April 13, 2012

Yuki Onna - Woman of the Snow

Yuki Onna using her icy breath
Yuki Onna (literally Snow Woman) is a feminine spirit of snow and ice in Japanese folklore. Seen in remote areas at night during snowstorms, she is described as a tall, beautiful woman with long black hair and inhumanly pale, even translucent skin. Some tales depict her as wearing a white kimono, while in others she appears nude.

Yuki Onna floats across the snowy landscape, leaving no footprints. In fact, in some accounts, she doesn’t have feet at all, a common characteristic for Japanese ghosts. She might be the ghost of a woman who froze to death in a snowstorm, or maybe a spirit of the snow itself.

Despite her beauty, Yuki Onna is a deadly entity, ruthlessly killing unsuspecting humans who cross her path. She often appears to travelers lost in snowstorms, breathing a gust of frosty air to turn them into frozen corpses. At other times, she leads them astray to die from exposure. She may even appear holding a child, and when a well-intentioned individual takes it from her, they will instantly be frozen solid. Sometimes she tempts men with sex, only to drain them of life or freeze them to death through a kiss.

Yuki Onna does have a softer side. For example, in one popular legend she lets a young boy, Minokichi, go because of his beauty and age, threatening to kill him if he ever tells anyone about her. A year later, Minokichi marries a beautiful girl named Oyuki and has many children with her over several years. Strangely, she does not seem to age at all.

One night, after the children have gone to bed, Minokichi tells Oyuki of the time he saw the Snow Woman:  "Asleep or awake, that was the only time that I saw a being as beautiful as you. Of course, she was not a human being; and I was afraid of her, very much afraid; but she was so white! . . . Indeed, I have never been sure whether it was a dream that I saw, or the Woman of the Snow."

Oyuki suddenly stands up and bows over him, screaming "It was I - I - I! Oyuki it was! And I told you then that I would kill you if you ever said one word about it! . . . But for those children asleep there, I would kill you this moment! And now you had better take very, very good care of them; for if ever they have reason to complain of you, I will treat you as you deserve!"

Then she dissolves into white mist and disappears, never to be seen again.

Image by yazukiwolf

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