Jump to content

The Stonecutter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"The Stone-cutter" is a supposed Japanese folk-tale published by Andrew Lang in The Crimson Fairy Book (1903), taken from David Brauns [de]'s Japanische Märchen (1885). However, the story has been pointed out to closely resemble the "Japanese Stonecutter" parable in Dutch novelist Multatuli's Max Havelaar (1860), which is in turn a reworking of a story written by Wolter Robert baron van Hoëvell aka "Jeronimus".(1842)

The tale is closely related to the themes of The Fisherman and His Wife, a well known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.

In the legend, a poor stone-cutter craves to become a rich man, then a prince; his wishes are granted in turn by a mountain spirit. He then enviously desires to become the sun, impervious to heat; then clouds, undaunted by the sun; then the mountain, which withstands the rain which falls from the clouds. But when a stone-cutter starts chipping away at him, he wants to revert to being a man, and comes to the realization that he is satisfied with his station in life as a humble stone-cutter.

Textual notes[edit]

"The Stone-cutter" was translated into English by Andrew Lang in The Crimson Fairy Book (1903), taken from Japanische Märchen und Sagen collected by David Brauns [de] (Leipzig, 1885).[1][2]

A large-print, illustrated version "The Stonecutter" by Gerald McDermott was published in 1975.[3]

Dutch parable[edit]

Brauns's tale closely follows the "Japanese Stonecutter" parable[6] in Dutch author Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker)'s novel Max Havelaar (1860).[7] It was translated into English by Baron Nahuijs in 1868.[8]

Multatuli's parable, in turn, was an adaptation of the story written by Wolter Robert baron van Hoëvell under the pen name "Jeronimus" and published in the Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch-Indië (1842).[5]

Dutch author Roby Bellemans [vi] has also published a retelling of Multatuli's story, translated into English as "And then also that Wish Came True"[9][10] [a]


AT type[edit]

According to the Aarne-Thompson classification system of fairy tales, The Stonecutter is of tale type 555, "(The) Fisherman and his Wife ", represented by the corresponding Grimms"' tale.[7][11]

The morals of such stories recommend against trying to be anything but yourself and to be careful what you wish for while embodying the spirit of the saying "the grass is always greener on the other side".[citation needed]

Historical remarks[edit]

That the tale was related to the Grimms' fairy tale The Fisherman and His Wife was remarked on by Felix Liebrecht in an 1885 review of Brauns's book.[12]

And even before Brauns's German-translated version appeared, Charles Wycliffe Goodwin noted in 1875 that "The Japanese Stone-cutter" from the Dutch Novel was similar to the Grimms' tale.[b][13]

Authentic Japanese analogues[edit]

Goodwin also inquired as to the (Japanese) authenticity of the tale, and discovered that while no Japanese tale of the kind was in print, many versions continued to be orally told during his time. He printed one variant obtained thorough informants entitled "The Story of the Ambitious Mice" which paralleled it to a large extent: the mice attempt to marry their daughter to the sun, the cloud, the wind, and the wall, until the last potential groom complains he is vulnerable to the mice gnawing him, and they marry the daughter to her own kind.[13] Japanese sources the legend is said to be European, and the stonecutter's name is given as Hans.[citation needed].

Chinese versions[edit]

Chinese folklorist Ting Nai-tung [zh] (Ding Naitong) who catalogued The Type Index of Chinese Folktales noted that there are Chinese tales of composite nature with components of the ATU 555 type.[14]

Russian analogues[edit]

Alexander Pushkin wrote the verse "The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish", considered to be derived from Grimms' tale disseminated among the Russian populace,[15][16] so it is of course another parallel.

Substantially similar to Pushikin is "The Goldfish" from Alexander Afanasyev's collection of Russian wonder-tales.[17] It is "The Goldfish" (Guterman's translation ) which classed as AT 555 in Stith Thompson's own anthology.[18][19]

"The Goldfish" has been used in comparative Poppovian analysis opposite the Grimms' tale and the Japanese Stone-cutter story.[20]

As an Asian tale[edit]

Some commentators (such as those from the children's education field) take the tale at face value as an Asian tale. The story of the Stonecutter is seen as a prime example of cyclical thinking in Eastern philosophy.[21]

While the similar cumulative tale The Fisherman and His Wife is explicitly moralist in tone, The Stonecutter's lesson proceeds from a more philosophical viewpoint. At the end, the stonecutter simply realises that his greedy longings are futile because power is relative (compare: food chain). The fisherman's wife however has no end to her ambition, and keeps asking for more influence; first nobleman, then queen, then empress, then pope, until at last she wants to become God. The magic fish then punishes her [ blasphemous ] greed by sending her back to her poor hut (compare "hubris" in Greek mythology.)

