Kuzunoha

Kuzunoha the Fox Woman. Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861)

Kuzunoha the Fox Woman. Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861)

Kuzunoha is a popular figure in Japanese folklore. In this print, Kuzunoha’s true form (a fox) is visible in the screen before her. Such therianthropy, or shapeshifting, runs throughout mythology, folklore, fairy tales, and modern fantasy fiction. The best known shapeshifter is the werewolf, but werecats, weredogs, and swan maidens are common in European tales, while werehyneas are popular in African lore. Then there are the Native American skinwalkers, and shamans who take on the characteristics of animals, bears for instance. In mythology, humans are turned into animals as punishment, such as Odysseus’ crew, transformed by Circe into swine. And in spiritual disciplines, sometimes the question is posed, “What is your inner animal?”

From Endpoint in PARABOLA Volume 39, No. 2, “Embodiment,” Summer 2014. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing.