From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
A Yuki-onna

Yuki-onna (雪女 ?, snow woman) is a spirit or yōkai found in Japanese folklore. She is a popular figure in Japanese animation, manga and literature. Yuki-onna is sometimes confused with Yama-uba ("mountain crone"), but the two figures are not the same.[1]


[edit] Appearance

Yuki-onna appears as a tall, beautiful woman with long hair on snowy nights. Her skin is inhumanly pale or even transparent, causing her to blend into the snowy landscape (as she is most famously described in Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things). She sometimes wears a white kimono,[2] but other legends describe her as nude, with only her face and hair standing out against the snow.[3] Despite her inhuman beauty, her eyes can strike terror into mortals. She floats across the snow, leaving no footprints (in fact, some tales say she has no feet, a notable feature for many Japanese ghosts), and she can transform into a cloud of mist or snow if she is threatened.[4]

[edit] Behavior

The Yuki-onna, being associated with winter and snowstorms, is said in some legends to be the spirit of an individual who has perished in the snow.[5] She is at the same time beautiful and serene, yet ruthless in her killing of unsuspecting mortals. Until the 18th century, she was almost uniformly portrayed as evil. Today, however, stories often color her as more human, emphasizing her ghost-like nature and ephemeral beauty.[6]

In many stories, Yuki-onna reveals herself to travelers who find themselves trapped in snowstorms and uses her icy breath to leave them as frost-coated corpses. Other legends say that she leads them astray so they simply die of exposure. Other times, she manifests holding a child. When a well-intentioned soul takes the "child" from her, he or she is frozen in place.[2] Parents searching for lost children are particularly susceptible to this tactic. Other legends make Yuki-onna much more aggressive. In these stories, she often physically invades people's homes, blowing in the door with a gust of wind, to kill them while they sleep (though some legends require her to be invited inside first).

Exactly what Yuki-onna is after varies from tale to tale. Sometimes she is simply satisfied to see her victim's death. Other times, however, she is more vampiric, draining her victims' blood or "life force". She occasionally takes on a succubus-like manner, preying on weak-willed men in order to drain or freeze them through sex or a kiss.[2]

Like the snow and winter weather she represents, Yuki-onna has a softer side. She sometimes lets would-be victims go for various reasons. In one popular Yuki-onna legend, for example, she sets a young boy free due to his beauty and age. She makes him promise to never mention her again, though, and when he relates the story to his wife much later in life, his wife reveals herself to be none other than the snow woman. She reviles him for breaking his promise but spares him yet again, this time out of concern for the children she has born him (but if he dares mistreat their children, she will return with no mercy. Luckily for him, he is already a loving father).[6] In a similar legend, Yuki-onna melts away once her husband discovers her true nature.

[edit] Lafcadio Hearn's version

A long time ago, there lived two woodcutters, Minokichi and Mosaku. Minokichi was young and Mosaku was very old.

One winter day, they could not come back home because of a snowstorm. They found a hut in the mountain and decided to sleep there. On this particular evening, Minokichi woke up and found a beautiful lady with white clothes. She breathed on old Mosaku and he was frozen to death.

She then approached Minokichi in order to breathe on him, but then stared at him for a while, and said: "I thought I was going to kill you, the same as that old man, but I will not, because you are young and beautiful. You must not tell anyone about this incident. If you tell anyone about me, I will kill you."

Several years later, Minokichi met a beautiful young lady, named Oyuki (yuki = "snow") and married her. She was a good wife. Minokichi and Oyuki had several children and lived many years happily. Mysteriously, she did not age at all.

One night, after the children were asleep, Minokichi said to Oyuki: "Whenever I see you, I am reminded of a mysterious incident that happened to me. When I was young, I met a beautiful young lady like you. I do not know whether it was dream or she was a Yuki-onna..."

After finishing his story, Oyuki suddenly stood up, and said "That woman you met was me! I told you that I would kill you if you ever told anyone about that incident. However, I can't kill you because of our children. Take care of our children... " Then she melted and disappeared.

After that, no one saw her.

[edit] In popular culture

Being a creature of Japanese folklore, the Yuki-onna has naturally been used as a character in a wide range of Japanese fiction and pop-culture. Like many yōkai, it has been the basis for a Pokémon species and a Legend of the five rings card from the CCG, as well as often appearing as a character, in manga/anime, such as Yukime in Hell Teacher Nūbē, Yukiko-hime in Go Nagai's Dororon Enma-kun (who is actually the daughter of the real Yuki-onna), the sinister Snow Woman in The Littl' Bits, or the ageless gatekeeper Yukino Houjou from the Gate Keepers, Mizore Shirayuki from Rosario + Vampire, or Yukina, the lost sister of Hiei in YuYu Hakusho. Also, the Ranma 1/2 character Yuki Onna and the Urusei Yatsura character Oyuki. The creature has also made an appearance in one Anime-filler episode of InuYasha, when Miroku and Sango are out alone in a snowstorm. She also makes gag appearances such as Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z. Also, in the new manga Nurarihyon no Mago, which is yokai-themed, they use a variation of the yuki-onna. Some series, such as Shirahime-Syo: Snow Goddess Tales by Clamp use the yuki-onna as a main character.

Yuki-onna have also appeared in live action films, such as Takashi Miike's The Great Yokai War (2005), Akira Kurosawa's film Dreams (1990) and Misaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan (1965). She is also the character referred to in the song Lady of the Snow on the album Twilight in Olympus by Symphony X.

The anthology horror movie Tales From The Darkside: The Movie features a segment entitled "Lover's Vow", the plot of which very much resembles the Lafcadio Hearn tale of Yuki-Onna, although the monster in question is more akin to a gargoyle.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Yuki-onna and Yama-uba at shejapan.com
  2. ^ a b c Yuki-onna at japanese1-2-3.com
  3. ^ Seki, Seigo Seki (1963), Folktales of Japan, p. 81, University of Chicago, ISBN 0226746143
  4. ^ Yuki-onna at the Encyclopedia Mythica
  5. ^ Smith, Richard Gordon, "The Snow Ghost" Chapter XLIX of Ancient Tales and Folk-lore of Japan at sacred-texts.com
  6. ^ a b Kwaidan - Yuki-onna (Snow Woman) at www.sarudama.com

[edit] See also

[edit] External references

Personal tools