I found myself perusing the work of Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek journalist born from an Irish surgeon and raised in Dublin after his 6th year. Lafcadio went to Japan for the first time in 1889 and was then known as Koizumi Yakumo. He collected several legends and ghost stories, in books such as Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1904) and Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894).

The book is illustrated by Benjamin Lacombe, a French illustrator whom I already mentioned in my Alice in Wonderland series (particularly the one post about the birds found in the pool of tears) and it’s absolutely awesome: it’s followed by a second one, less focused on ghosts and more focused on other kinds of creatures.

As any collection of folklore, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things is a controversial book: some stories were probably collected on the field and sometimes his retelling is the first written account we have of that tradition, such as the tale with the Yuki-onna (I talked about this creature during my Winter Stories Advent Calendar last year); other times, the tales are original stories by Hearn himself and based on his own experiences, such as Riki-Baka and Hi-Mawari.

This is the complete list of stories:

  • The Story of Mimi-nashi Hōichi;
  • Oshidori;
  • The Story of O-Tei;
  • Ubazakura;
  • Diplomacy;
  • Of a Mirror and a Bell;
  • Jikininki;
  • Mujina;
  • Rokurokubi;
  • A Dead Secret;
  • Yuki-Onna;
  • The Story of Aoyagi;
  • Jiu-Roku-Zakura;
  • The Dream of Akinosuke;
  • Riki-Baka;
  • Hi-Mawari;
  • Hōrai.

Since I’m writing a gothic novel that involves Japan, I’m taking a heavy look into tales such as these. I’ve decided to take a deep dive into some of these stories and I’ll do so in the days to come.

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