Thursday, December 15, 2011

Family Tree compiled and edited by Johanna Johnston & Murry Karmiller

I am finding so many treasures as I'm weeding the 800s.  People. Go to your library and rescue a book. Check it out and give it a circulation statistic in the system.  I know you've got your e-reader, but do this for me. Okay?  There are librarians out there who weed purely on circ stats (okay, okay, in a small branch library that may be appropriate) but stuff like this needs to stick around, even if it was published back in 1967 and doesn't go out the door much.

From Family Tree: An Anthology of the World's Most Distinguished Fiction and Nonfiction about Family Relationships, with Sources Ranging from the Bible to the New Yorker in the section entitled "Mothers and Daughters" a selection by Japanese writer Lafcadio Hearn:

Long ago, at a place called Matsuyama, in the province of Echigo, there lived a young samurai husband and wife whose names have been quite forgotten. They had a little daughter.

Once the husband went to Yedo,--probably as a retainer in the train of the Lord of Echigo. On his return he brought presents from the capital,--sweet cakes and a doll for the little girl (at least so the artist tells us), and for his wife a mirror of silvered bronze. To the young mother that mirror seemed a very wonderful thing; for it was the first mirror ever brought to Matsuyama. She did not understand the use of it, and innocently asked whose was the pretty smiling face she saw inside it. When  her husband answered her, laughing, "Why, it is your own face! How foolish you are!" she was ashamed to ask any more questions, but hastened to put her present away, still thinking it to be a very mysterious thing. And she kept it hidden many years,--the original story does not say why. Perhaps for the simple reason that in all countries love makes even the most trifling gift too sacred to be shown.

But in the time of her last sickness she gave the mirror to her daughter, saying, "After I am dead you must look into this mirror every morning and evening, and you will see me. Do not grieve." Then she died.

And the girl thereafter looked into the mirror every morning and evening, and did not know that the face in the mirror was her own shadow,--but thought it to be that of her dead mother, whom she much resembled. So she would talk to the shadow having the sensation, or, as the Japanese original more tenderly says, "having the heart of meeting her mother" day by day; and she prized the mirror above all things.

At last her father noticed this conduct, and thought it strange, and asked her the reason of it, whereupon she told him all. "Then," says the old Japanese narrator, "he thinking it to be a very piteous thing, his eyes grew dark with tears."

That is some good storytelling there.  I see my mother in myself.  I see myself in my daughters.  I love that parts of us are a reflection of our loved ones.

Notice how the father was not a dynamic character in this story, though he gets all the direct quotes.  At least I don't think so, do you? He laughs at the mother's foolishness, he's moved to tears, but not because he's touched rather because he finds his daughter piteous.  Good job with the diction, Lafcadio Hearn.  I've never heard of you before perusing this anthology, but I want more!

<I put this on my "to-be-read" list in Goodreads and plan to come back to it.>


  1. That is a good story. Please keep sharing as you find more forgotten jewels in the 800s!

  2. How interesting -- I didn't realize that some smaller libraries weed out based solely on circulation stats!

  3. Oh don't worry, Éire, it's endless. I'm only in the 808s!

    @TheBookGirl--usually if the small library is part of a larger system that has the book, they'll let a book go based entirely on circ stats. Sadly, small libraries have to be pretty ruthless, there's just no room.

  4. That touched me. I'v written down the name of this and an going to see if our library has it. If not.... Thanks for sharing!

  5. I know--I loved that passage, too. If they don't have this book at your library, they may have the collected works of Lafcadio Hearn. Most likely it would be included in something like that, too.