Around 1700, the Osaka publisher Shibukawa seiemon collected and printed twenty-three medieval short stories and put them on sale labelled Otogi bunko, or The Companion Library. Shibukawa's sales techniques, aimed at selling his anthology to female readers, led later scholars to view these stories anachronistically as women's literature from the Muromachi period. Evidence from medieval diaries, however, makes it clear that these stories were not originally written for women. To date close to five hundred of these largely anonymous stories have emerged to form a substantial medieval genre. Although present scholarship tends to seek authorship of the stories through analysis of social classes depicted in them, it is submitted that the more fruitful approach is rather through analysis of textual origins in pre-Muromachi literary traditions: Heian novel, Kamakura military epic, religious narrative, or oral folktale; and that the most important source proves to be the religious narrative tradition, where textual comparison reveals clearly some Muromachi stories are derivations from such works as Shintō shū. Medieval jongleurs and missionaries such as biwa hōshi, etoki hōshi, and Kumano bikuni played a crucial role in spreading medieval tales, popularizing the picture scroll and book, and contributing to the development of the short story genre.

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