I just finished Folktales of Japan, edited by Keigo Seki, originally published back in the 1950s. It’s a load of fun. Lots of encounters with ogres, supernatural spouses or children, tales of supernaturally assisted comeuppance, and more.

The collection procedure was to find the most out-of-the-way places possible and solicit stories from the oldest inhabitants, presumably to avoid influence from urban and literary culture. The irony, perhaps, is that the stories turn out to be widespread all over Japan, and clearly connected to similar stories in China, India, Europe, and Africa, going back hundreds of years. Basically, a good story has legs, world-spanning legs.

My other immediate reaction: I feel that I understand Neil Gaiman more. I have a feeling he scours old collections of folktales… his stories and novels belong recognizably to this genre, where the ordinary world is in intimate contact with little-explained (but morally charged) fairies, demons, magic items, and curses, all with the sort of magic that can’t be reduced to D&D rules.

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