UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The monkey and crocodile story in Japan : the presence of an ancient Indian tale among early Japanese narratives Marsh, Elizabeth


This thesis examines the presence of early Indian narrative elements in Japan through an analysis of tale collections and regional Japanese folklore. Focusing on the reception of the widely distributed monkey and crocodile story, the present study aims to elucidate the role of Indian tales within Japan, and will serve to demonstrate the position of Japanese folklore among globally present motifs and tale types. The project discusses literary and oral forms of the story, examining variants among the Indian Jātakas (ca. 3rd c. BCE – 5th c. CE) and Pañcatantra (ca. 300 CE), the twelfth century Konjaku monogatarishū, and nineteen oral retellings recorded from across Japan. Elements characteristic of the three primary literary versions are identified, while also recording transformations, additions, or omissions of thematic elements, as well as core motifs that have remained consistent across all known stories. This analysis demonstrates that Japanese variants of the tale were not drawn linearly from a single Buddhist text, but instead represent a fusion of themes from across various religious and cultural contexts. The present study also provides some explanation as to the extensive dissemination of the story within Japan, identifying characteristics of the tale that facilitated its lasting and widespread promulgation. The study examines similarly themed myths and legends from the indigenous Japanese tradition that provided the foundations for its assimilation into the existing storytelling culture and the integration of characteristically Japanese motifs into the core framework of this imported narrative.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada