"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Monday, March 25, 2013

Japanese Magic Kettles

I can't find a cover picture for Gonbei's Magic Kettle, but I did find this lovely image from Flicker Here

Gonbei's Magic Kettle told by Michiko Nakumura, Illus. by San Murata, 1980.

This is basically the same story I mentioned in the post about Japanese Children's Favorite Stories. It is a bilingual edition in both English and Japanese. In this variation, Gonbei, a farmer, finds a group of bratty kids tormenting a raccoon that they have caught and tied up. He bribes the children to leave the poor beast alone by giving them his sack of rice balls. Afterward, the grateful raccoon promises to make Gonbei a rich man. The creature turns into a kettle, and after some adventures, returns with the well-off Gonbei and the two friends retire together to enjoy their older years.

I am writing about a small paperback book with only grey scale illustrations inside. The cover picture includes modest color. I don't know if it was ever published in another form. The pictures are cute, but readers today are used to full color, and so these would pale in comparison.Still, it is a nice little book, and the final drawing of the raccoon and the old farmer walking away together and holding hands is sweet.

The Furry-Legged Teapot retold by Tim Meyers, Illus. by Robert McGuire, 2007.

In Meyers' Author's Note, he tells the reader that this story, known as "Bunbuku Chagama" is famous in Japan and probably came from medieval times. The Morinji Temple in Tatebayashi (north of Tokyo)is said to have the original teapot. Meyers has a different opinion. :)

The kettle-animal in this tale is a tanuki or raccoon-dog. I am unacquainted with those, so I googled away:

Isn't it cute?
Yoshi the tanuki drives this story; he lives with his family and can't wait to transform himself into another creature or object, as his people do. He is impatient, but sure enough, as he grows older, he's able to change into a butterfly, a rock, a snail, etc and then, to trick the farmer's wife, a kettle! But, whoops, he can't change back, at least not completely. He is kept in a monastery for strangers to look at and he is unable to ask them for help or kindness. Is Yoshi doomed to be a teapot forever? Or will the visiting emperor and his grandson be able to see the truth?

 Robert McGuire lived in Japan for four years, working as a teacher and designer, in addition to illustrating. His acrylic paintings of the tanuki and his family show anthropomorphic beasts standing upright and wearing clothing. The people Yoshi interacts with are realistically drawn and wear shocked expressions when they see a kettle with animal legs. Unlike the other animal-kettles we've read about, Yoshi can't pop his head out, making the hybrid teapot even stranger to see.

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