Monogatari (物語) is a literary form in traditional Japanese literature, an extended prose narrative tale comparable to the epic. Monogatari is closely tied to aspects of the oral tradition, and almost always relates a fictional or fictionalized story, even when retelling a historical event. Many of the great works of Japanese fiction, such as the Genji monogatari and the Heike monogatari are in this monogatari form.
The form was prominent around the 9th to 15th centuries, reaching a peak between the 10th and 11th centuries. According to the Fūyō Wakashū (1271), at least 198 monogatari existed by the 13th century. Of these, around forty still exist.
When European and other foreign literature later became known to Japan, the word "monogatari" began to be used in Japanese titles of foreign works of a similar nature. For example, A Tale of Two Cities is known as Nito Monogatari (二都物語) and more recently The Lord of the Rings as Yubiwa Monogatari (指輪物語), and One Thousand and One Nights as Sen'ichiya Monogatari (千一夜物語).
The genre is sub-divided into multiple categories depending on their contents:
Stories dealing with fantastical events.
Stories drawn from poetry.
Aristocratic count romances.
- Genji Monogatari
- Hamamatsu Chūnagon Monogatari
- Ochikubo Monogatari
- Sagoromo Monogatari
- Torikaebaya Monogatari
- Tsutsumi Chūnagon Monogatari
- Yoru no Nezame
Pseudo-classical imitations of earlier tales.
- Matsura no Miya Monogatari
- Sumiyoshi Monogatari
- Mumyōzōshi, a 13th century literary critique on monogatari, many of which are no longer extant
- Fūyō Wakashū, a 13th century collection of poetry from various monogatari sources, many of which are no longer extant
- Frederic, Louis (2002). "Monogatari." Japan Encyclopedia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
- Kubota, Jun (2007) (in Japanese). Iwanami Nihon Koten Bungaku Jiten. Iwanami Shoten. ISBN 978-4-00-080310-6.
- Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten: Kan'yakuban. Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten. 1986. ISBN 4-00-080067-1.
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