The Stonecutter's central theme is reflected in the popular hand game paper, rock, scissors, which also has its origins in East Asia.

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ There is also a Vietnamese translation Và sau đa mà ao ước đó cũng thành hiện thực, by Thuy Tien Le.
  2. ^ The Proceedings of the Asiatic Society for 18 January 1875 to 30 June 1875, Volume III, Part II, not published until 1885.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lang (1903), pp. 192–197.
  2. ^ Brauns (1885), pp. 87–90 (Fraktur font)
  3. ^ McDermott, Gerald (1975). The Stonecutter: A Japanese Folk Tale. Viking Press. ISBN 067067074X.
  4. ^ Oostrum, Duco van (1995), "2 Sneezes and Lies: Female Voices in Multatuli'S Max Havelaar", Male Authors, Female Subjects: The Woman Within/beyond the Borders of Henry Adams, Henry James and Others, Amsterdam: Rodopi, p. 57, ISBN 9051838778
  5. ^ a b Zook, Darren C. (December 2006), "Searching for Max Havelaar: Multatuli, Colonial History, and the Confusion of Empire", MLN, 121 (5): 1181, doi:10.1353/mln.2007.0021, JSTOR 4490766, S2CID 154856750
  6. ^ Referred to as parable by various authorities.[4][5]
  7. ^ a b Janssens (1965–1966), p. 111.
  8. ^ Multatuli (1868). "The Japanese Stone-Cutter". Max Havelaar; or, The coffee auctions of the Dutch trading company. Translated by Nahuÿs, Alphonse. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas. pp. 196–201.
  9. ^ En toen kwam ook die wens uit, Joke van der Weijst (illustr.), 2004{{citation}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ And then also that Wish Came True [En toen kwam ook die wens uit], translated by Renswoude, Jos van, Joke van der Weijst (illustr.), 2019, ASIN B07H38LMW1{{citation}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ Uther, Hans-Jörg (2004). The types of international folktales. Vol. 1. Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, Academia Scientiarum Fennica. p. 273. ISBN 9789514109560.
  12. ^ Liebrecht, Felix (1884), "(Review): Japanische Märchen und Sagen by David Brauns", Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft (in German), 38 (3/4): 663, JSTOR 43361706
  13. ^ a b Goodwin, Charles Wycliffe Goodwin (1885), "On Some Japanese Legends", Transactions the Asiatic Society of Japan, 3 (Part 2): 52–55
  14. ^ Ting Nai-tung (Ding Naitong) [in Chinese] (1978). The Type Index of Chinese Folktales. FF Communications 223. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia. pp. 7–172, index p. 284. ISBN 9789514103247.
  15. ^ Alexander Pushkin, introduction, in; Chandler, Robert, ed. (2012). "A Tale about a Fisherman and a Fish". Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov. Penguin UK. ISBN 0141392541.
  16. ^ Bayley, John (1971). "2. Early Poems". Pushkin: A Comparative Commentary. Cambridge: CUP Archive. p. 53. ISBN 0521079543.
  17. ^ Sugino, Yuri (2019), "Pushkinskaya "Skazka o rybake i rybke" v kontekste Vtoroy boldinskoy oseni" Пушкинская «Сказка о рыбаке и рыбке» в контексте Второй болдинской осени [Pushkin's“The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish”in the Context of the Second Boldin Autumn], Japanese Slavic and East European Studies, 39: 8, doi:10.5823/jsees.39.0_2
  18. ^ "The Goldfish". Russian Fairy Tales. The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library. Translated by Guterman, Norbert. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 2013 [1945]. pp. 528–532. ISBN 0307829766.
  19. ^ Thompson, Stith, ed. (1974) [1968]. "51. The Goldfish". One Hundred Favorite Folktales. Indiana University Press. pp. 241–243, endnote p. 437. ISBN 0253201721.
  20. ^ Somoff, Victoria (2019), Canepa, Nancy L. (ed.), "Morals and Miracles: The Case of ATU 555 'The Fisherman and His Wife'", Teaching Fairy Tales, Wayne State University Press, p. 110, ISBN 0814339360
  21. ^ Kristo, Janice V.; McClure, Amy A.; Garthwait, Abigail (2004), "Traditional Literature", Living Literature: Using Children's Literature to Support Reading and Language Arts, Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall, p. 124, ISBN 0133981991

External links and references[edit]