The Sacred Tree

The Sacred Tree

The Sacred Tree

The Sacred Tree

Excerpt

The Tale of Genji was probably written about 1001-1015 A.D. We know the titles of a good many earlier stories and romances. About a dozen are mentioned in the Tale itself. But only three actual works of fiction survive, The Bamboo-cutter, The Hollow Tree ('Utsubo'), and the Room Below Stairs ('Ochikubo'). Besides these there are a few works which, though belonging to a rather different category, throw some light on the development of fiction and will be mentioned in due course.

The Bamboo-cutter dates from about 860-870. It is a harmless little fairy-story. An old peasant finds a minute child in a bamboo-stem. She grows up into a woman of surpassing beauty, is courted by numerous lovers to whom she sets a series of grotesque tasks which they entirely fail to perform. Finally celestial messengers arrive and carry her away to the sky.

The Hollow Tree cannot be much earlier than 980. No doubt in this interval of more than a hundred years much was written that is now lost. But it cannot be said that The Hollow Tree shows much sign of progress. As it exists to-day it is a very long book--more than half as long as Genji. But it is not quite certain whether, of the fourteen chapters which we now possess, any but . . .

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