This book of Dazai was written in the spring and early summer of 1945. The story opens up with the narrator,Dazai himself, reading the story of the folktales to his children when the air raid is happening and they are in the confines of the bomb shelter.
There are four stories in this book of fairy tales; The Stolen Wen, Urashima-san, Click-Clack Mountain and The Sparrow Who Lost Her Tongue, in which Dazai attacks and analyzes the characters, the plot and the relevance of the story and the impact of it in children during his time. He compulsively reflects and projects his real-life concerns in the book and persistently provides commentaries on the events of the stories, ultimately retells the stories and add more depth to the characters and the plot. The theme that is uniform across Dazai’s novels–the apathetic acceptance of loneliness (which is found heavily in No Longer Human) is also established in this book; it is a classic Dazai theme where the main character does not find sustenance with his surroundings thus resigned to live his/her life in loneliness and “desirelessness”. An example would be the princess in Urashima-san, who owns leagues and leagues of land but is content on smiling at people and proceeds to staying in her chambers not thinking of anything and not talking to anybody; as well as the man in The Sparrow Who Lost Her Tongue who “spends the rest of the day in his desk, wriggling on his cushion or nodding off or jerking awake until dinnertime and hits the sack thereafter”. An additional theme that is also present, is the appearance of utopia, places of reprieve where the characters find themselves free to do what they please (the story of Urashima-san when he finds the Dragon Palace), a place you can find warmth that you cannot have at home (the Sparrows Inn in The Sparrow Who Lost Her Tongue). None of this is permanent, of course, but the characters are transformed and have found peace in themselves when they leave the utopia.
This is my 4th story of Dazai and so far, it doesn’t disappointment. His place in the Japanese literature is well deserved. Highly recommended!