The Legend of the Crane Wife: Background information when reading The Crane Wife

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Crane Wife

by Patrick Ness

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2014, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Legend of the Crane Wife

Print Review

"And all the stars were crashing round / As I lay eyes on what I'd found." The epigraph to Patrick Ness's novel comes from The Decemberists' 2006 album also entitled The Crane Wife. Clearly artists of all sorts have been inspired by the Japanese folktale on which Ness's novel is very broadly based.

The legend, known as Tsuru no ongaeshi, tells of a young man who rescues a crane that has been injured by a hunter's arrow. Later that day, the young man is surprised by a beautiful young woman on his doorstep, who introduces herself as his wife. Admitting that he is poor and cannot support a wife, the young man is surprised to discover that the mysterious woman can support their new family by creating beautiful weavings that sell for a high price. The only condition is that the man is never to watch his wife create her artwork.

Crane Wife But curiosity overcomes him and, in a moment of weakness, he enters her weaving room, only to find the crane he saved, weaving cloth by plucking out her own feathers. The crane flies away, leaving the young man only with her final weaving. In some versions, the man, overcome by greed at their good fortune, pressures his wife to produce more and more, resulting in her declining health before the ultimate discovery of her true identity.

"The Crane Wife" belongs to a large group of folktales from different cultures about love interests, usually female, who shift shapes from animal to human form, rarely with lasting prospects for romantic happiness. The most familiar to us are likely the swan maidens of European folklore, who appear in various forms in Norse, Russian, and German tales. Variations of the story appear in the folklore of many other cultures, such as the Pacific Northwest Native Americans who tell tales of shape-shifting geese. Other animals can form the basis of these "animal bride" tales, such as the selkie (seal) brides of folklore from the Shetland and Orkney islands.

Such tales, which often explore the duplicitous nature not only of the shape-shifters but also of their human companions, continue to provide inspiration today, in all manner of arts including music, ballet (Swan Lake), in poetry and fantasy literature. Patrick Ness's The Crane Wife is a noteworthy addition to this tradition.

Picture depicting Crane Wife story from kawaix2.blogspot.com

Article by Norah Piehl

This article was originally published in January 2014, and has been updated for the December 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Rebellion
    Rebellion
    by Molly Patterson
    Rebellion overlays the stories of four women, spanning a century and the globe in their wide ...
  • Book Jacket: Genuine Fraud
    Genuine Fraud
    by E Lockhart
    Do we ever really know who our friends are? Or what the truth is? After all, truth, like beauty is ...
  • Book Jacket: Jumping at Shadows
    Jumping at Shadows
    by Sasha Abramsky
    In September 2015, fourteen-year old Ahmed Mohamed was thrust into the national spotlight when the ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford

    Inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle's epic 1909 World's Fair.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Twelve-Mile Straight
    by Eleanor Henderson

    An audacious epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If the Creek Don't Rise

If the Creek Don't Rise

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y Can't M A S P O O A S E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.