| This is a genuine fantasy with dwarfs as main characters by Inui Tomiko
(1924 - 2002). Together with Daremo Shiranai Chiisana Kuni [The Tiny Country That Nobody Knows] by Satô Satoru, Kokage no Ie no Kobitotachi is one of the earliest examples of Japanese fantasy influenced by western one. The difference from Daremo Shiranai Chiisana Kuni is that Kokage no Ie no Kobitotachi is a story of pre-and mid-war period, and World War II cast a long shadow on this story.|
Moriyama Tatsuo is asked to take care of the Ash family, a family of dwarves, by his English teacher Ms. MacLachlan. When Tatsuo grows up, his children take over the job and now the youngest daughter Yuri takes care of them. In 1933, Tatsuo, who had become a scholar of English Literature, is arrested by police as an unpatriotic person criticizing the war. His second son becomes patriotic and come to hate the dwarves as enemies. When the war becomes more severe, Moriyama children and the dwarves evacuate to Tatsuo's grandparents place near Nozawa-ko [Lake Nozawa] in Shinshû [Nagano Prefecture]. In Shinshû, Robin and Iris, the Ash family children, met Amanejaki, an imp living in Shinshû. The Ash family is nearly found by the human beings and move to Amanejaki's place, but later, the Ash family comes back to Yuri. When the war is over, Yuri goes back to Tokyo. The parent dwarves leave for England where Ms. MacLachlan is safe and sound, but Robin and Iris choose to say in Japan and go to Amanejaki's place.
This story is reminiscent of the British fantasy The Borrowers by Mary Norton. Kokage no Ie no Kobitotachi is said to have opened the way to everyday magic in Japan. Although Amanejaki, a traditional Japanese supernatural being, appears, this story nevertheless has European elements. Another characteristic is that the attitude to criticize war is clearly seen in this book, which makes it more than a common adventure or wonder story.
The first edition was published by Chûô Kôronsha, and new edition was published by Fukuinkan in 1967. Illustrations in both editions are by Yoshii Tadashi, but he revised them for Fukuinkan edition. In 1961, Kokage no Ie no Kobitotachi was selected as a candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen Award from Japan. A sequel to this book, Kurayamidani no Kobitotachi [Little People in the Dark Valley], was published in 1972.