Animals, Anime, Fairy Tales, Folktales, japanese, Japanese Culture, Legends, literature, Novels

Dogs, Gods, and Monsters in two Contemporary Hakkenden Retellings

A girl hunter and a human-dog hybrid in Fuse: A Tale of a Girl with a Hunting Gun (dir. Miyaji Masayuki).

Submission by Dr. Lucy Fraser

Fraser, Lucy. “Dogs, Gods, and Monsters: The Animal-Human Connection in Bakin’s Hakkenden, Folktales and Legends, and Two Contemporary Retellings“. Japanese Studies. Vol. 38, iss. 1, 2018.

In this article, I delve into a fascinating tradition of legends and folktales from China, Japan, and other parts of Asia which tell of a human woman who must marry a dog or a dog-man (often after the girl’s parents jokingly promise her to the dog, and he takes them seriously).

An example of this kind of tale can be found here.

This article represents some of the interests of this “Cultural Contexts” research group. The dog-husband narrative tradition is not the exclusive property of any particular nation or group of people; in fact, it is an example of how stories often wend their way through different cultures, developing new ideas and adapting to fit new contexts. Different imaginings of dogs also play out in the artwork of these stories, as seen in the images here: these can help us to literally “visualise” connections and change across time and culture.

Cover of Sakuraba Kazuki’s novel Fuse: A Counterfeit Chronicle of the Eight Dogs of the Satomi Clan, by illustrator Konoike Tomoko.

The focus of my research is Sakuraba Kazuki’s novel Fuse: A Counterfeit Chronicle of the Eight Dogs of the Satomi Clan (2010), and the anime movie adaptation Fuse: A Tale of a Girl with a Hunting Gun (dir. Miyaji Masayuki, 2012). Sakuraba’s novel is, in turn, a retelling of (parts of!) an epic historical novel by Kyokutei Bakin, Chronicle of the Eight Dogs of the Satomi Clan of Nansō, published in 106 volumes from 1814 to 1842. And Bakin’s novel itself takes from stories of dog-human marriages, particularly the aforementioned legend as it is told in classical Chinese literature.

There is a huge tangle of different story sources and ideas here; I’m not attempting to identify them all or untangle them. Instead, I am looking at the way ideas and images of the connections between dogs and people cycle through these novels and films. My aim is to use stories of this strange imagined dog-human relationship to get a glimpse into the changing ways people and societies have actually imagined dogs and lived together with them. I find that Sakuraba Kazuki’s 2010 novel makes some innovations; on the other hand,  the 2012 anime adaptation returns to some of the traditions of Bakin’s nineteenth-century story and the earlier Japanese folktales, but also takes up some of the conventions of young adult novels and film today (I compare it to Twilight and Howl’s Moving Castle, among others).

A cover of Kyokutei Bakin’s Chronicle of the Eight Dogs of the Satomi Clan of Nānsofrom the National Diet Library of Japan.

Japanese; dogs; folktales; legends; novels; literature; anime; fairy tales;

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