This introductory chapter discusses the theme of this book, which is about the grotesque in Japanese setsuwa tales. The book considers the similarities in the roles of creatures, such as animated detached body parts, flesh-eating demons, demonic women, and animal spirits, without downplaying the diversity of such representations, and traces the precedents of the grotesque in setsuwa in early Japan, China, and India. It also shows how theories of the grotesque, combined with careful consideration of the cultural, historical, and social contexts of the tales, can enrich our understanding of setsuwa.
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