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A Study on the Variation Patterns of the Japanese Tale “The Monkey’s Liver”

Si Jun Lee 1

1숭실대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article examines the variation patterns of the Japanese tale “The Monkey’s Liver.” The research covers 24 episodes that have been handed down in different regions of Japan and examines various aspects of the characters and motifs. Versions of “The Monkey’s Liver” can be divided into three groups based on content. The stories in the first group end with failure to acquire a living liver due to the “confession” of an aquatic animal other than a jellyfish. Versions in the second group feature an origin story in which a jellyfish makes a “confession,” fails to acquire a living liver, and ultimately loses its bones. Stories in the third group tell of a turtle’s failure due to a jellyfish’s taunts. These stories also feature an origin story explaining how the jellyfish came to have no bones. Considering that the second group of stories is the largest and that the jellyfish character has the most appearances overall, it is quite understandable why this tale is also called “The Boneless Jellyfish” or “The Errand Jellyfish.” However, the appearance of this third character and the addition of related motifs can be considered a differentiating feature from the Chinese and Korean tales, which only contain land and aquatic animals.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.