Raluca Nicolae (Bucharest University of Economic Studies)
Stopping the Sun in the Sky: Manipulating Time in Japanese Folktales and Legends
Some extravagant stories of time paradoxes deal with the motif of stopping the sun in the sky and, as a result, dilating the duration of the day. The biblical account of Joshua stopping the sun and moon to enable the Israelits to overpower the Canaanites (Joshua 10:12-14) provides a widely-known example of this motif. In Japanese folk tradition this motif of temporal addition is called hi-maneki 日招き (beckoning the sun). The legends revolving around court politics develop this motif into different episodes such as hi-maneki Hachiman日招き八幡 [Hachiman who stopped the sun in response to a worshipper’s prayers], hi-maneki hashi日招き橋 [the bridge of sun beckoning] or hi-maneki dan 日招き壇 [the platform of sun beckoning], related either to the benevolence of Hachiman, the god of war, or to certain places (bridges) or valiant heroes (Sasaki Takatsuna or Minamoto no Yoshiie, also known as Hachiman Tarō). Trying to influence the odds of a battle, the main character prays to the setting sun to stop in the sky so that he might win the combat and the sun does stand still for a while to help him overcome his enemies. Dilating time is, thus, perceived as a creative abuse in the historical narratives of hi-maneki, unlike the folktales focusing on harvesting practices. In the Asahi chōja 朝日長者type, the rich landowner who tries to stop the sun so that his subjects might finish planting the rice in one day faces the harsh consequences of manipulating time as afterwards his rice fields are all changed into rushes. On the other hand, the female character who is pressed by her mother-in-law to finish planting a huge rice field in only one day manages to put an end to the task by beckoning the sun and postponing the sunset, but she drops dead as soon as the planting is over or is found dead in the following morning. This category is ominously entitled yome-goroshi-ta嫁殺し田 [the field that kills the daughers-in-law], or yome no ta 嫁の田 [the daughter-in-law’s field]. Therefore, in asahi chōja or yome no ta legends, the act of reshuffling the time in a random tapestry has tremendous consequences on the individual, whereas at the historical level it is but a legitimized deed that endorses a potential, charismatic leader.