Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sketches of Japanese Folk Religion and Fairy Tales - part 2
See Part 2

Read our collection of Japanese Fairy Tales 

A girl in the Tono district was given some leaves by tall red faced man (in the Tono district kami appear with red faces) and from this she gained the power of divination. (In Japan shamans which gained their power from various kami and other beings were most often female) It was commonly believed that people gained the power of divination from mountain kami who possessed them. At first such possessed people would go mad, but eventually they would go into a trance.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mountain Kami - part 2

Sketches of Japanese Folk Religion and Fairy Tales
See Part 1

Read our collection of Japanese Fairy Tales

Each Mountain Kami is unique, some are depicted as giant read humans, others as Tengu, still others take the form of a centipede. This is because Mountain Kami aren’t a particular type of kami, rather they are the kami which resides in the mountain, so each region will have their own beliefs with regards to the mountain kami.
The most common belief, however, seems to be that the mountain is the causer of birth and rebirth, that it is the mountain from which humans, animals and plants spring. For this reason most mountain kami are portrayed as female.
Such mountain kami typically played an important role within a village, for they were the guardian of the people, but also the people’s ruler in some ways. For it was the mountain kami who gave people permission to build new buildings.

Mountain Kami Part 1

Sketches of Japanese Folk Religion and Fairy Tales

Tall forest covered mountains rise from the ocean above the Japan’s villages and towns and into the sky where they bridge the gap between heaven and earth, between pure and impure. For it is from the mountains, from this avenue between heaven and earth which water springs. It is the pure water from these mountains which brings life to the world.
In Japan’s oldest folk religion’s the mountains are typically considered to be the most important and sacred of all objects.  In ancient times the fishermen believed that the deity who controlled navigation and weather lived upon the mountains. Further there are a number of folktales in Japan in which the Thunder Kami which brings rain lives within the mountains.
Life giving water comes down from the mountains in the form of springs, and glacial streams to water peoples crops and create the forests. So the source of all life in Japan came from the mountains, the source of agriculture. The mountain kami were also the agricultural kami, the terms Yama-no-kami (kami of the mountain) and Ta-No-Kami (Kami of the rice paddy) were interchangeable. So in order to insure an abundant crop the farmers had to entice the kami down from the mountains in the spring time.

Each mountain kami was unique. Some were bright red and easily angered, like the ones in Tono. Others. were the spirits of bears or stages. Many, others, however were women who had lots of children and so needed the village to provide them with food to feed these children.

Learn More About Japanese Kami

Japanese Fairy Tales With Kami

The Bear Kami

How a bear's spirit became the guardian of a village. This fairy tale shows one way animals could become guardian kami. There was also a white deer enshrined in one region, a cat which became the guardian spirit of a samurai's home, a dog, and even a cow.

The Witch of the Mountain
A mountain witch's child is starving so she demands that the village bring her food.

The Mountain Kami and the Ugly Fish
The village uses humor to bring a mountain kami back to them.

The Priest and the Kami's cave
Those who are boastful are punished by the mountain kami.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


The Tale of a Prince who saved his kingdom from three dragons. (fairy tale notes are in blue)

ON the shores of the Blue Sea there was a land in
which dragons grew. This land had a king whose
court was draped in black, and whose eye never
ceased to weep, because every Friday he had to
send ninety-nine men to the dragons, who were the pest of
the place, and who slew and devoured the ninety-nine human
beings sent to them. The king had three sons, each of whom
was handsomer and more clever than the other. The king
was very fond of his sons, and guarded them most carefully.
The eldest was called Andrew, the next Emerich, and the
youngest Ambrose. There were no other lads left in the land,
for the dragons fed on lads' flesh only. One day Andrew and
Emerich went to their father and begged him to allow them to
go and fight the dragons, as they were sure they could conquer
them, and that the dragons would not want any more human
flesh after they had been there. But the father would not even
listen to his sons' request. As for Ambrose, he did not even
dare so much as to submit such a request to his father. Andrew
and Emerich, at length, by dint of much talking, prevailed upon
their father to allow them to go and fight the dragons. Now,
there were only three dragons left in the land : one had seven
heads, another eight, and the third nine; and these three had
devoured all the other dragons, when they found that there were
no more lads to be had.

