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Narrative Development across Cultural and Historical Contexts: A Case Study of the Asian Versions of The Homecoming Husband

Author: Saida Khalmirzaeva

Source: Global Perspectives on Japan (GPJ), No.6 (2023), pp.19-37
Publisher: Forum Tauri Press
Keywords: The Homecoming Husband, tale-type, folklore, The Odyssey, transmission


The story of a husband who returns home in disguise after a long absence, strings his distinctive bow, punishes his wife’s suitors, and reunites with his family is best known through its earliest recorded version, the Odyssey, and is widely represented in folk traditions throughout the world. A thorough comparative analysis of these tales and research on their historical and cultural background suggests that the original tale could have been transmitted from a place of origin to other parts of the world, giving birth to regional versions, such as Central Asian Alpomish, Japanese Yuriwaka Daijin, and other tales. My research led me to conclude that certain religious practices and population movements were drivers for the dissemination, development, and performance format transformations of this tale-type across the length and breadth of Eurasia. This paper is part of a broader research on the tale-type The Homecoming Husband. It focuses on four stories representing the tale-type in Asia: Alpomish (Central Asia), The Epic of King Gesar (Tibet, Mongolia, etc.), The Song of Chunhyang (Korea), and Yuriwaka Daijin (Japan). In this paper, firstly, I identify major structural elements in each story and analyze how the stories based on the same pattern were narrated across sociocultural and historical contexts. Namely, what social customs, rituals, and beliefs are reflected in each tale, and how these affect the narrative development. Secondly, I discuss the possibility of a historical connection between the Asian Versions of The Homecoming Husband.