Question raised by: Suzy Styles
Discussants: , Janet Goodwin, Adam Kern, Lawrence Marceau, Alan Cummings, Maria Chiara Migliore, Charlotte Eubanks, Michael Watson, Tim Kern, Michael Wachutka, Susan Klein, Richard Emmert, Denise O'Brien
Dear pmjs members,
I am currently undertaking research at the Australian National
University onthe topic of foxes
transforming into women in Japanese folktales and literature - in particularthe Japanese
conceptions of womanhood which are presented in OEKitsune-nyoubo and relatedtales. I have been tracking down various representations of fox-women in folklore and literature, and would be keen to hear if readers of this list have any further suggestions.
I have been looking at modern collections of Japanese folk
tales by Yanagida Kunio, Fanny Hagin
Mayer and Keigo Seki, as well as in older literature including Kokonchuumonjuu, Uji shui monogatari, Konjaku monogatari, Otogiboko and Otogizoshi. I have also found reference tothe theme in "Hachikazuki", Ueda Akinari's "Ugetsu monogatari", Akutagawa's "Futari Komachi", Tanizaki's "Haha o kouru ki", and the hanashiki storytelling recorded by Post Wheeler.
I have also found references to the theme in modern pop-culture, anime and manga, as well as in art - Hiroshige's "kitsune-gao" women, and kitsune-bake images as sword decoration on tsuba and kozuka handles.
1) I keep finding references to the fox kabuki "Kuzunoha" and "Tamamonomae" (also Noh), does
anyone know of English translations of these? (I am only on a short researchproject at the moment and my classical Japanese would certainly not be up to speed) Are there others?
2) Any other suggestions for where to look in literature etc.? any brief mention you can think of in some novel, text, story... modern examples useful too.
3) Any great writers on fox-lore spring to mind? I have found Lafcadio Hearn's "Kitsune" and articles by Casal, Johnson, Dennys and Williams, as well as Nozaki Kiyoshi's book 'Kitsune; Japan's fox of Mystery, Romance and Humour.' Any others I should know about?
4) Does anyone know more about the use of fox images in sword
ornamentation?Did it have a
particular meaning? What sort of images were most popular? Did women featureoften? Other
Hope to hear back from you soon,
The Fox and the Jewel, by Karen Smyers, contains some information
references that should be useful.
A quick response to your query, Suzy Styles, about foxes, another
topic about which I remain unhappily ignorant.
Rania Huntington, who specializes in premodern Chinese literature
but who is
sly and crafty in things Japanese too has written comparatively, I believe,
on the subject. See her "Foxes and Sex in Late Imperial Chinese
Narrative"in <Nannu> (Spring 2000). Her monograph, <Alien Kind: Foxes and
Late Imperial Chinese Narrative> is forthcoming from Harvard University
Also, foxes turn up prodigiously in the genre of kibyoushi,
where they often
masquerade as courtesans. The best place to find a comprehensive listing of
their cameos is in Tanahashi Masahiro's compendious <Kibyoushi souran>, in
the series <Nihon shoshigaku taikei>, vol. 48, numbers 1-3 + index,
published by Seishoudou shoten, ca. 1986.
Date: Sat, 02 Feb 2002 15:57:33 -0500
From: Lawrence Marceau
At 21:41 +0900 2002.2.3, Suzy Styles wrote:
1) I keep finding references to the fox kabuki "Kuzunoha"
and "Tamamonomae" (also Noh), does anyone know of English
translations of these? (I am only on a short research
project at the moment and my classical Japanese would
certainly not be up to speed) Are there others?
You should be able to check the pmjs database of Noh
However, there was "no" translation for either
are looking for.
2) Any other suggestions for where to look in literature
etc.? any brief mention you can think of in some novel,
text, story... modern examples useful too.
Have you checked the following references?
