Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Foxy Ladies - Asian Fox Sprits

Welcome back to Myth Perceptions.

As promised last month, I'm continuing my research into shapeshifters around the world. This month's stop is Asia as I began researching the kitsune, or Japanese fox spirit.

Image from Fox Spirits Website
Kitsune are magical beings who appear as foxes but can also assume human form. These fox spirits are highly intelligent, playful, and have up to nine tails. The more tails, the more intelligent or powerful the kitsune. The fox spirit is a bit of a trickster, reminding me of Coyote of Native American culture. However, I might add that since we are dealing with spirits, their concept of fair may not parallel ours.

Though kitsune also take the form of elderly men, they most often appear in Japanese folklore as a beautiful young woman. She marries a human male who often is unaware of her true form. The least dangerous of motives is pure seduction; the most dangerous is to teach an overbearing or arrogant male a lesson. When her true form is discovered, the kitsune traditionally abandons the human, leaving them a humbler though wiser person. A kitsune is often discovered in a variety of ways – they cast a fox-shaped shadow even in their human form, they possess distinctly fox-like features, they are very afraid of dogs and might turn back into their fox form to escape, and finally all those tails can be hard to hide in human form.

The fox spirit/shapeshifter also appears in Chinese mythology as the huli jing. Their intent is less clearly defined by my research, ranging from seductress to scholar, female and male forms. They seem to be the most benevolent of the Asian fox spirits though the habit of shapeshifting into the form of beautiful women to seduce and/or wed human men continues in Chinese mythology.

Image from Kumiho Wiki
In Korean mythology, these spirits, called kumiho, are far less benevolent and again frequently assume the form of beautiful women. A commonly held belief is that they do this for the most gruesome of reasons—to feast on human flesh, taking a particular interest in human livers. The purpose of consuming human livers was to become human, and the required number appears to be 100, gullible human males the most common unwitting and unwilling donors.

I find it most interesting that all three mythologies share a common thread--fox spirits who transform into lovely women to trick human males.

It gives the term "foxy lady" a whole new spin, don't you agree?

I encourage you to visit the Fox Index, a wonderful website devoted to the Asian Fox Spirit myths. Lots of fantastic links and information for anyone wanting to learn more.

I hope you'll stop by Myth Perceptions next month as I track down another shapeshifter myth - the Celtic kelpies. Should be a wild ride.

Collector's Item has been released by The Wild Rose Press exclusively on the Kindle and will be available in all electronic formats on May 17th!

Denise Golinowski is a reader and writer of fantasy and romance. Her first enovella, The Festival of the Flowers: The Courtesan and the Scholar is also available  through the Wild Rose Press. You can visit her blog at Golinowski's Gambol.


  1. Foxy lady, indeed! lol Interesting post, Denise. I was also wondering, how do they hide the tails when in human form? I had a very improper thought, but all I'm going to say is... bush. Okay, lol, I'm done.

    1. LOL, Tracey! Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving a comment. And that's a very good...question. However, I find it hard to believe that if they could change their physical form to human why wouldn't they have figured out how to hide their tails. Seemed counter-intuitive. The "shadow" thing might be a bit easier to accept, after all, the shadow knows!

  2. Hey, doesn't that image on the left look kind of like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood? Or maybe I'm getting my fairy tales confused!? (My mind just takes weird trajectories...what can I say?)

    1. Now that you mention it, Leah, that image DOES remind me of it!

  3. I think it's very interesting that the fox mythology has so much in common with Native American coyote legends, and like the idea of teaching some arrogant human male, a much needed lesson.
    Cool blog Denise

    1. Thanks, Lenette, for stopping by, and you're right. They are amazingly similar. Also, the theory about Native Americans being of ancient Asian descent seems supported by these similarities. In fact, the more I delve into mythologies around the world, the more similarities I discover.I love how it illustrates that no matter how diverse our cultures appear, we are all the same underneath--human.