We see in many of these tales the idea of kingdoms ruled over by dragons, ogres and other monsters. Such kingdoms are not at a distance, rather they are often present in a neighboring land or in the very kingdom in which the primary characters seem to live. Hungary and it's neighbors seemed to be more plagued by dragons than any other place. In some tales these beings would devour or try to devour the sun and so heroes and people would have to rise up rescue the sun from the greedy hunger of the dragon.

Andrew and Emerich joyfully galloped
off towards the copper, silver, and golden bridges in the neigh-
bourhood of which the dragons lived, and Ambrose was left alone
to console his royal father, who bewailed his other sons.
Ambrose's godmother was a fairy, and as it is the custom
for godmothers to give presents to their godchildren, Ambrose
received a present from his fairy godmother, which consisted of a
black egg with five corners, which she placed under Ambrose's
left armpit. Ambrose carried his egg about with him under his
left armpit for seven winters and seven summers, and on Ash
Wednesday, in the eighth year, a horse with five legs and three
heads jumped out of the egg; this horse was a Tatos and could

Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers are an important part of the success of a person in many fairy tales. One must recall after all that at one time a persons status, their relationship to others was what determined their success. This is true even in "Cinderella Stories" in which Cinderella was a noble girl and her step sisters were merely peasants, and she had a fairy godmother, or a mother who'd become a tree (in one version). 

The egg one must hold under their armpit is a common motif for the Baltic peoples, in one story a strange chicken like creature hatched from the egg which gave the girl who hatched in the ability to speak with animals. 

Horses could be said to me more important to a persons victory in battle than a sword. There is after all only a minor difference between two swords. There can however be vast differences between a smart and fast horse and an incapable one. Thus wise talking horses are a commonality in Hungarian tales, they after all were still closer to life on the Steppes than any other European group, it was only two thousand years previous that they had invaded Europe and become the Vikings of their day on horseback and so horses and horsemen were still an important part of their folk memory. 

At the time when the brothers went out to fight the dragons,
Ambrose was thirteen years and thirteen days old, and his horse
was exactly five years old. The two elder brothers had been
gone some time, when he went into the stable to his little horse,
and, laying his head upon its neck, began to weep bitterly. The
little horse neighed loudly and said, " Why are you crying, my
dear master ? " " Because," replied Ambrose, " I dare not ask
my father to let me go away, although I should like to do so
very much."
“Go to your royal father, my dear master, for he
has a very bad attack of toothache just now, and tell him that
the king of herbs sends word to him through the Tatos-horse
with three heads, that his toothache will not cease until he gives
you permission to go and fight the dragons; and you can also
tell him that if you go, there will be no more dragons left on this
earth; but if you do not go his two elder boys will perish in the
stomachs of the dragons. Tell him, also, that I have assured
you that you will be able to make the dragons vomit out, at
once, all the lads whomsoever they have swallowed; and that
his land will become so powerful when the lads, who have grown
strong in the stomachs of the dragons, return that, while the
world lasts, no nation will ever be able to vanquish him." Thus
spoke the Tatos colt, and neighed so loudly that the whole
world rang with the sound.
The little boy told his father what the Tatos colt had told him ; but the king objected for a long time, and no wonder, as he was afraid lest evil might happen to his only son: but at last his sufferings got the better of him, and,
after objecting for three hours, he promised his son that if the
Tatos were able to carry out its promise he would give him
permission to go and fight the dragons.

This idea that a fairy of the herbs controls pains such as tooth aches is common among the Ugric peoples such as Hungary and Finland. In Finland their are a number of prayers to such fairy like creature asking for respite from tooth aches.

