In the words of Noriko Ogiwara….
I have always wanted to read a Japanese fantasy. My first encounter with the literary genre of fantasy was of course the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. (I say “of course” because this is true of most people of my generation.) I first read these books when I was in the third and fourth grades and was captivated by a work whose scope encompassed seven whole volumes. This impressed me as much as learning that there was a sequel to Anne of Green Gables, and implanted a prejudice in my child’s mind that good stories are long.
The Chronicles of Narnia were my salvation during adolescence, when I was filled with distrust toward adults. Reading them, I felt that the author had maintained his ability to enjoy and appreciate things on the same level as myself, yet at the same time had experienced much more suffering and sadness in life than I. “There are adults who mature this way even after fifty,” I thought. “That is the kind of person I would like to become.” I was even eager to reach my fifties and prove to all that I had not lost the spirit of my girlhood.
While studying to enter the university, I read avidly and found many books I liked better than the Chronicles of Narnia, from which I was growing away. But I began to fear that I would never be able to enjoy children’s literature in the way I had before. Although I was still reading fantasy novels, it bothered me that they were all translations. I thought I might never again be able to lose myself totally in another world.
“Then why not write something that you can lose yourself in?” a voice within me said. “Write the book that you most want to read without expecting someone else to do it.”
I later realized that these were the words of C. S. Lewis. I had read them in the translator’s notes for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. At that point I tried to write a little…and found that I could not stop. After ten years, I am still hooked.
So the stories I write are still long, and still fantasy. I still believe that a real writer writes even after turning fifty, and I cannot write unless the story is the one I most want to read. First encounters can thus have a powerful and lasting influence.
Dragon Sword and Wind Child is the story I have wanted to read for a long time. If the reader grasps even a little of my feeling, it will give me the greatest joy. Because I love ancient Japanese literature, it was as natural for me to write a fantasy related to ancient times as it is for water to flow downward. I became familiar with the Kojiki (The Book of Ancient Matters) in elementary school, and read it in the original in the university. But (after numerous failures) I realized that the Kojiki was complete in itself, leaving no room for fantasy. Some readers of Dragon Sword and Wind Child will have realized that motifs that seem similar to those in the Kojiki are actually of different origin. The idea for this story was born from Norito (Shinto Prayers) in volume 8 of the Engishiki (Engi Period Chronicles). The Goddess of the underworld in that chapter was filled with a charm I had not hitherto recognized.
Just to be able to write such a story was sufficient happiness for me. To have it published was a long-cherished private dream, one which I can hardly believe is actually realized. The credit for this belongs to Rei Uemura, my editor at Fukutake Publishing Co. I would also like to express my appreciation to Hiroshi Ito. In fact, these two were my faithful companions in the dark basement of Building 8 in Waseda University’s Children’s Literature Department. In addition to my heartfelt appreciation for these two friends, I wish to thank all the other unique and delightful people I met in the Children’s Literature Department. In various ways they have all helped wed me to the literary profession, and it is thanks to their praise of my first efforts that I am still writing.
July 20, 1988
(From the Afterword of Dragon Sword and Wind Child; 1993 printing; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; translated by Cathy Hirano)