The Tale of Genji

Published 19 Aug 2017

The ‘Tale of Genji’ is a story that revolves around Genji who is the son of an emperor of Japan. Although his mother was from a low ranking, the emperor was very fond of her and this elicited hatred from her rival Kokiden which leads to her persecution and death. The emperor, devastated by her death, marries another woman who resembles his dead wife closely. Meanwhile, Genji grows up and for lack of political support his father could not crown him as a prince. At 12 years, Genji is initiated into manhood and marries Aoi, a daughter of a state minister who is four years older than him and from the start they seem not to be fond of each other. Genji becomes affectionate to the wife of the governor of Iyo, and a romance blossoms between them. Although it is extremely hard for them to be together and the woman avoids Genji to some extent, they can’t help but exchange romantic messages. Meanwhile on a visit to Rakujo, Genji falls in love with another woman whose name is not revealed in the story. Another romantic episode sprouts up with the woman with Genji visiting her frequently in disguise. During one night, the woman dies in her sleep with Genji lying beside her. Genji becomes deeply devastated with her death and the story ends with Genji still being haunted by her death.

In the story, Komiretsu is brought out as Genji’s servant and confidant. He is the one whom Genji used to find out more about the beautiful woman in the house of ‘evening faces’ at Rakujo. Komiretsu in his devoted service to his master performs the duty diligently and brings forth as much information as he could gather about the woman. Komiretsu also turns out to be an advisor to Genji, telling him on when to visit the woman unnoticed. He takes Genji on his several trips to see the woman with Genji dressing in disguise. When the woman dies in sleep, Komiretsu is the only servant called by Genji to help with the situation and to prove that he is a very dependable servant, he appears and the relief on Genji’s face cannot pass unnoticed. In accordance to his master’s wish, he agrees to keep the matter a top secret. He even arranges for the secret burial of Genji’s mistress. Komiretsu is therefore depicted in the story as a loyal and obedient servant.

Genji’s romantic preferences can be compared to his father’s to some extent. Genji appeared to develop love and affectionate to women of low ranking such as the woman from the house of ‘evening faces’ and the wife of the governor of Iyo. He did not love his wife who was of a high status. Genji’s father, the emperor, also loved his wife who was of low status very much. When she died he married another woman of also a low status.

Work Cited

  • Shikibu, M. & Waley, A. The Tale of Genji. Modern Library. Vintage, 1960.
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