Making a Multispecies Fairy-Tale Library

Published: Oct 29, 2023
Synthesis Anglophone Journal of Comparative Literary Studies Comparative Literature re-storying stories multispecies survival multispecies narratives fairy tale folktale tale type classification animal multispecies ATU index
Mayako Murai

What kind of multispecies story-scape may emerge if we make a library of multicultural fairy tales by classifying them according to the experiences of other-than-humans? When re-classified from a multispecies point of view, the same old stories may reveal hitherto unnoticed narratives that have been unfolding in the more-than-human world. In this essay, I will first point out the anthropocentric biases in the tale classification system known as the Aarne-Thompson-Uther tale type index, which has been used widely by international researchers working on folktales and other kinds of traditional narratives. I will then explore the possibilities of repurposing the existing classification system for designing a new framework that would better reflect other-than-human worldviews by shifting the focus from human-centred dramas to multispecies relationalities. Finally, I will explain my idea of making a Multispecies Fairy-Tale Library across different narrative traditions and suggest possible uses of this library for imagining a multispecies future.

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Author Biography
Mayako Murai, Kanagawa University

Mayako Murai is professor of English and comparative literature at Kanagawa University, Japan. She is the author of From Dog Bridegroom to Wolf Girl: Contemporary Japanese Fairy-Tale Adaptations in Conversation with the West (2015) and co-editor of Re-Orienting the Fairy Tale: Contemporary Adaptations across Cultures (2020), both published by Wayne State University Press. She curated the exhibitions Tomoko Konoike: Fur Story at Blenheim Walk Gallery, Leeds Arts University in 2018 and Storymakers in Contemporary Japanese Art at Japan Foundation Sydney Gallery in 2022. She is currently writing a book tentatively titled Re-Storying the World for Multispecies Survival: Fairy-Tale Animals in Contemporary Art and Picturebook Illustrations. She is a rooftop beekeeper in Tokyo.

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