Yamato Monogatari (大和物語)
Yamato Monogatari (literally, "Tales of Yamato") is a story of the Middle Ages of Japan, written in the Heian period. Yamato Monogatari is an uta-monogatari (poem-tale) based on the poems composed by the members of the aristocratic society. It is presumed that this literary work had already been accomplished by about 951. From its property as an uta-monogatari, the characters in the story were often written by using their real name, official position or title or nyobo-na (name as a court lady), referring to certain existing people specifically.
It is believed that this literary work was influenced by "Ise Monogatari" (literally, "Tales of Ise," an uta-monogatari in the mid Heian period).
The title of this literary work 'Yamato Monogatari' is also believed to have been named after 'Yamato Province,' following 'Ise Monogatari' named after 'Ise Province.'
On the other hand, there is a theory that the title of this literary work was named after the author, a nyobo (a court lady) named Yamato.
ARIWARA no Shigeharu and the Emperor Kazan were purported to be the authors of "Yamato Monogatari" previously, but the truth has not been found out yet. It seems that a nyobo serving near the Emperor Uda was concerned with the production of this literary work, because it includes a lot of subjects on the Emperor Uda and his surrounding people.
Theory (2): The author was ARIWARA no Shigeharu and revised by Emperor Kazan. Theory (3): The author was Emperor Kazan. Theory (4): The author was a poetess Ise.
(This theory is based on the relationship between the Emperor Uda and Ise.)
The common accepted theory suggests that this literary work consists of 173 chapters in total. It includes about 300 poems. However, without setting a specific leading character like "Ise Monogatari," this literary work collects narratives relating to waka poems and uta-monogatari consisting of a series of poems composed by real people like emperors, nobles, Buddhist priests in those days, each of which is compiled in a chapter.
Content and composition
The first half through the 146th chapter consists of poems composed around the period when the literary work was accomplished, as well as commentaries made by the Imperial family and nobles on the origin of those poems. The latter half consists of old folklore including poems whose theme is an encounter with others through tragic love, separation, reunion and so on, having strong characteristics of narrative elements. It includes 'a legend of Ikuta-gawa River' (the 147th chapter) with a story about a young lady who committed suicide by throwing herself into Ikuta-gawa River for taking to heart the propositions of marriage from two men, as well as 'a legend of Ubasute-yama Mountain' (the 156th chapter).
The literary work was strongly influenced by "Ise Monogatari," which is suggested in the matter that the same story as 'Tsutsuizutsu' (curb of a well) included in "Ise Monogatari" is also included in "Yamato Monogatari."
Furthermore, it is supposed that "Yamato Monogatari" may have some relations with "Gosen Wakashu" (selected collection of Japanese poetry) and "Mitsune's Poetry Book" compiled by OSHIKOCHI no Mitsune, because some poems in these books appear in "Yamato Monogatari."
The main characters
Teiji no in (Emperor Uda)
Toshiko (wife of FUJIWARA no Chigane)
Gen no myobu
The Princess Katsura
Shikibukyo no miya (the Highness of Ceremonial, Imperial Prince Atsuyoshi, who is already deceased in the work)