As soon as he had uttered these words his toothache left him.
The little lad ran off and told the message to his little horse,
which capered and neighed with delight.
"I heard you when you were bargaining," said the horse to its little master, who in his delight didn't know what to do with himself, " and I should
have heard you even if you had been a hundred miles away.
Don't fear anything, my little master ; our ride, it is true, will
be a long one, but in the end it will turn out a lucky one. Go,
my great-great-grandmother's great-great-grandmother's saddle
is there on that crooked willow; put it on me, it will fit me
exactly ! "

The prince ran, in fact he rushed like a madman, fetched the
ragged old saddle, put it on his horse, and tied it to a gate-
post. Before leaving his father's home, the little horse asked
its little master to plug up one of its nostrils; the prince did
so, and the little horse blew upon him with the other nostril
which he had left open, when, oh, horror! the little boy became
mangy like a diseased sucking pig. The little horse, however,
turned into a horse with golden hair, and glistened like a mirror.
When the little boy caught sight of his ugly face amidst the hair
of his shining horse, he became very sad. " Plug up my other
nostril, too ! " said the horse with the golden hair. At first the
little master would not do it, until the horse neighed very loudly
and bade him do it at once, as it was very unwise to delay obey-
ing the commands of a Tatos. So what could the poor lad do but
plug up the other nostril of the horse. The horse then opened
wide its mouth, and breathed upon the lad, who at once became
a most handsome prince, worthy to be a fairy king. " Now sit
on my back, my little master, my great king, we are worthy of
each other; and there is no thing in the world that we cannot
overcome. Rejoice ! You will conquer the dragons, and restore
the young men to your father's realm ; only do as I bid you, and
listen to no one else."

In an hour's time they arrived on the shore of the Red Sea,
which flows into the Blue Sea. There they found an inn, and
close to the inn, within earshot, stood the copper bridge, on the
other side of which the dragon with seven heads roamed about.
Andrew and Emerich were already at the inn, and as they were
very tired, they sat down and began to eat and drink : when the
new guest arrived the knives and forks dropped from the two
princes' hands ; but when they learned that he, too, had come to
fight the dragons they made friends with him. They could not,
however, recognize him for all the world. Night set in, and An-
drew and Emerich had eaten and drunk too much, and became
decidedly drunk, and so slept very deeply. Ambrose ate little,
drank nothing, and slept lightly. At dawn the Tatos-horse pulled
his master's hair, in order to wake him ; because it knew that the
dragon had least strength at dawn, and that the sun increased
his strength. Ambrose at once jumped on horseback and arrived
at the copper bridge : the dragon heard the clattering of the horse's
hoofs, and at once flew to meet him.
"Pooh ! " cried the dragon and snorted, " I smell a strange smell ! Ambrose, is it you ? I know you; may you perish, you and your horse! Come on!"
They fought for one hour and three quarters. Ambrose, with
two strokes, slashed six of the dragon's heads off, but could not,
for a long time succeed in cutting off the seventh, for in it lay
the dragon's magic power. But, at last, the seventh head came
off too.

