The Fox’s Window and Other Stories
By Naoko Awa
Translated by Toshiya Kamei
Published by UNO Press
(University of New Orleans Publishing)
In “The Fox’s Window” Kamei brings Naoko Awa’s stories to life for us in English. Many will try to compare Awa’s work to that of other classic fairy tale writers like Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. While some comparisons may be valid because she was no doubt inspired by these writers, Awa has carved out a niche that is all her own, one that is distinctly Japanese.
You can see this distinctness in the way she blends classic and modern settings. Most of our fairy tales are set a long time ago in a place far away; But Awa’s tales blend the provincial, classic, village setting with the modern, with things like apartments, buses, and roller skates which you don’t usually see in fairy tales.
Though there are few pictures, and the few included are in black and white, the stories burst with colorful imagery. The first story “The Sky Colored Chair” is a prime example. A chair maker is trying to teach his daughter, born blind from birth, the color of the sky. A young boy helps him collect this color from a rainbow: “The Paint in the jar gradually became tinted with the hues of various flowers – violet, rodgersia, gentian, dayflower, forget-me-not, bellflower, and hydrangea.” Next he wants to show her the color of flowers. She eventually wishes to know the color of the Sea. Awa vividly portrays how a she comes to see these things.
Many of these stories have no, and need no, moral. They stand on their own as interesting tales. There are a few stories that are a little confusing and end abruptly, and then of course there are some stories that, while they make perfect sense to the Japanese, just don’t resonate with our western sensibilities. Overall though, her stories transcend culture. Not only do they entertain, but they awaken the child within, which is what all fairy tales should do.
Favorite stories: “The Sky Colored Chair”, “The House of Cranes”, and “A Tale of the Evening Sea”. There are many more worthy stories, but these three are on top of my list. Of course if I read the book again I just might pick a new favorite.