Monday, January 20, 2014

5 Japanese Fairy Tales to Inspire You

Article by Ty Hulse

In lore Japan is a liminal land, one without a clear divide between the spirit world and the world of humanity. Here poverty can live in people's attics, oni can hide in the corners of their house and overhead the mountains loom, filled with spirits.

We begin our journey to understand the tales of Japan with five fairy tales with quintessential motifs.

Bandit King
There are a number of fairy tales about Japan in which a samurai is banished from their homeland after their father is killed by a greedy rival. Often these samurai turn to being trained by animals or in this case, becoming bandit kings in order to build the army and wealthy they need to retake their land. But this story is more than just the tale of a samurai gaining magical powers and armies to retake their home, it also has one of the most poignant of themes in samurai tales... that of loss. It's a common feature in Japanese tales that beauty comes from the temporary, from loss after a great struggle.

Writing Prompts
A Japanese Sorcerer Aesthetic has come under attack by a number of supernatural enemies and so he or she needs to turn to bandits for help.

Can't Outsmart a Kitsune
Kitsune, or foxes, are the ultimate tricksters, but every once in a while someone is dumb enough to try to outsmart them. When this happens the most clever of the kitsune decide to teach the human a lesson. This fairy tale shows that foxes are able to do more than make illusions, they in essence hypnotize people to make them believe very complex ideas.

Writing Prompt
Often foxes would move into old buildings, which a person could only inherit if they outsmarted the fox.

The Witch of the Mountain
A village is watching the moon rise together when the witch who lives on the mountain demands that they bring food for her newborn child or she will curse the village. This fairy tale shows that dangerous beings can also be kind and kind beings can be dangerous and that mountain kami and witches were often poor and needed humans to make them offerings of food to survive.

Writing Prompt
Write a story about some impoverished and starving mountain kami or similar creatures.

Vampire Cat
In Japanese lore Cats are often vampires, draining people of their life. Throughout Eurasia when these sorts of magical vampire spirits approached people would begin to fall asleep.

Cat Guardian
Some cats however, are protectors of humanity. Many magical animals from foxes to bears were sent by the kami to protect humans from evil. 

Raven's Shire is dedicated to helping writers and artists learn about the strange world of fairy tales, so if you have any questions or need any help understanding the fairy realm, please contact us.