The following extract is from Liza Dalby
's first attempt at fiction, The Tale of Murasaki
. Though no one can say whether or not she really thought this, it is an interesting hypothesis that certainly rings true today.
Murasaki Shikibu was certainly not a conventional woman of her age. She was sceptical of marriage and avoided it until she was in her twenties, very late for women of the Heian era. She was most irritated when visiting friends with children as they were frequently distracted by the smallest wails. However, with the birth of her own child, Katako, her viewpoint changed.
Liza Dalby expertly creates the idea of Murasaki's transformation from a single woman concerned with poetry, literature and learning, into a fully mature woman, who is concerned with rearing a child. Even today, successful women, whether it is in business or academia, often find that their maternal instincts eventually surface, whether they have tried to supress them or not. The issue of the "biological clock" is something what most of us are familiar with. Murasaki was certainly one of the most educated women of her time, so it goes to show that no matter how intelligent or successful one is, it has nothing to do with love of one's own children. (The idea of being educated is not to be confused with being "accomplised", which usually referred to a woman's skill at playing music, writing poetry and other similar entertainment-type skills.)
Our little Katako celebrated the beginning of her second year. She was a plump and rosy child, with four teeth already. In the spring of the new year I knew I should pay special attention to the tooth-hardening foods and herbs. How one's perspective changes when one has a child to look out for. Every snivel sends a mother to distraction, afraid that if great care is not exercised, the cough will develop into an illness in the chest. I could hardly have borne it if something were to happen to this child.