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Saturday, June 20, 2009

LAFCADIO HEARN AND KWAIDAN

One of the most fascinating folklore topics that I have encoutered as a storyteller has been the story of Lafcadio Hearn, an American journalist who renounced his citizenship and became a Japanese citizen. Then, he devoted his life to studying (and contributing to) the eerie world of Japanese folklore. Some forty years ago, I found a ragged copy of "Kwaidan" in a used book store and read the entire work overnight. I've never forgotten those four ghost stories, and I remain especially fond of the one about "Hoichi, the Earless." Sometimes, around Halloween, I muster up enough courage to include it in a kind of collection of international spook stories: Irish, German, Native American and Japanese.

The photo that I have posted here is from the 60's movie of "Kwaidan" that has recently been reissued as a DVD. The stories hold up very well. The elements that I find most appealing in this collection are the unique aspects of Japanese horror. Instead of werewolves, mummies, Japanese fans of terror are frightened by: snow maidens, faceless women and foxes. I am wondering if any of my readers know this marvelous collection. If so, please comment.

9 comments:

  1. I've never heard of this but I would dearly love to get to know it. I'm going to have to start hunting around used book places and get Chris Wilcox to see if he can find me a copy.

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  2. Just order the film from Netflex. Chris can probably find you a collection of Lafcadio Hearn.
    The illustration from the film that I have posted here is interesting. That is Hochi and he has all of that religious writing on his face because it makes him invisible to the demon that intends to tear him to pieces. Note that he still has his ears, and also they do not have writing on them.

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  3. Gary,

    A bit of synchronicity that you mentioned this. I haven’t read the collection but recently recorded this film on my DVR. The theatrical style effects and staging are fantastic and the movie transports you into a delightfully weird altered reality. Anybody who loves the stage and old style ghost tales will enjoy this.

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  4. Yes, I remember the shots that look like colored ink poured into clear water. Then, there is the "snow woman," who spares a woodsman, telling him "You must never tell what you have seen..."

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  5. I ordered the book yesterday and I can't wait to get it. I think I'll read the book first and then watch the film.

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  6. David,
    What we need to do is get a copy of the film and convene at my house to watch it. I'm sure Steve and John would show up. Maybe I should just order it from Netflex since my copy is "somewhere in the attic."

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  7. 小泉八雲のKWAIDAN展 翻訳本と映画の世界 (Lafcadio Hearn 'KWAIDAN ... - [ Translate this page ]
    www.matsue-tourism.or.jp/yakumo/kwaidan_exhibition/index.html - Cached2011年6月26日 – 小泉八雲記念館企画展。2011年6月26日(日)-12月25日(日) (Special Exhibition at Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum, Matsue.

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