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"Bride-stealing" and royal power in classical Japanese literature Hasebe, Aki

Abstract

In premodern Japanese literature, we often find episodes that can be described as being about "bride-stealing": a man steals a woman to make her his mate. However, this kind of episode has not been focused on as a literary trope. This kind of episode is a literary tradition which we can trace back to the earliest written works in Japan, such as the Kojiki (721). This thesis aims to find out the connections between these earliest works and Heian fiction and the development of this literary tradition in relation to the trope of "bride-stealing." Turning my attention to the facts that the abducted women are usually related to the royal family, and that the noblemen who successfully execute their abductions seem also to be successful in their political careers after this event, I hypothesize that the concept of the trope of "bride-stealing" includes not only stealing a woman but also a stealing of the imperial power (pkeri) or right to rule. To examine whether this hypothesis is correct, I discuss the trope in the earliest works, the Kojiki and the Nihon shoki (720), and then I examine if my hypothesis applies to the "bride-stealing" episodes in each of the following premodern works: Tales oflse (early 10th century), The Tale of the Lady Ochikubo (ca. 990), The Tale of Genji (early 11th century), The Tale of Sagoromo (late 11th century) and Ariake no Wakare (late 12th century). I also examine the inter-textual relations between the episodes in these works. The episodes I examine seem to be based on the same trope, "bride-stealing," and it does in fact appear that these episodes have the same concept: in order to gain the power to control the monarchy, the protagonists steal certain women. Although its appearance in each episode is not exactly the same, it seems to be certain that all these literary episodes originate in the same "bride-stealing" trope.

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