Taketori Monogatari

So, this afternoon I launched the first chapter of The Hiwau and the Moon Consort on Figment.


I've had so many elements of this story in my brain for weeks that it was relief to finally put the first scene to paper. This story is the sorta sequel to P+FD, as it is in the same world and contains characters from The Princess and the Fox Demon. 

One of the things I was positive I wanted to explore was sibling relationships and rivalries. Family played an important role in P+FD, but it was mostly about children looking up to their parents, such as the relationship Asuka had with her father, or Chirikai with his absentee mom and dad. Chirkai had no siblings, but I enjoyed writing Asuka and Funako's relationship, which I feel unfurled over the course of the story, even though it definitely played second fiddle to Asuka-Chirikai, and Asuka/Chirikai-Parents.

This desire to talk about siblings intersected with several other fiction-writing desires. For almost a year, I have wanted to do a novelization of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (Taketori monogatari), which I translated while studying Classical Japanese. I was intrigued by the relationship between Princess Kaguya, her suitors, and her almost friendship with the tennō. I found myself wondering what would happen if the tennō and Kaguya spent more time together. But such a thing would have been impossible, given the immobility of the tennō. Stuck in his palace and limited to the capital, he couldn't spend much time with Kaguya, or even be there for the big (not) fight at the end of the tale.

Unless. I kept chewing on the unless.

Unless he had a twin. What if the tennō had a twin, and they could switch places to leave the palace and have adventures?

This got me thinking about Dumas's The Man in the Iron Mask. I love The Three Musketeers, and The Count of Monte Cristo is my favorite book. What kind of dynamic would these brothers-twins have? What if one had been hidden, a la Iron Mask?

Finally, I knew that I wanted to have a Moon God. For some reason I cannot fathom, I get excited when I encounter the Japanese Moon God, Tsukuyomi, in my research. Maybe it's because he gets so little screen time. Maybe it's because I have an unfounded theory that he was the primary god of a tribe that was dissed in the traditional written mythology. Anyway, I've always been interested in Tsukuyomi because there's so little to be said about him, despite the importance of the celestial bodies. I want, in my strange way, for the Moon God to have his day.

All these ideas—and others—synthesized to make The Hiwau and the Moon Consort. 



PS: On Reading Taketori Monogatari 
Princess Kaguya being taken away by the heavenly beings. (Ryūkoku Daigaku exhibition)

In 1953, Donald Keene did a translation of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter for Monumenta Nipponica, a Japanese studies journal published by Sophia University.


Kodansha's The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter is my favorite version, although the book is now out of print and prohibitively expensive.  Unless you're willing for spring for a used copy of the Kodansha, I'd recommend signing into JSTOR and reading the Nipponica translation.

That isn't to say other scholars and translators haven't tackled Taketori monogatari, but I can't vouch for them. These are the two I've read and enjoyed. Nowadays the first impulse is to read the Wikipedia article, but I'd say that if you don't know the story, just check out that old Keene translation first. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. It's a little crazy. In a good way.


I hope everyone enjoys The Hiwau and the Moon Consort!