Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things – Lafcadio Hearn (1914)


Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things – Lafcadio Hearn (1914)


Title: Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things

Author: Lafcadio Hearn

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1914. Reprint of the first edition of 1904, with identical cover.

Condition: Hardcover, cloth. Good. Very slight wear to covers, front hinge very slightly cracked. A few annotations in pencil on back cover. With illustrated frontispiece. Binding tight, text clean, 240pp., app 8″x5″.

About the book (from Wikipedia):

Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, often shortened to Kwaidan, is a book by Lafcadio Hearn that features several Japanese ghost stories and a brief non-fiction study on insects. It was later used as the basis for a movie called Kwaidan by Masaki Kobayashi in 1964.

Kaidan is Japanese for “ghost story”.

Hearn declares in his introduction to the first edition of the book, which he wrote on January 20, 1904, shortly before his death, that most of these stories were translated from old Japanese texts. He also states that one of the stories — Yuki-onna — was told to him by a farmer in Musashi Province, and his was apparently the first record of it, both by his own account and according to the research of modern folklorists. Riki-Baka is based on a personal experience of Hearn’s. While he does not declare it in his introduction, Hi-Mawari — among the final narratives in the volume – seems to be a recollection of an experience in his childhood (it is, setting itself apart from almost all the others, written in the first person and set in rural Wales).

The Story of Mimi-nashi Hōichi
The Story of O-Tei
Of a Mirror and a Bell
Rokurokubi (description of folktale)
A Dead Secret
The Story of Aoyagi
The Dream of Akinosuke

In the last half of the book, Hearn presents collected Chinese/Japanese superstitions and his own personal thoughts on various members of the insect world.

Butterflies: Personification of the human soul.
Mosquitoes: Karmic reincarnation of jealous or greedy people in the form of Jiki-ketsu-gaki or “blood-drinking pretas”.
Ants: Mankind’s superior in terms of chastity, ethics, social structure, longevity and evolution.