One day, one of the students (believing himself to be rather witty with his snide observation) asked, “Why do these people do such stupid things?”
Mr. Devlin, without missing a beat, responded, “Because if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have a story.”
He went on to say that mythology, at its heart, is about what it means to be human. And humans, unfortunately, often do stupid things. Our troubles are often created by our own lapses of judgment, poor reasoning, and innate stupidity. Yes, we can read mythology and dismiss the stories as stupid because the characters in them behave stupidly. But in a way, such is the real lot of humanity.
It was a strange take on mythology, to be sure. More often, we read mythology looking for great heroes who engage in great deeds. But the focus on heroes and heroic deeds missing the point of the human existence. Those of us who are the happiest and most fulfilled in life aren’t those who perform the most heroic acts.
No, the happiest among us are the ones that are capable of getting through life without doing stupid stuff.
In college, I studies philosophy, comparative religions, and sociology. One thing I noticed in regards to the study of mythology and folklore, however, was a tendency to focus on either the classical myths or European folklore. I’m sure there are plenty of academics who can discuss ad nauseum the multitude of reasons for this. Regardless, I had to actively dig to find references to Far Eastern resources.
This collection of fifteen folk tales is my small effort toward helping introduce readers to these cultures. Some of tales selected here may seem overly simplified for the serious scholar of folklore. Others may offend modern sensibilities of political correctness. I do not present these with any judgment attached to the morals implied. I leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions over their merits.