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

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

More Momotaro, Peach Baby

Two more books about the legendary Momotaro. See Super Fruit Babies .

The Adventure of Momotaro, The Peach Boy Retold by Ralph F. McCarthy, Illus. by Ioe Saito, 1993.

This is Momotaro's story told in Japanese and English verse. The details are the same as in the Fruit Babies post. Momotaro is born from a peach and later,in the company of a dog, bird and monkey,  defeats pesky demons that have been terrorizing his village. The pleasure here comes from the verse, which gives the characters a chance to express themselves and be slightly less flat. When Grandmama spies the huge peach floating down the river, she entices it:

"'The water's bitter over there!" she sang.
"It's made of fishes tears!
The water's sweeter over here!'
Now, peaches have no ears..."
The verses are also subtly funny. When Momotaro bests the Demon King, we are told:
"Our hero dodged about so fast, it made the king's head spin.
At last he fell (from dizziness) and landed on his chin.
Momotaro jumped on his back and gave his arm a twist.
'Surrender, fiend!' he cried. The king said:

'Well, if you insist!'"

This is an enjoyable version of the story. McCarthy also retold The Moon Princess .

The art by Ioe Saito, painted more than fifty years ago, is outstanding. Vibrant, action filled pictures bring the story alive. Momotaro's parents look joyful throughout, well pleased with their serendipitous son.

Here, Momotaro is born:

From myopera.com
And here, he meets the dog:

From myopera.com

I don't have a picture to show, but this book has the scariest  looking demons I've yet seen in a Japanese folktale. They are realistically built like a man, but have skin tones that range from bright white to peacock blue to brilliant red. Mops of hair, horns, fangs and eyes like the wolf creature in Michael Jackson's Thriller video complete their looks. They're creepy!

Momotaro and the Island of the Ogres Retold by Stephanie Wada, Paintings by Kano Naganobu, 2005.

"Momotaro-san, Momotaro-san
Please give me one of those
Millet dumplings you're carrying.
I'd gladly give one to you,
If you'll go along with me
To conquer the ogres!"
Japanese folk song preceding the story

This is the longest and most detailed version of this story that I've read. Momotaro is described as a gift from the gods and is said to be the strongest, bravest man alive. An anecdote of him defeating a charging bear shows this.  He is also the handsomest in the countryside, is wise and kind, and is loved by all. His animal companions are rather vicious and constantly fight on the way to meet the ogres, and Momotaro has to remind them to work together for the common good.
Another addition is that among the vanquished ogres are women, children and the elderly. The king ogre not only admits defeat, but agrees that his people will give up their demonic ways and become fishermen.
The Postscript of the book discusses the Momotaro story's popularity with both children and adults and talks about similar Japanese tales and another boy hero, the mighty Kintaro.

According to the book's Postscript, Kano Naganbou was a Japanese artist who lived from 1775-1828 and painted the illustrations of Momotaro's tale on handscrolls. He used ink, colors and gold on silk. He belonged to the Kano school of painting and became an official painter to Japan's military government, which was considered an honor. Apparently, the story of Peach Boy was popular even before Naganbou painted his scrolls, and there was at least one earlier illustrated version!

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