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Kitayama, O. (1985). Pre-Oedipal 'Taboo' in Japanese Folk Tragedies. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 12:173-186.

(1985). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 12:173-186

Pre-Oedipal 'Taboo' in Japanese Folk Tragedies

Osamu Kitayama


This paper is an attempt to relate Japanese folk tragedies to the developmental theories of psychoanalysis. There are vast numbers of myths and folk tales in Japan which feature the marriage and tragic separation of human husbands and non-human wives. The stories are divided into three categories: depressive, ambivalent, and paranoid, which show the heroes' marked ambivalence towards the heroines. As Freud used the Oedipus myth to illustrate an unconscious event in human affairs, I think they also reflect certain aspects of the infant's development. As the stories develop only between the hero and the heroine, they need interpretations in terms of a two-body relationship.

The prohibition of don't look is another important element. As the hero breaks this prohibition, he usually sees an animal instead of a beautiful woman. This is such an ineffective form of taboo that the hero cannot help breaking it and being confronted with an ugly mixture of split 'good' and 'bad' mothers. The hero's 'animalization' is accompanied by his insufficient capacity to accept the whole object. This maternal or pre-oedipal prohibition could be called 'the taboo to be broken in time' in contrast to the paternal taboo of incest, which is absolute.

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