Lucy Fraser


I begin this discussion of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” in Japan with a brief history of some Japanese mermaid stories, including the introduction of Andersen’s famous literary fairy tale in 1904. I then focus on one contemporary transformation of the tale written by Ogawa Yōko in response to illustrations by Higami Kumiko: “Ningyo hōseki shokunin no isshō” (The Life of a Mermaid’s Jeweler, 2006). After analyzing Ogawa’s exploration of gender roles, voice/voicelessness and unreliability, and her images of loss of self through death, dissolution, and disappearance, I suggest some of the ways in which these elements may relate to the pleasures of reading fairy-tale transformations.