Searching for the witch's hut : Ohba Minako's rewriting of the mountain crone
May 2, 2013
The mountain crone, or yamamba, is a well-known monster in Japanese folktales. An eerie old woman living in the mountains, she chases down humans and gobbles them up. The yamamba has haunted the Japanese imagination and appears in both pre-modern and modern stories. Ohba Minako (1930-2007), one of Japan most well-respected woman writers, brings back the yamamba as a devoted wife in her short story, "The Smile of a Mountain Witch" (1976). Previous analyses of Ohba's protagonist tend to either reduce her identity to a neat explanation or tritely comment on her complexity. My study, however, explores the ways in which Ohba rewrites the yamamba myth on both the narrative and narratological levels. She not only revises the characters within the tales but the entire structure and tradition of yamamba mythology. This thesis draws mainly from Alicia Ostriker's concept of "revisionist mythmaking" and Kathy Mezei's interpretation of feminist narratology.
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