Sunday, May 08, 2005

Folklorically Correct

Folklorically. Isn't it a great word? I have to admit that I learned it on the site I linked to in the previous entry. I believe it was in reference to how a western fantasy author's kitsune character was not "folklorically accurate." The webpage would have us believe this folkloric inaccuracy has caused the common misperception that kitsune gain tails as rewards or as a sign of enlightenment.

Which, begs the question, how can you claim something is or isn't folklorically accurate when folklore is a collection of stories? I suppose you could test the concept against concepts common throughout a collection of stories, which is what the author appears to have done. The problem, however, I find in doing that is that suddenly you're not treating them as stories anymore. You're treating them as factual information that can be used to prove or disprove other information.

I believe the argument the author is making is that the concepts and ideas found in actual, documented Japanese folktales are more academically viable than information found in a Western fantasy novel or Japanese comic book.

The academic part of my brain agrees with them. Were you to do a research paper, there's no doubt that as close as you can get to the original source is way more viable than say, what you read in Inuyasha.

However, I would argue, what you read in Inuyasha, is perfectly valid in relation to the universe of Inuyasha. (Inuyasha, if you don't know, is a Japanese comic book series that is written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi. It's been made into a long-running and popular animation—both inside and outside of Japan.)

It's important to distinguish between what was the original context of an idea and what was contributed later. Without knowing the original context, it's next to impossible to know whether you're giving it a new perspective or just reaffirming an old one. You gotta know the rules before you can break them.

I don't see modernization/adaptation to folklore in order to make it work better within a fictional universe as something to be avoided for the simple reason that it breaks from the traditional context. It's fiction, after all.

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