How to Create a Legend? An Analysis of Constructed Representations of Ono no Komachi in Japanese Medieval Literature

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Author: Karolina Broma-Smenda, University of Warsaw, Poland
Email: karolina.broma@gmail.com
Published: November 2014
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.3.1.03

Citation: Broma-Smenda, K. (2014). How to Create a Legend? An Analysis of Constructed Representations of Ono no Komachi in Japanese Medieval Literature. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.3.1.03


Abstract

Although the historical figure known to us as Ono no Komachi (ca. 825 – ca. 900) is considered to have been a famous and talented female court poet of the Heian Period in Japan, not much is known about her actual life. As a literary figure, however, her fame extended way beyond her own lifetime. Over the centuries she has continued to be an object of legendarization processes. Many literary works pictured her not only as a beautiful and skilled poet but also as femme fatale, courtesan, or Buddhist devotee. However, I believe that whom we currently call “Ono no Komachi” should be considered a literary construct significant for Japanese literature rather than a historical figure. This paper analyzes representations of Ono no Komachi in Japanese medieval literature ( drama plays, and otogizōshi secular tales), since I believe that the process of “creating” such legends has its origin in the specificity of the Japanese medieval period (12–16th centuries). Thus, the aim of this paper is to address the questions as to why this female poet was subject to legendarization processes and how various stages of those processes are responsible for the popularization of Ono no Komachi's historical image.

Keywords

Ono no Komachi, legendarization, classical Japanese literature