About the Book

Book Protagonist: The Unnamed Narrator
Publication Date: 1982
Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism


A Wild Sheep Chase

By Haruki Murakami

'A Wild Sheep Chase' is the third novel in Haruki Murakami's 'Trilogy of the Rat' and was published in 1982. The story revolves around an unnamed narrator, a chain-smoking advertisement executive in Tokyo, who embarks on a mysterious and surreal quest in 1978.

The novel combines elements of mystery, magical realism, and postmodernism, exploring themes of identity and the enigmatic nature of existence. Haruki Murakami blends American and English literature with Japanese contexts, creating a unique narrative that has been regarded as a parody or renewal of Yukio Mishima’s ‘Natsuko’s Adventure.’

Spoiler-Free Summary

In ‘A Wild Sheep Chase,’ an unnamed narrator, a chain-smoking advertising executive in Tokyo, is drawn into a surreal and mysterious quest. When he publishes a photo sent by his long-lost friend Rat featuring a sheep with a star-shaped birthmark, he attracts the attention of a powerful figure known as “The Boss.” 

The Boss reveals that the sheep holds a secret power linked to his declining health and gives the narrator one month to find it or face dire consequences.

Joined by his girlfriend with supernaturally perceptive ears, the narrator travels to Hokkaido in search of the sheep and Rat. Their journey leads them to encounters with the enigmatic Sheep Professor and the peculiar Sheep Man. As they delve deeper into the mystery, they uncover connections between the sheep, Rat, and the past.

The narrative alternates between the protagonist’s quest and glimpses into Rat’s wanderings and correspondence with the narrator. Secrets, obsessions, and surreal encounters abound as the narrator navigates a postmodern landscape infused with elements of magic and mystery.

Full Summary of A Wild Sheep Chase

Warning – This article contains important details and spoilers

It all begins when the narrator publishes a photo sent to him by his long-lost friend, Rat, which features a sheep with a star-shaped birthmark. 

Subsequently, he is approached by a representative of “The Boss,” a powerful figure in Japan’s elite, who reveals that the sheep hold a secret power tied to the Boss’ declining health. The narrator is given one month to find the sheep, or else face ruin in his career and life.

Together with his girlfriend, who possesses magical ears, the narrator sets out on a journey to Hokkaido to find the elusive sheep and his vagabond friend, Rat. Their search leads them to Sapporo, where they encounter the Sheep Professor, an eccentric man who has a deep connection with the star-backed sheep.

Following the Sheep Professor’s tip, they find an isolated house where they await the sheep’s arrival. However, the narrator’s girlfriend abruptly leaves, and he continues waiting alone, living an isolated life of anticipation.

Meanwhile, the novel also delves into the whereabouts of Rat, who has been traveling and corresponding with the narrator through letters. After over a week of waiting, the narrator encounters the Rat’s voice in the darkness. They share a conversation, revealing the Rat’s connection to the house and the sheep. The Rat confesses to hanging himself to prevent the sheep from fully controlling him.

With the mystery unraveled and questions answered, the narrator leaves the house. He is approached by the Boss’ representative, who pays him a generous sum and informs him of the dissolution of his company. The narrator returns to town, visits his friend J’s bar, and invests in the business. The novel concludes with the narrator walking along the beach, shedding tears for the first time.


What is the main premise of ‘A Wild Sheep Chase?’

The novel follows an unnamed narrator, an advertising executive in Tokyo, who becomes embroiled in a surreal quest after publishing a photo featuring a sheep with a star-shaped birthmark. This attracts the attention of a powerful figure known as “The Boss,” who reveals the sheep holds a secret power connected to his declining health.

What themes does the book explore?

A Wild Sheep Chase’ delves into themes of identity, the enigmatic nature of existence, and the blurring of reality and imagination. It also touches on the influence of American and English literature within a Japanese context and can be seen as a parody or renewal of Yukio Mishima’s “Natsuko’s Adventure.”

Who are the key characters in the story?

The main protagonist, the unnamed narrator, is joined by his girlfriend, who possesses supernaturally perceptive ears. They encounter Rat, the narrator’s long-lost friend, and various intriguing characters along their journey, including the enigmatic Sheep Professor and the peculiar Sheep Man.

What is the significance of the sheep with a star-shaped birthmark?

The sheep with the star-shaped birthmark holds a secret power that is linked to the Boss’ failing health. The narrator is given a time limit to locate the sheep or face dire consequences, leading him on a quest to Hokkaido.

Is ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ a standalone novel or part of a series?

‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ is the third novel in Haruki Murakami’s “Trilogy of the Rat.” However, each book in the trilogy can be read independently as they are not direct continuations of one another. While the novel stands on its own, readers who have read the previous books may appreciate certain connections and recurring themes throughout the trilogy.

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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