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Jeﬀ Hicks March 1, 2012
Momotaro is a classical japanese folktale painting Momotaro’s rise from child to lord. The young hero archetype is employed throughout the story to portray Momotaro’s as a ﬁrm leader whose humble origens give him a reserved demeanor. We see many parallels to the storytelling techniques found in Momotaro to other Japanese folklore, notobly the story of Issun Boshi, the one inch warrior, and Kintaro, the golden boy. The elements of unnatural birth, growth, departure from home and subsequent return after a heroic journey is a common theme in the Japanese folklore tradition, and raise certain expectations for the protagonist. The reader expects him to be driven in his resolution to fuﬁll some higher destiny, yet reserved and well mannered due to his life amoung commoners, and in this sense, living a lifestyel complimentary to Confucian ideals. It is this humble nature despite unusual or superior ability that characterizes many young male protagonists in Japanese mythos. Both Issun Boshi and Momotaro open on a respectful couple wanting to conceive but unable to have a child. The couple prays to their deity, and are rewarded with a remarkable child born under unusual circumstances. The often supernatural origen of the boy signals a indicates a destiny for the child, though by his birthd he is to be raised by commoners. In both cases, the baby is named after it’s mystical characteristic. In this story, Momotaro is born of a peach, a rather unassuming and docile fruit. It symbolizes a peaceful, respectful orgin. Once the origen narrative is completed, the story quickly moves on to the next dialogue. The raising of the child is so unremarkable, that it is often skipped entirly and left to the reader. Sazanami’s account of Momotaro condenses his formative years to a simple ”Well! Time passes quickly! and Peach-Boy was ﬁfteen years old.” What is most important is that the young hero is to be raised in a completly undistiguished household, and will live a modest lifestyle. In both of these japanese myths, Momotaro and Issun Boshi leave home to parents who are reluctant to see them go, but parents who are understanding. In both of these graduation scenes, the protagonist is polite, respectful, and apologetic for having to leave. This emphasises the values that these young heros have inherited from their unassuming upbringing; a respect for elders, and a understanding of ﬁlial piety, both concepts that draw inﬂuence from Confucism. In addition, Momotaro’s parents leave him with three millet dumpings– the food of a commoner, but claimed by Momotaro to be ”the best millet dumplings in Japan.” 1
The Japanese folklore gives an exempliary picture of how a young man should behave according to confucism principles. whicic is contrasted against his often hotheaded compatriots. and we expect Momotaro to have these desireable and honorable qualities. 2 . The growing hero archetype mukashibanashi is a standard for young children. We see similar humbleness in Issun Boshi when he asks a lord to be his retainer.Momotaro shows an exceptional humbleness and understanding. Momotaro’s level headed nature allows him to mediate conﬂicts between the spotted dog and the monkey. and its message is simple: that great rewards in life can be found through hard work and respectfullness. This humility of the protagonist is characteristic feature of this genre of Japanese folklore. and we see his consideration and civility when he gives the ogres a chance to stand down.