Friday, June 24, 2011

A Foxy Shapeshifter

Any Fox lovers out there?

Ages ago these adorable creatures were a very common sight in Japan. Hence it was inevitable they ended up in folklore tales. In fact, there are so many of them it could fill numerous volumes of books! Could take years to read them all.

The kitsune is likely the most popular in Japanese folklore.

It has captured the attention of moviemakers, novelists, play writers, and even anime. Why? Could it be because they’re wiley, devious, cute, and….shapeshifters? Probably.

One of many (an understatement) tales of the kitsune is about a young man who meets a lovely woman hanging around in the woods near his farm. They, of course, fall in love and get married. This man owns a dog that helps him on the farm. For some strange reason the dog doesn’t like the woman - at all. Even so far as yearning to kill her. Though his wife complains about the dog, the farmer blows it off.

After several years and a few children later, the family settles down for a meal one evening. Without warning, the dog attacks the wife. She leaps up and shapeshifts into her true fox form and bolts out the front door into the woods.

The lonely heartbroken farmer searches the woods for his wife for years. When he finely finds her, he professes his love to the mother of his children and begs her to return. She (naturally) refuses so long as the dog is there. He confesses that he can’t part with the dog because it’s needed on the farm to ensure their livelyhood.

The two strike a compromise. Everyday he works on the farm and every night she returns from the forest to be in his arms while the dog sleeps.

Have any of you read a novel with a kitsune in it? If not, check out Kij Johnson’s The Fox Woman. The protagonist kitsune in the novel is named Kitsune. Or if you’re into fantasy, you may want to consider reading Mercedes Lackey who has kitsune characters in her SERRAted Edge novels – specifically The Chrome Circle.

Happy Reading!

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