Women in the Snow at Fujisawa by Hiroshige

Tales of Old Japan by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford

Sparrow by Hiroshige

Tales of Old Japan
by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford


The Forty-Seven Ronins

The Loves of Gompachi and Komurasaki

Kazuma's Revenge

A Story of the Otokodate of Yedo

The Wonderful Adventures of Funakoshi Jiuyemon

The Eta Maiden and the Hatamoto

The Tongue-Cut Sparrow

The Accomplished and Lucky Tea-Kettle

The Crackling Mountain

The Story of the Old Man Who Made Withered Trees to Blossom

The Battle of the Ape and the Crab

The Adventures of Little Peachling

The Foxes' Wedding

The History of Sakata Kintoki

The Elves and the Envious Neighbour

The Ghost of Sakura

How Tajima Shume Was Tormented By a Devil of His Own Creation

Concerning Certain Superstitions

The Vampire Cat of Nabeshima

The Story of the Faithful Cat

How a Man Was Bewitched and Had His Head Shaved By the Foxes

The Grateful Foxes

The Badger's Money

The Prince and the Badger

Sermon I

Sermon II

Sermon III

An Account of the Hara-Kiri on the Ceremonies Observed at the Hara-Kiri of a Person Given in Charge To a Daimo

The Marriage Ceremony

On the Birth and Bearing of Children

Funeral Rites

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Concerning Certain Superstitions

Cats, foxes, and badgers are regarded with superstitious awe by the Japanese, who attribute to them the power of assuming the human shape in order to bewitch mankind. Like the fairies of our Western tales, however, they work for good as well as for evil ends. To do them a good turn is to secure powerful allies; but woe betide him who injures them!—he and his will assuredly suffer for it. Cats and foxes seem to have been looked upon as uncanny beasts all the world over; but it is new to me that badgers should have a place in fairy-land. The island of Shikoku, the southernmost of the great Japanese islands, appears to be the part of the country in which the badger is regarded with the greatest veneration. Among the many tricks which he plays upon the human race is one, of which I have a clever representation carved in ivory. Lying in wait in lonely places after dusk, the badger watches for benighted wayfarers: should one appear, the beast, drawing a long breath, distends his belly and drums delicately upon it with his clenched fist, producing such entrancing tones, that the traveller cannot resist turning aside to follow the sound, which, Will-o'-the-wisp-like, recedes as he advances, until it lures him on to his destruction. Love is, however, the most powerful engine which the cat, the fox, and the badger alike put forth for the ruin of man. No German poet ever imagined a more captivating water-nymph than the fair virgins by whom the knight of Japanese romance is assailed: the true hero recognizes and slays the beast; the weaker mortal yields and perishes.

The Japanese story-books abound with tales about the pranks of these creatures, which, like ghosts, even play a part in the histories of ancient and noble families. I have collected a few of these, and now beg a hearing for a distinguished and two-tailed74 connection of Puss in Boots and the Chatte Blanche.

The text came from:

Freeman-Mitford, A. B. Tales of Old Japan. London: Macmillan, 1871, 1890.
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Footnote 74:

Cats are found in Japan, as in the Isle of Man, with stumps, where they should have tails. Sometimes this is the result of art, sometimes of a natural shortcoming. The cats of Yedo are of bad repute as mousers, their energies being relaxed by much petting at the hands of ladies. The Cat of Nabéshima, so says tradition, was a monster with two tails.
Return to place in text.

Available from Amazon.com

Tales of Old Japan : Folklore, Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories and Legends of the Samurai  by A. B. Mitford

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Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki

Japanese Tales by Royall Tyler

Tales from Japan by Helen McAlpine, William McAlpine, Rosamund Fowler (Illustrator)

The Japanese Psyche: Major Motifs in Fairy Tales of Japan by Hayao Kawai, Gerow Reece (Translator), Sachiko Reece (Translator)


©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales
E-mail: surlalune@aol.com
Page last updated June 1, 2005

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