Haruo Shirane and Burton Watson, renowned translators and scholars, introduce English-speaking readers to the vivid tradition of early and medieval Japanese folktales. Taken from seven major anthologies of anecdotal ( setsuwa) literature compiled between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, these dramatic and often amusing stories offer a major view of the foundations of Japanese culture.Out of thousands of setsuwa, Shirane has selected thirty-eight of the most powerful and influential tales, each of which is briefly introduced. Recounting the exploits of warriors, farmers, priests, and aristocrats, and concerning topics as varied as poetry, violence, power, and sex, these texts reveal the creative origins of a range of literary genres, from court tales and travel accounts to noh drama and kabuki. Watson's impeccable translations relay the wit, mystery, and Buddhist sensibility of these protean works, and Shirane's sophisticated analysis illuminates the meaning of the tales, as well as the character of the anthologies. A comprehensive bibliography completes the volume.