Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mountains Goblins are Cool, Too

You know, it's not only about the kappa. There are all these other creatures lurking out there. Recently I've been enamored with one fellow in particular--the tengu/mountain goblin.

Mmm, doesn't he just sound sexy?

See, my next book will have some (quite a bit?) of tengu folklore in it. So I've been researching like a mad woman. I've even started visiting temples in the prefecture dedicated to this fearsome beastie.

Yesterday's was a gem.

Here's what a tengu looks like. This is keychain I bought at the temple. In the background there is another mountain goblin and a beer looking on.

Here's the "other" tengu. It's a clay bell actually. Behind him you have a sweet bean rice cake. The rice cake has "me" written on it. "Me" means eye. If you eat it your sight is supposed to improve. But that's a whole other blog. After I eat a thousand of these puppies I'll let you know what happens.

Okay, the tengu basics. I'll make this quick.

Some general attributes of mountain goblins are the ability to shape shift, to move instantly from one place to another without using their wings (they have wings!), and to show up in your dreams. Also, they are the patron of martial arts and weapon smithing. As for clothes, the tengu walk around on tall, one-toothed geta shoes, they carry a fan with which they can control the winds, and they pretty much dress like the yamabushi (mountain ascetic) and that's just cool. Some are good guys, some not so much.

Mountain goblins also come in two flavors. One is the little tengu, or crow tengu. They are black, beaked, crow-like. Here's a picture from the temple yesterday. Look at those forearms!

The second type is called the konoha or tumbling leaf tengu. They are more human looking although they have bright crimson faces and long, long noses. Here's one of those:

Back in the day people used to believe mountain goblins would swoop in and kidnap people/children. They called this 'kamikakushi' (神隠し) , hidden by god. Sometimes these people would return suddenly with no memory of where they'd been, or they'd have memories of distant lands that they couldn't have possibly visited on foot.

Even in my town I've heard an old woman explaining the disappearance of a child as kamikakushi, it was a much nicer explanation than what probably really happened. Pretty bad when the monsters of the past are more benign that the monsters of the present.

So, yeah, that's where I'm at--studying goblins.

Oh yeah, at one of the temples yesterday there was a gorgeous little waterfall and pool. The legend is that this is where a certain mountain goblin spent a lot of his time. You know, when he wasn't snatching away kids and messing with the wind.

And finally, where does a tengu come from?

Why an egg, of course.


Virginia Lee said...

Aren't they lovely! I can't wait for the second book, Miss T.

Questions: Do you ever worry/wonder if any of these beings that you're looking into will begin hanging about? Have any bothered you as yet? Or simply said, "Hello!"? (And yeah, that's punctuation's likely wrong. Deal w/it. :P )

Frank Baron said...

Very interesting, Terrie. I've semi-recently taken a more serious interest in folklore, primarily of North, Central and South America but I love tales from around the world. I hope the writing goes well.

That trunk to the right of the pretty waterfall looks like it could be part of a great-looking tree.

Pat said...

Just curious, Terrie - are the younger Japanese as likely to attribute a disappearance to a goblin as the older folks are? Or do they just laugh at the old ones' stories - nervously?

Benjamin Solah said...

As a horror fan and a general lover of the darker things, I loved this post.

So much real mythology to play with and create something unique out of. I love the photos too.

I should so some research in Aboriginal dream time and mythology. I did write one story once based on an Aboriginal creature but there is so much potential in non-Western myths.

Kappa no He said...

Hey everyone, sorry I haven't been here to reply to comments. I've been crazy in love with a new story and it's keeping me away from...*gasp* all my usual Internet haunts.

Virginia, I really like the fact that people around here do think of them as "around" "most of the time". And that when they talk about strange happenings no one gives them a second glance. Me? I'll have to e-mail you some of the weird stuff...

Frank, I'll look. I'm sure I took a picture of the entire tree. It really was a handsome, handsome tree.

Pat! Actually, just the other day at my rock class we all ran off into the woods during lunch to look at some stuff our teacher wanted to show us and when we got back another student had shown up. He was sitting there all alone eating a rice ball. He said, I thought a tengu had gotten you all! Although he wasn't super young, fifties-ish. I'll ask Julyan what he thinks about the real youngins and if they'd ever refer to a disappearance as that.

The Miyazawa Spirited Away is actually called Sen to Chiru no Kamikakushi in Japanese. So young people are very familiar with the term.

Ben, yeah, I was kind of tired of the old western myths and folklore. It's still all good. But there is so much more out there. And a lot of it is quite dark. Fascinating. I imagine aboriginal folklore would be amazingly deep and unexplored for the most part.

Mary Witzl said...

My Japanese teacher talked about kamikakushi all the time, but she was generally talking about the people who were abducted near the Japan Sea and hauled off to North Korea to teach Japanese. In Kyushu, I once knew a boy who disappeared without a trace; the women who knew his family (and were roughly my age, unlike my Japanese teacher) all referred to his disappearance as 'kamikakushi' too.

So glad no Tengu has ever turned up in my dreams! When I hear 'Tengu' I think only of the cool food supply place where you can order stuff like wheat germ and organic miso...