Variations and interpretations of the Japanese religious folk ballad, Sanshō-Dayu, or “Princess Anjyu and Prince Zushiō” (3): re-creation in modern fiction, film, and children’s literature

Wells, Keiko (Articol)

“The Japanese religious folk ballad, Sanshō-Dayu 『山椒大夫』 (Sanshō, the Bailiff or commonly known as Princess Anju and Prince Zushiō), is a combination of two legends, one of a young princess and another of her brother, a prince. The princess sacrifices her life for the prince, while he endures trials to become a man of status. It is a religious story, and describes the origins of the Kanayaki Jizō Bodhisattva statue. Older versions are miracle tales, in which the tortured princess dies and becomes a Bodhisattva, or Buddhist saint. Though no complete original text remains, it is said that the ballad appeared in the 14th century. It belongs to a genre called “sekkyō-bushi,” which was sung and chanted by traveling singers, who were almost always visually impaired. Sekkyō-bushi became popular in medieval Japan and was passed down as a form of religiously-themed entertainment, especially in rural areas. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Sanshō-Dayu was arranged in folk drama forms such as “gidayu” (a chanted theatrical narrative) or “ningyō-jōruri” (puppet plays) and Kabuki (classical dance-and-music drama). The performance versions flourished especially in urban areas. After Japan opened cultural communication with the West in the late 19th century, the story incorporated new values and became part of modern culture. The most famous versions are a novella by MORI Ōgai (1915), and the classic film by Mizoguchi Kenji (1954). This paper examines the evolution of Sanshō- Dayu’s many variations, and analyzes commonalities and differences to clarify the story’s history and legacy. The history of Sanshō-Dayu variations provides a fascinating case study of how a folk narrative can survive centuries, while evolving along with changes in society, economy and media. This paper consists of three sections: Part One, “The Narrative Tradition Kept by Visually Impaired People” (REF/JEF 1-2/2015: 5-27); Part Two, “The Theatrical Tradition in the Puppet Show and Kabuki” (REF/JEF 1-2/2017: 102-118); Part Three, “Re- Creation in Modern Fiction, Film and Children’s Literature” (published hereby). All sections focus on how the heroine and hero are depicted while using Buddhist folklore effectively for character development. The heroine, Anju, is a sacrificial lamb, a virgin mother to her brother Zushiō, and a symbol of compassion. Zushiō, an archetypal hero of a patriarchal feudal society, becomes an orphan, wanders in the wilderness, and finally finds restoration of his royal status by virtue of his courage and divine intervention. The narrative tradition emphasizes the more mythical story of Anju, while the theatrical tradition is more interested in the adventure and human drama of Zushiō’s tale, depicting Anju a powerless human maiden tossed about by a masculine warrior society. Modern fiction and film re-create the tale while emphasizing themes of social equality. They bring the evils of slavery and social oppression to the fore, and propose philosophical solutions. Modern children’s literature emphasizes the tribulations of sister and brother as well as their love and respect for their parents. In conclusion, after close examination of adaptations and changes in the Sanshō-Dayu ballad, this paper attempts to explore Japanese religious sentiments and gender value matrices as well as the nature of narrative traditions in Japan.”

Cuvinte cheie: Buddhist folklore, Children’s literature, Goze-uta, Itako-saimon, Japanese culture, Japanese literature, Kabuki, Mizoguchi Kenji, Mori Ōgai, Narrative performance, Ningyō- joruri, Oral literature, Religious literature, Religious narrative, Sanshō-Dayu, Sekkyō-bushi, Transformation of narrative text, and Visually impaired singers

Revista de etnografie și folclor / Journal of Ethnography and Folklore

2018, nr. 1-2, p. 44-67