The requests I receive are always an opportunity for further study and research for me. This time I was asked for a small 9-tailed Kitsune and so I started reading and looking to find out more. I knew this magical character from Japanese anime but I had never delved into its history and origins, what I discovered I share below with you. First the word Kitsune means fox in Japanese. The 9-tailed fox is a mythical character present in all Asian cultures (China, Japan and Korea in the first place) whose origins are uncertain.
In the Japanese language Kitsu-ne means "go back and sleep" or in the ki-tsune variant "always come back". A legend tells that a man married a beautiful woman who was hated by his dog, one day the dog attacked her scaring her so much that she transformed into her primary form of fox and ran away. The husband said "you will also be a fox but I love you, come back whenever you want" So the fox came back every night and, after changing into a human form, she slept into his arms, in the morning she turned again into a fox and went away again.
Kitsunes have shapeshifter skills, often turning into beautiful women or older men. The older the fox is, the wiser and the more tails has, she can reach a maximum of nine. 9-tailed foxes are often omniscient. In the human form the Kitsunes fear dogs because with their instincts the dogs can reveal their disguise. To find out if a person is actually a kitsune one has to look for the tail because it is difficult, even in transformations, to hide it.
The Kitsunes are distinguished in ZENKO celestial and benevolent foxes and YAKO mischievous and dangerous field foxes.
Since I like to compare cultures and see the differences that distinct worlds and ways of seeing have created, I asked myself what difference there was with the fox figure very present in the tales of Western culture. Medieval bestiaries already described the fox as a shrewd, sly and mischievous animal, probably due to the cunning shown in the search for food. Subsequently in the didactic tales of Phaedrus, Aesop, Leonardo Da Vinci, La Fontaine, the fox stands out for its cunning. To get to Pinocchio where the fox in league with the cat is a thief and takes advantage of Pinocchio's naivety. I think that in the classic fairy tales fox is very similar to the Japanese field foxes, the Yako. The distinction between the noble, almost divine nature of Japanese kitsune and the more animalistic and low nature of the fox in western culture seems to me to be quite clear.
In The little prince, in 1943, the fox finally subverts all the schemes showing that he wants to be a faithful friend by expressing the desire to be domesticated. I understood that there is a lot to write about the fox figure in fairy tales and literature and I will probably make it the topic for a future post.
To know more a to deepen an interesting article on Kitsune here