Monday, March 3, 2014

Mythical Creatures: The Nue

It's always fun learning about creatures I've seen in anime. Here's a fun mythical creature for you.

A Nue is a legendary yokai or mononoke found in Japanese folklore.  Sometimes called the Japanese Chimera, it is described as having the head of a monkey, the body of a raccoon dog (tanuki), the legs of a tiger, and a snake for a tail. According to the legend, a Nue can transform into a black cloud and fly. It is said to have an eerie bird cry. Because of its ability to transform, the Nue is reputed to bring misfortune and illness.
The most famous story involving a Nue is told in The Tale of the Heike, a classic of medieval Japanese literature. According to The Tale of the Heike, Emperor Konoe, the Emperor of Japan, became sick after having terrible nightmares every night. A dark cloud would appear at two o'clock in the morning on roof of the palace in Kyoto during the summer of 1153. The story says that the samurai Minamoto no Yorimasa staked-out the roof one night and fired an arrow into the cloud, out of which fell a dead nue. Yorimasu then supposedly sank the body in the Sea of Japan.

In a local expansion of the story, the nue's corpse floated into a certain bay. When it rose, the townspeople cried out. Fearing a curse, they held a ceremony for the beast and erected a small graveyard is by the edge of the water which still exists today, leading many people to believe this magical tale.

The Nue appears many times in popular culture. A yokai, that looks like a human, in the anime Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan shares the name of this mythical creature.