The Pleasures of Metamorphosis: Japanese and English Fairy Tale Transformations of "The Little Mermaid" (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies) by Lucy Fraser was officially released in June, the latest release in Wayne State University Press's Series in Fairy-Tale Studies.
Okay, I received a review copy of this and I admit although mermaids, Japanese folklore, etc. are not my primary areas of focus of interest lately, this book is fascinating and kept me reading. And really, I find the fascination with Andersen's Little Mermaid, well, fascinating. It has never been my favorite fairy tale, but this book helped me understand the ongoing resonance it has with English and Japanese readers (and viewers). It makes me want to revamp the Little Mermaid annotated tale section on SurLaLune site (which is going to get relaunched someday, hopefully by the end of the year!). In the end, this book is catnip because it does study the story cross-culturally which truly is one of my primary interests in fairy tale studies in general.
The Series in Fairy-Tale Studies continues to impress and capture me. So grateful for it and the opportunity it is providing scholars to publish a wide variety of studies in the field.
Lucy Fraser's The Pleasures of Metamorphosis: Japanese and English Fairy Tale Transformations of "The Little Mermaid" explores Japanese and English transformations of Hans Christian Andersen's 1837 Danish fairy tale "The Little Mermaid" by focusing on pleasure as a means to analyze the huge variety of texts that transform a canonical fairy tale such as Andersen's. Fraser examines over twenty Japanese and English transformations, including literary texts, illustrated books, films, and television series. This monograph also draws upon criticism in both Japanese and English, meeting a need in Western fairy-tale studies for more culturally diverse perspectives. Fraser provides a model for critical cross-cultural fairy tale analysis in her examination of the journey of a single fairy tale across two languages.
The book begins with the various approaches to reading and writing fairy tales, with a history of "The Little Mermaid" in Japanese and English culture. Disney's The Little Mermaid and Studio Ghibli's Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea are discussed as examples that simulate pleasurable physical experiences through animation's tools of music and voice, and visual effects of movement and metamorphosis. Fraser then explores the literary effects of the fairy tale by male authors, such as Oscar Wilde, Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, and Abe Kobo, who invoke familiar fairy-tale conventions and delineate some of the pleasures of what can be painful enchantment with a mermaid or with the fairy tale itself. The author examines the portrayals of the mermaid in three short stories by Matsumoto Yuko, Kurahashi Yumiko, and Ogawa Yoko, engaging with familiar fairy tales, reference to fairy-tale research, and reflections on the immersive experience of reading. Women characters and authors are also hyperaware of the possible meanings of Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" and of the fairy tale itself, furthering the discussion with Nonaka Hiiragi's novel Ningyo-hime no kutsu, and D[di?]'s novel Sento no ningyo-hime to majo no mori, as well as an episode of the science fiction television series Dark Angel. Fraser concludes that the "pleasure" framework is useful for a cross-cultural study of creative engagements with and transformations of a particular fairy tale.
Few studies have examined Japanese fairy-tale transformations to the extent that Fraser has, presenting fascinating information that will intrigue fairy-tale scholars and those wanting to learn more about the representation of pleasure behind the imaginative and fantastical.
About the Author
Lucy Fraser is a lecturer in Japanese at the University of Queensland, Australia. Her research on Japanese and English retellings of fairy tales in literature and popular culture has appeared in Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies, Japan Forum, and Global Manga Studies. She has also published translations of literature by leading writers such as Kawakami Hiromi and Hoshino Tomoyuki and of literary criticism by academics such as Honda Masuko and Kan Satoko.