Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things

For this week's focus on Japanese horror, I chose to read several ghost stories fromKwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn. I found these stories very interesting as a look into old Japanese culture, if not as a very thrilling read.

The stories all read very much like old myths or folk-tales to me, which in a way is what they were. What they didn't feel much like was my somewhat modern and western idea of a ghost story; a story that ends mysteriously and leaves me frightened, or at least a bit nervous. These stories seemed considerably more like explanations of monsters or stories of demons, meant to show what they are like more than to scare readers.

Of course, this most likely had to do with the cultural gap between these ancient stories and I. After all, if I knew about the ghosts of ancient peoples and their tendency of tricking blind musicians into playing for them until they died, perhaps the story about that very event would have been more terrifying. As it was, I simply found it silly that a loophole led to his ears being pulled off.

In fact, the loophole seemed to be a plot point repeated through these stories. From the musicians ears being removed to the vengeful spirit being thwarted before it could even be created (in one of the silliest and most anticlimactic stories I've ever read), it seemed that the climax of a Japanese ghost story revolves around, or is solved by, a silly loophole in an ancient, spiritual rule.

All in all, I found these stories very interesting to read through. I enjoyed taking this look into an old culture different from my own. And they were certainly entertaining to read and occasionally made me giggle. This probably wasn't the original intent of the story, but the fact that I was entertained seems better than nothing.

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