“Tale of Genji” summary

Subject: Literature
Type: Profile Essay
Pages: 2
Word count: 540
Topics: Book, Fairy Tale, Japanese Culture, Love, Poetry

Table of Contents


“Tale of Genji” was written just after 1000AD by Murasaki Shikibu and it grew immensely popular among the author’s contemporaries in Heian Japan. The tale follows the lives of two central characters named Shining Genji and Lady Kiritsubo and it consists more than four characters in the whole story. The Heian period, where the story is based, lasted from AD 794-1185. This era is remembered as the height of Japanese culture when art, poetry and literature were practiced daily. The tale characters are represented to work within these imperial time, and their behavior and tradition is described within this period as the most evident customs that appear in the poetry

Genji, the hero of the tale, is the son of the emperor, and Kiritsubo is his favorite concubine. Genji was a handsome son born to an emperor during the Heian period. A Korean sage predicts a brilliant future for Genji on the eve of his mother suffering out of the jealousy of rivals at court leading to her death. Later on, the emperor finds another concubine, Fujitsubo, a concubine who had the first illicit affair with Genji. Nevertheless, the emperor finds comfort with Fujitsubo identifying her as a reminder of his first Love. Genji finds it uncontrollable and goes to have numerous affairs with other court ladies.

Genji lost backing at the court which made the emperor make him a commoner and assigned the eldest son of lady Kokiden to be the crown of the prince. Nonetheless, Genji developed to be uncommonly handsome and gifted young man who was venerated by many ladies. The influence led to his adultery case with a lady of opposite factional lady which led to his exile to Suma. Among the named numerous affairs in the court, there is also mentioned of his marriage to no Chujo’s sister Aoi, the birth of a son and the relationship with young Murasaki.

After the emperor’s date the crowned heir to the crown, that is, Lady Kokiden’s son succeeds the emperor. This event had happened before the court scandal that led to his exile to Suma for several years. He later returns to the kingdom, and the emperor relinquishes in favor of Fujitsubo’s son who was secretly Genji’s son. Genji is later on restored to his position at the court. This time, Akashi Lady (the lady of ex-governor of Harima whom they met during the second part of the tale) gave birth to a baby girl. Genji is told to go on a pilgrimage to the Sumuyoshi Shrine to thank the deity for protecting him during the storm at Suma.

Genji settles with Murasaki at his Rokujo mansion and in the long run, his influence at the court increases which led to his preoccupation with his advancement with his children and grandchildren. Genji marries the third prince who gives birth to a son that later become the nun. The tale ends with Lady Lokujo dying, Genji becoming sick and his constant request to adopt Murasaki. It also narrates Genji’s second affair with Fujitsubo that led to the second pregnancy. The last part gives the account of Genji’s sons and grandson Kaoru and Niou. (who are identified to be friends and rivals in love) in the mountain of Uji.

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  1. “Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji: Summary & Characters – Video & Lesson Transcript.” Study.com. Accessed November 15, 2017. http://study.com/academy/lesson/murasaki-shikibus-tale-of-genji-summary-characters.html.
  2. “Summary of The Tale of Genji.” The Tale of Genji. Accessed November 15, 2017. http://www.taleofgenji.org/summary.html.
  3. Shikibu, Murasaki. The tale of Genji. Penguin, 2003.
  4. Waley, Arthur. “The Tale of Genji.” Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin (1935).
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