Folklore tidbits – The Kappa

The Kappa

The Kappa

kfthead

The Kappa is one of Japans most well known mythical creatures. when translated it means the river child, it is seen as a type of Water Monkey/Trickster Deity. The Kappa legend is thought to have been invented to scare their children to avoid dangers in the water. They are projected to be about the size of a small child, with either smooth or hairy reptilian skin in various shades of Green and Yellow. They swim like fish and have amazing wrestling abilities. They are also depicted as very fierce and mischievous but at the same time also very polite.

All  Kappa’s have a bowl like cranium which must always be filled with the waters from his native spring. Should his water spill from the bowl he would lose all of his magical powers.  Legend says that he loved cucumbers. Families who were worried about losing loved ones to the kappa would go down to the river and write the names of their children on the sides of the cucumber and throw them as an offering to the Kappa to gain his favour or to avoid his wrath. For a few unfortunates though the Kappa would wrestle the person into the water and suck on their blood, when the victim was submerged they would appear ashen and grey and immediately wither away as if from a terrible disease. There were also much more unmentionable things that the kappa would do as well to a person if he was caught.

One of the best ways to defeat the Kappa, is using the Kappa’s politeness against him. For in Japanese culture it is customary to bow to another person or creature as a form of greeting. When the kappa bows, water is spilled from his cranium bowl thus rendering it weak and defenceless.

In cryptozoology the Kappa is classified as a Cryptid. What Cryptid means is that the Kappa is a creature or plant who’s existence is accepted by the scientific community but not proven. What is also interesting is that in Japanese folklore there is another creature that is very similar in appearance to the Kappa called the Suiko (Water Tiger). According to one of the great yokai experts and famous manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, the Suiko is much larger and more fierce and is more likely to take a persons life than a kappa.

For further reading I have suggested a few books which I feel portray The Kappa in the most detailed and  interesting way, plus you can enjoy some collections of the best Japanese folklore stories that were told.

The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai by Matthew Meyer

The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai by Matthew Meyer

Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn

Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn

The Yokai Encyclopedia by Richard Freeman

The Yokai Encyclopedia by Richard Freeman

Kappa by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Kappa by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai by Michael Dylan Foster

Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai by Michael Dylan Foster

A kappa Statue in a park in Tokyo

A kappa Statue in a park in Tokyo

Karen

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Posted on June 26, 2013, in Folklore and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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