The dragon had seven horses, these Ambrose fastened together,
and took them to the inn, where he tied them by the side of
Emerich's horse. Andrew and Emerich did not awake till nine
o'clock, when Emerich asked Andrew if he had killed the dragon,
and Andrew asked Emerick if he had done so ; at last Ambrose
told them that he had killed the dragon with seven heads and
taken away his seven horses, which he gave to Emerich, who
thanked him for them. The three then continued their journey
together as far as the silver bridge : here again they found an
inn, which stood close to the bridge. Emerich and Andrew ate
and drank and went to sleep as before ; the Tatos horse, as soon
as day began to break, awoke his master, who cheerfully jumped
up, dressed neatly, and left the princes asleep. The Tatos
scented the dragon quite ten miles off, and growled like a dog,
and the dragon in his rage began to throw his sparks at them
when four German miles off ; they rushed upon each other and
met with a tremendous clash on the bridge ; it was a very diffi-
cult task for Ambrose to conquer this huge monster, but at last,
through the skilful mano3uvring of his horse, he deprived the
dragon of all his eight heads: the eight horses belonging to the
dragon he tied to a post near the head of the eldest prince,
Andrew. Andrew and Emerich did not awake till noon, and
were astonished at the sight of the splendid horses, questioning
each other as to who could have brought them there at such an
early hour, and then came to the conclusion that the prince must
have killed the dragon, and that these horses had belonged to
the monster, for no such horses ever neighed under a man
before. Ambrose again confessed that he had killed the dragon,
and brought away his horses for them. He also urged his two
companions to hurry on to kill the third dragon, or they would
be too late. They all got on horseback, but in their joy two of
them had had to eat and drink, till they had more than enough,
but Ambrose, according to his custom, took but little; the two
elder brothers again went to sleep and slept like tops ; but again
the little Tatos pulled Ambrose's hair, so soon as the morning
star began to glimmer.

Ambrose got up at once, and dressed even more quickly than
before; for the journey he took a small flask of wine, which he
secured upon his saddle The horse warned its master to ap-
proach the dragon with great caution, because it was a very
excitable one, and if he got frightened the least it would be very
difficult to conquer the monster. Soon the monster with nine
heads arrived, thumped once on the golden bridge, so that it
trembled under the thump; Ambrose dashed at the dragon
and fought with it, but they could not conquer each other,
although they fought fiercely and long. At the last hug,
especially, Ambrose grew so weak that, if he had not taken a
long draught from his flask he would have been done for on
the spot; the draught, however, renewed his strength, and they
dashed at each other again, but still neither could conquer the

So the dragon asked Ambrose to change himself into a steel
hoop and he, the dragon, would become a flint hoop, and that
they should both climb to the top of yon rock, which was so
high that the sun was only a good span above it; and that they
should roll down together, and if, while running, the flint hoop
left the rut, and, striking the steel hoop, drew sparks therefrom,
that Ambrose's head should fall off; but if on the other hand,
the steel hoop left the rut and struck the flint hoop so as to
draw sparks, then all the dragon's heads should fall off. But
they were both wise and stuck to their own ruts, rolling down
in a straight course till they reached the foot of the mountain
without touching each other, and lay down when they got to the
bottom. As they could not manage in this way, the dragon pro-
posed : u I will become a red flame and you will become a white
one, and which ever flame reaches highest he shall be victor."
Ambrose agreed to this also ; while they were contending, they
both noticed an old crow, which croaked at them from a hollow
tree; the dragon was an old acquaintance of the aged crow,
and requested it to bring in its beak as much water as would
extinguish the white flame, and promised that if he won, he
would give his foe's flesh to the crow, every bit of it.

Ambrose asked for a single drop of water, and promised the
crow all the flesh of the big-bodied dragon. The crow helped
Ambrose : it soaked its crop full of water and spat it over the
red flame; thus Ambrose conquered his last foe. He got on his
horse, tied together the nine horses of the dragon with nine
heads and took them to his brothers, who were still snoring
loudly, although the sun had reached its zenith and was hot
enough to make a roast. At last the two lazy people got up,
and Ambrose divided the nine horses between them and took
leave of them, saying, " Go in peace, I myself am obliged to run
wherever my eyes can see." The two good-for-nothing brothers
were secretly delighted, and galloped off homewards. Ambrose
turned himself into a small rabbit, and as it ran over hill and
dale it ran into a small hut where the three wives of the three
dragons were seated. The wife of the dragon with seven heads
took it into her lap and stroked it for a long time, and thus
addressed it: " I don't know whether Ambrose has killed my
husband; if he has, there will be a plague in the world, because I
will turn into a great pear tree, and the odour of its fruit will be
smelt seven miles off, and will be sweet to the taste but deadly
poison. The tree which thus grows from me will not dry up
till Ambrose plunge his sword into its root, then both it and
myself will die." Then the wife of the dragon with eight heads
also took the little rabbit in her lap, and spoke thus: "If
Ambrose has killed my husband there will be a plague in the
world, I can tell you ! because in my sorrow I will change into a
spring ; there will be eight streams flowing out of this spring,
each one of which will run eight miles, where it again will sub-
divide into eight more branches. And whoever drinks of the
water will die ; but if Ambrose wash his sword in my blood
which is the water of the spring all the water will at once dry
up and I shall die." Then the wife of the dragon with nine
heads spoke to the rabbit, saying, " If Ambrose has killed my
husband, in my sorrow I will change into a huge bramble, and
will stretch all over the world, all along the highroads. And
whoever trips over me, will die; but if Ambrose cut my stalk in
two anywhere the bramble will dry up everywhere and I shall

