Tales from the Bamboo Grove reflects the values of the Kawashima household and—in a broader sense, of Japanese culture—as handed down through oral tradition. Good versus evil is the underlying theme of many of the stories, such as “Monkey and Crab,” and “Why Is the Seawater Salty?” Good wins in the end and evil is punished: The greedy older brother drowns at sea as a direct result of his avarice, and the sly monkey is crushed, pinched, burnt, and stung by the other characters in the story as a punishment for stealing the crabs’ persimmons. Reflecting harsh consequences for evil deeds, the tales nevertheless reveal the willingness to forgive within Japanese culture. After the monkey is punished, confesses, and asks Mrs. Crab for forgiveness, he is allowed to live with the others in peace, and harmony returns to the community. These tales reveal the shame that selfish deeds bring in Japanese culture and the importance of honesty, fairness, and harmony within the community.
Hard work and loyalty to family are other important values reflected in these Japanese tales. In both “Yayoi and the Spirit Tree” and “The Fox Wife,” the main characters devote themselves completely to the service to their loved ones. Although both characters are materially poor, their selfless devotion is miraculously rewarded, and they receive material blessings to meet the physical needs of their family. In contrast, the main character in “Dragon...
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