(Zoho kaitei) Nihon setsuwa bungaku sakuin
Nihon Denki densetsu daijiten
Nihon kaku^ densho^ jinmei jiten
Nihon setsuwa densetsu daijiten
Date: Sun, 03 Feb 2002 11:29:04 +0000
From: Alan Cummings
there is a translation of the kabuki version of Kuzunoha by
in "Brilliance and Bravado: Kabuki Plays On Stage, 1697-1770". this is
due from the University of Hawaii Press, hopefully sometime very soon
this year. the original play "Ashiya Douman Oouchi Kagami" was not
kabuki but a puppet theatre play.
it might be worthwhile trying to get in touch with Cody, as
he might be
able to point in some interesting directions. drop me a line off list
and i'll send you his address, as i don't think he's a member of this list.
The Nihon ryoiki contains the first appearance in Japan - as
far as I know -
of a fox woman (first book, tale no. 2). In Second book, tale n. 4 relates
the story of one of her female descendants, a woman possessing an
extraordinary strength. There is an English translation by Kyoko Motomochi
Nakamura, Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition, Harvard
Univ. Press, 1973.
Kawai Hayao spends several chapters in his book _Mukashi Banashi
Nihonjin no Kokoro_ (which is also available in English translation)
discussing the irui kekkon and animal nyoubou phenomena in folk
literature. Though he does not specifically dissect the kitsune nyoubou
legends, he does refer to them and provides a good general analysis.
Also, Seki Keigo in his _Nihon Mukashi Banashi Taisei_ has
an entire index
of irui kekkon situations. He deals with many kitsune nyoubou myths and
folktales therein and provides reference to some other sources.
Finally, Professor Shinoda Chiwaki (I've forgotten for the
university he is associated with) in Japan specializes in irui kekkon
research. If you have the time to contact him, it may prove quite
I assume you have already seen the setsuwa translated by Royall Tyler in _Japanese Tales_. ("Fox(es) in index.)
For the story of Tamamonomae, see the noh play Sesshouseki ("The Killing Stone"). Waley translates extracts. If your French is better than your classical Japanese, see Rene Sieffert's version in _Zeami: La Tradition Secrete du No_ (1960). This includes the ai-kyogen interlude that gives an account of "Dame Tamamo" (pp. 302-4).
You might also look at the Chinese tale of King You of Zhou
whose consort Baosi turns out to be a fox.
Heike monogatari, book 2.7 "Houka no sata" ("The Matter of the Signal Fires" in Helen McCullough's translation).
I realize that you are more interested in the fox motif as it is
incorporated in Japanese literature and performance, but have you tried
Komatsu Kazuhiko in his work on spirit possession in Japan. to start I would
suggest his 'Kami gami no seishin shi' or 'Hyorei shinko ron'.It can give
you some insight into the folklore and cultural history of the fox.
Also, as to the reception of the Japanese fox motif into Canadian
literature, 'Foxes' in Timothy Findley's short story collection
"Stones"(Penguin Books, 1989) is a quick read on the bus.
Timothy Kern (Associate Professor)
Office of Research Exchange
International Research Center for Japanese Studies
3-2 Oeyama-cho,Goryo,Nichikyo-ku, Kyoto 610-1192
For the story of Tamamonomae, see the noh play Sesshouseki
Stone"). Waley translates extracts. If your French is better than your
classical Japanese, see Rene Sieffert's version in _Zeami: La Tradition
Secrete du No_ (1960). This includes the ai-kyogen interlude that gives an
account of "Dame Tamamo" (pp. 302-4).
...and if your German is better than
your classical Japanese, you might want to look at Hermann Bohner's
detailed synopsis in _No: Die einzelnen No_ (1956), pp. 607-8.
[There Bohner describes and encyclopaedically discusses every single of the 240 Noh as given in the 7 volumes of Sanari Kentaro's _Yokyoku taikan_ (kanji)_]
Bohner also mentions a translation in Aston's _History of Japanese Literature_ [I don't have this book at hand, so I don't know how detailed Aston deals with this play]and recommends for further details to look at: _A list of translations of Japanese drama into English, French, and German_ (compiled by Shio Sakanishi, Marion H. Addington, and P.D. Perkin; Washington, D.C. : American Council of Learned Societies, 1935).
