A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned kitsune. Kitsune means fox in Japanese, but for us, it refers to the foxes in Japanese folklore. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. According to folklore, all foxes have the ability to shape shift into men or women. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others — as foxes in folklore often do — other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives. The more tails a kitsune has — they may have as many as nine — the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. the last story I share about the foxes, The Foxes’ Wedding, was a happy tale, today’s shows a different side of the kitsune.
A retainer who served the governor of Kai was heading home one evening from the governor’s mansion when he saw a fox. The man chased the fox and shot at it with the kind of noisemaker arrow used for scaring off dogs. He hit the fox in the back leg.
The fox yelped in pain, rolled over, and dove limping into the brush. As the retainer went to retrieve his arrow, the fox reappeared in front of him, and he was about to shoot at it again when it vanished.
A quarter of a mile from home he saw the fox running ahead of him carrying a flaming brand in its mouth. He wondered what it was up to. He spurred his horse on. On reaching the house, the fox changed into a human and set the house on fire. The retainer was ready to shoot as soon as he got within range, but the human changed right back into a fox and got away. The house burned down.
“Beings like that exact swift vengeance. It’s better to leave them alone.”
Definitely be wary of foxes. They are cute though, aren’t they? The photo above is from Zao Fox Village. It is one of the best places in Japan to go and see foxes. The foxes freely roam a preserve which visitors can enter. For 100 yen (about 85¢), you can even purchase food for the foxes, but because they are not domesticated, visitors are cautioned against hand-feeding them or bringing small children.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.