Some of the oldest examples of English-translated Japanese literature have been found online at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County website. One is called “The Goblin Spider” a translation of an older Japanese fable released by Tokyo-based publisher Hasegawa and translated into English by Lafcadio Hearn in 1899.
The short story follows a brave samurai who travels to a haunted shrine to fight off the eponymous goblin spider. It’s accompanied by many illustrations in picture book fashion. If old-school Japanese art is your thing, however, you’ll definitely want to check this out.
The entire story is available to download in PDF format from the library’s website here. The copyright has long since expired, so feel free to download and share.
The table of contents after the story lists over 20 other Japanese fables, such as “Momotaro or Little Peachling,” “The Battle of the Monkey and the Crab,” and “Urashima, the Fisher Boy.” Digging further through the translator’s page on the library website reveals a wealth of material.
If old-school Japanese art is your thing, then you’ll definitely want to check this out.
Lafcadio Hearn had written several books about interpretation and translation of Japanese texts. Many other Japanese folklore and fables, published in a stand-alone fashion similar to “The Goblin Spider,” are also available on the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County website. A compilation of all of the Japanese fables that he has translated is also availabe. Unfotunately, this one lacks the traditional Japanese illustrations. But for all of you traditional readers, you can check the compilation out here.
It’s a great opportunity to learn more about Japanese folklore. You can also learn quite a bit about the foreign perspective of Japan in the 19th century. All of these works are in the public domain, so feel free to download and share as much as you can. Let’s get the word out about these relics.