Gergana Petkova (Sofia University)
The Night in Japanese Fairy Tales
A Japanese proverb says that if a fairy tale is told at day-time, the walls around will tremble and fall apart. And if still one needs indeed to tell that story, then s/he at least should make the room darker. Fairy tales are very sensitive in regard to “day” and “night”, and not only as far as story-telling process is concerned. About 35 tales from Keigo Seki’s Index of Japanese folktales (which makes about a fifth of all fairy tales), define evening or night as setting’s timeframe. And night is not simply a background motif, but a very important part of the plot.
The present work is based on over a ten-year long research in the field of Japanese fairy tales and offers a folkloristic perspective to the topic of timing day and night in premodern Japan. It is composed as a brief account of night motif and its representations in Japanese fairy tales, among which the evening as a portal between worlds (when the boundary between the worlds of human beings, nature and the supernatural are most trespassable); the night as a meeting point with the supernatural (animals disguised as human beings appear on the threshold of protagonists or protagonists meet supernatural beings outdoors); staying overnight and marriage consequences; manipulativity of time (fox and badgers as time- and reality manipulators and their their special skills to make the day look like a night). Special attention will be drawn to the night- and day-dreaming, dreams (time- and space-travel function) and wish-fulfillment.