I personally could add that B. H. Chamberlain gives a translation of Sesshou-seki in his _The classical poetry of the Japanese_ (London: Trubner, 1880).
Date: Wed, 06 Feb 2002 15:59:26 -0800
From: Susan B. Klein
Here's some info in English on foxes that I used the last time I taughtJapanese ghosts, plus a translation of the Noh play that is about Tamamo no Mae:
Carmen Blacker, The Catalpa Bow, "Witch Animals"
Janet Goff, "Foxes in Japanese Culture: Beautiful or Beastly?" Japan Quarterly (April-June 1997), pp. 67-77
Royall Tyler, Japanese Tales: Foxes I #80-84; Foxes II #205-209; 124-125
Basil Hall Chamberlin, The Classical Poetry of Japan (London: Trubner,1880), "The Death-Stone" (Sesshouseki)
Janet Goff also gives a summary of The Death-Stone (Sesshouseki) in her article, which is helpful because obviously the Chamberlin translation is very old and may not be that easy to get a holdof. The language is a more than a bit creaky (it includes such gems as "waving in my hand the sacerdotal besom")and is filled with bad rhymes, but it should give you a sense of the plot. And of course, some of Chamberlin's romanizations of names are archaic (e.g. the Zen priest's name is given as Genwou). Although it is not about a fox woman, when I teach foxes I also include the kyogen play, Tsurigitsune (The Fox and the Trapper) because there are such good videos (lifted from NHK) of various kyogen masters in performance. And I show the segment from Kurosawa's Dreams in which the little boy spies on a fox wedding.
Hope that helps --
I should have noted that when I show Tsurigitsune I use Rick Emmert's translation:
Richard Emmert, trans., Selected Plays of Kyogen (Tokyo: Japan
Tsurigitsune (The Fox and the Trapper) pp. 27-42
Although not specifically on Tamamo no Mae, the kyogen includes a long section in which the fox retells the Tamamo no Mae story in order to scare his "nephew" into not trapping foxes anymore.
bye for now --
I think you made a mistake on this reference and should instead be referring to Richard McKinnon's kyogen translations. Thanks for the complement but I didn't know a word of Japanese yet back in 1968.
Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 12:42:07 -0800
From: Susan B. Klein
You're so right. It is Richard McKinnon who translated Tsurigitsune (I can only plead that my brain has been fried by the minutia of copy-editing my book....) Susan
A late contribution to this topic re a possible English derivative, Lady Into Fox.
David Garnett (1892-1981) published a short story called Lady into Foxin 1922. Garnett was the son of Edward Garnett, an influential publisher's reader, and Constance Garnett, the translator of Russian classics. David Garnett was part of the Bloomsbury set (His second wife was Angelica Bell, daughter of Clive Bell andVanessa Stephen Bell, sister of novelist Virginia Woolf.) and probably knew Arthur Waley. Whether he knew about kitsune nyoubou or not, I don't know. The narrative is sometimes referred toas a novel or novella---I've only seen it in the short story form. It has inspired some dance and theatrical adaptations (see links below).
The full text of Garnett's story is available on line at
The tale was made into a ballet with music by Arthur Honegger
and choreography by A. Howard. Its world premiere was in London in 1939.
It was also produced as a play in 1996-97 in England; for more details on that production see
It seems that women and foxes are associated in a variety of
fiction and folklore according to this bibliography (keep scrolling
to get to fiction section). Some of the sources listed clearly
reference Japanese material or the stories are derivative from
Regards, Denise O'Brien
Denise O'Brien, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA
Just a quick note to say thanks to everyone who offered suggestions
for my research work into
kitsune nyoubo stories. You've given me some great leads to hunt down, and some of the stuff I have found has been immensely useful.
Australian National University