Utsubo Monogatari

Utsubo Monogatari

The Utsubo Monogatari (うつほ 物語 – Tale of the Hollow Tree) is a piece of Japanese literature thought to have been authored by Minamoto no Shitagō, although we are unsure if this is true.

Utsubo Monogatari
Copy of the Utsubo Monogatari from 1809.

Composition

Composed in 14 chapters, it is said to be a rather realistic tale, with some sources say it was written between 960-980.1 Another source says more generally it was completed in the 10th century due to it being alluded to in the Pillow Book, Genji Monogatari and Kintōshū.2 The oldest copy still extant dates to 1651 and the style of the narritive changes through out leading to some thinking it was composed by multiple authors. However, the continuity of the plot would suggest there was only one author.

The text is illustrated in emakimono, most notably by Asukabe no Tsunenori with caligraphy by Ono no Michikaze.1

Synopsis

In the tale Kiyowara no Toshikage sets off to China2 but one the way there he is shipwrecked and ends up in an unknown country and proceeds to have many adventures including learning to play the seven stringed koto.1

He eventually returns to Japan with the seven stringed koto and then the story turns to his son Nakatada.2 His son falls in love with a woman called Atemiya but she ultimately marries a local prince and then the tales turns to events of the succession to the throne.1

Footnotes

1. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.
2. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.

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