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

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

Friday, April 12, 2013

Lady Kaguya's Secret: a Japanese Tale

Lady Kaguya's Secret. Art by Jirina Marton. 1997.

This book from Annick Press, which rather oddly does not credit an author or adapter, tells essentially the same bittersweet story as The Moon Princess , but also reveals the origin of the smoke plume issuing from Mount Fuji. Here, the maiden's name  is Kaguya-hime (Radiant Princess) and again she has many suitors whom she rebuffs by setting them impossible tasks, such as bringing her the jewel from the forehead of a dragon, fetching the stone bowl of the Buddha and obtaining a golden bow from the sacred tree of Mount Horai. When the Emperor himself comes for her hand, she must reveal her secret and leave her family forever. Yet, she comes to care for the Emperor and when she departs she has special gifts for her parents and her love.

Jirina Marton has illustrated the book with beautiful oil pastels and the pictures seem to glow with jewel-like tones. There are paintings of serene stillness, such as the couple's home by night, illuminated by the bright full moon, or the maiden Kaguya-hime communing with a bird, but also active scenes, as when a suitor's boat is caught in the middle of a lightning storm, or when the Emperor's Guard falls back in surprise when the Princess' original father is revealed. Kaguya-hime is drawn as lovely, pale and expressive, with compassion in her eyes.

Lady Kaguya's Secret is a pleasing version of this tale to share with a loved one.

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