Having listened to all this, the little rabbit scampered off out of
the hut; but an old woman with an iron nose, the mother of the
three dragons, chased him, and chased him over hill and dale: he
ran, and rushed about, till at length he overtook his brothers;
jumping on his little horse's back, he continued his journey at
his leisure. As they travelled on, his eldest brother longed for
some good fruit; just then they saw a fine pear tree, whereupon
Ambrose jumped from his horse, and plunged his sword into
the roots of the tree, and drew blood, and a moaning voice was
heard. They travelled on for a few miles, when Emerich all of a
sudden became very thirsty: he discovered a spring, and jumped
off his horse in order to drink, but Ambrose was first to arrive at
the water; when, plunging his sword into it, it became blood, and
fearful screams were heard, and in one moment the whole of the
water dried up. From this point Ambrose galloped on in front
till he left his brothers two miles behind, because he knew that
the bramble was stretching far along the country road; he cut it
in two, blood oozed out, and the bramble at once dried up.
Having thus cleared away all dangers from his brothers' way, he
blest them and separated from them.

The brothers went home, but the old woman with the iron
nose persecuted Ambrose more than ever, being in a great rage
at his having killed her sons and her daughters-in-law. Ambrose
ran as hard as he could, for he had left his horse with his
brothers; but when he was quite exhausted and had lost all
confidence in himself, he ran into a smithy, and promised the
smith that he would serve him for two years for nothing if he
would hide him safely and well. The bargain was soon struck,
and no sooner had the smith hidden him than the old woman
appeared on the spot and inquired after a youth : she described
his figure, the shape of his eyes and mouth, height, colour of his
moustache and hair, dress, and general appearance. But the smith
was not such a fool as to betray the lad who had engaged to work
at his anvil for him for two years for nothing. So the old witch
with the iron nose got to know nothing and left the place growl-
ing. One day Ambrose was perspiring heavily by the side of the
anvil ; so at eventide he went for a short walk in the road in order
to get a mouthful of fresh air. When he had nearly reached the
edge of the wood, which was only at a dog's trot from the smithy,
he met a very old woman with wizened face, whose carriage was
drawn by two small cats: the old woman began to ogle little
Ambrose, making sheep's eyes at him, like fast young women do.
" May hell swallow you, you old hag," said Ambrose to her
angrily, "I see you have still such foolish ideas in your head,
although you have grown so old ! " Having said this he gave
the carriage in which the witch sat, a kick, but poor Ambrose's
right foot stuck fast to the axle, and the two cats scampered off
over hill and dale with him until he suddenly discovered that he
was trotting in hell, and saw old Pilate staring at him. The old
witch with the iron nose because it was she who had the carriage
and pair of cats fell over head and ears in love with the young
lad, and at once asked him to marry her.

