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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Hachikazuki, a companion story Steven, Chigusa


This thesis is chiefly a translation of and commentary on a medieval Japanese short story, "Hachikazuki," or "The Bowl Girl," which tells of a stepchild's suffering after her dying mother places a bowl on her head in obedience to a divine command. The bowl becomes attached to the girl's head and only falls off when her lover's fidelity requires him to leave home on account of her. The goddess' mercy is revealed when he, the youngest son, is made the family heir, because he is loved by such a beautiful woman. The first three chapters provide historical background and develop the criteria for evaluating the story. They also show why it belongs to a genre different from other literary traditions. The traditional term, otogi zōshi, or "companion stories," is argued for as the most appropriate for the entire genre, because the stories were probably read by one person to provide another with companionship, entertainment, and instruction, a function commonly performed by professional storytellers. The characteristics of the otogi zōshi are then analyzed and seen to be well suited to the way the stories were usually enjoyed. For example, they are short, they grew out of an oral tradition, their focus is on events rather than human psychology, their style is adapted to oral presentation, and they provide religious and moral instruction. Finally, the traditions out of which the otogi zōshi grew reveal, not merely their debts, but their uniqueness as a new genre. Chapter four discusses "Hachikazuki" as an otogi zōshi and draws attention to its finest qualities, such as the skill with which diverse folklore elements are weaved together to provide companionship and religious instruction. The reader is then invited to have someone else read the translation, in order to simulate the medieval practice of reading stories as a way of providing companionship.

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