Form and Content
Tales from the Bamboo Grove contains Japanese folktales told by the parents of Yoko Kawashima Watkins during her childhood supper times. Gathered in a room with twelve tatami mats and eating from lacquered trays, the author and her siblings treasured the cherished stories passed down by their parents through oral tradition. The book includes an introduction and six tales: “Dragon Princess, Tatsuko”; “The Fox Wife”; “Why Is the Seawater Salty?”; “Yayoi and the Spirit Tree”; “Monkey and Crab”; and “The Grandmother Who Became an Island.” Each tale includes a full-page, black-and-white illustration created with brush and ink on bristol board by Jean and Mou-sien Tseng. The Japanese title of each folktale is incorporated into its accompanying drawing, written by the author in calligraphy.
“Dragon Princess, Tatsuko” tells the story of a lovely young maiden who discovers her beauty and wishes to remain young eternally. She sacrifices her humanness to become a dragon, bringing great emotional turmoil to both she and her mother.
“The Fox Wife” recounts the story of a poor farmer who saves a maiden who has fallen unconscious. After nursing her back to health, she repays the farmer in service, and they eventually marry and have a child. When wife and child fall ill, the husband spends so much time caring for them that he fails to plant his rice crop in a timely manner. The wife performs a miraculous feat to save...
(The entire section is 506 words.)