Ambrose shuddered when he heard this repulsive, unnatural
request. " Very well," said the woman with the iron nose, " as
you don't intend to marry me, into jail you go ! twelve hundred-
weight of iron on your feet !" Nine black servants seized hold
of poor Ambrose, at once, and took him nine miles down into
the bowels of the earth, and fastened a piece of iron weighing
twelve hundred-weight on his feet and secured it with a lock.
The poor lad wept and groaned, but no one had admission to
where he was, with the exception of the old witch and one of
her maids. The maid of the witch with the iron nose was not
quite such an ugly fright as her wizened old mistress, in fact she
was such a pretty girl that one would have to search far for a
prettier lass. She commenced to visit Ambrose in his prison
rather often, sometimes even when the old witch did not dream of
it to tell the truth, she fell head over ears in love with the lad,
nor did Ambrose dislike the pretty girl; on the contrary, he pro-
mised to marry her if she were able to effect his escape from his deep
prison. The girl did not require any further coaxing, but com-
menced plotting at once, At last she hit upon a scheme, and
thus spoke to her darling Ambrose: " You cannot get out of
this place, unless you marry the old woman with the iron nose.
She having once become your wife will reveal to you all her
secrets; she will also tell you how she manages to keep alive so
long, and by what ways and means she may be got rid of."
Ambrose followed her instructions and was married to the old
witch by a clergyman there are clergy even in hell, as many as
you want. The first night Ambrose, after having for a long time
been kissing and making love to the old iron nose, asked her :
" What keeps you alive for so long, and when do you think you
will die? I don't ask these questions, my dearest love," he
added, flatteringly, " as if I wished for your death, but because
I should like to use those means myself which prolong your life
and keep away everything from me which would shorten life,
and thus preserve me, living long and happily with you." The
old woman at first was half inclined to believe his words, but
while meditating over what she had just heard, she suddenly
kicked out in bed, and Ambrose Hew three miles into hell in
his fright.

But the result of all the questioning and flattering in the end
was that the old woman confessed. She confided to him that
she kept a wild boar in the silken meadow, and if it were killed,
they would find a hare inside, inside the hare a pigeon, inside
the pigeon a small box, inside the little box one black and one
shining beetle : the shining beetle held her life, the black one her
power ; if those two beetles died then her life would come to an
end, too. As soon as the old woman went out for a drive
which she had to do every day Ambrose killed the wild boar,
took out the hare, from the hare the pigeon, from the pigeon the
box, and from the box the two beetles : he killed the black one
at once, but kept the shining one alive. The old witch's power
left her immediately. When she returned home her bed had
to be made for her. Ambrose sat by her bedside and looked
very sad, and asked her with tears if she, who was the other half
of his soul, died what would become of him, who was a man
from earth and a good soul, who had no business there. " In
case I die, my dear husband," said the doomed woman, in a
mild voice, "open with the key which I keep in my bosom yon
black closet in the wall. But you can't remove the key from
my bosom until I am dead. In the closet you will find a small
golden rod ; with this rod you must strike the side of the castle
in which we are, arid it will become a golden apple. You, then,
can get into the upper world by harnessing my two cats in my
carriage, and by whipping them with the golden rod. Here-
upon Ambrose killed the shining beetle too, and her para (animal
soul) left the old witch at once.

He then struck the castle side with the golden rod, and it
turned into an apple; having harnessed the two cats and patted
them with the golden rod, he bade the maid sit by him, and in
a wink they reached the upper world. The maid had been kid-
napped by the old witch with the iron nose from the king of the
country in the upper world, in whose land the mouth of hell was
situated. Ambrose placed the golden apple in the prettiest part
of the country and tapped its side with the rod and it became a
beautiful castle of gold, in which he married his sweetheart and
lived with her happily. Some time after he returned to his
father's land, where an immense number of strong soldiers had
grown up since Ambrose had killed the dragons. The old king
distributed his realm among his three sons, giving the most beau-
tiful empires to Ambrose, who took his father to him and kept
him in great honour. His wife bore pretty children who rude
out every day on the Tatos.