This past week, I’ve imagined what Torchwood would be like if they a kistune agent (who I named Kaine). Torchwood seriously needs more non-humans on their team – especially some that Jack won’t automatically outlive.
Kaine would be a great weevil hunter, since his foxy aura would scare weevils into submission and his fast legs could hunt them down quicker. He’d also add worth as a supernatural advisor, someone who can help Torchwood with the preternatural creatures born on Earth, like fairies.
He’s quite young for a kitsune so he’d enjoy few powers. He rarely smiles and, as the team would discover, smiles only when Ianto gifts him with a children’s toy. Like temari, a paper ball, which Japanese children used to play with, because Ianto is just awesome like that.
After his true form is discovered at the beginning of season 2, Kaine can’t shift back to human form. So he uses his cute little foxy face to distract Ianto from Jack, believing that Jack could never be good enough for Ianto until he could say those magic words “yes, we’re a couple.” (And yes, Jack’s difficulties with acknowledging their relationship in Children of Earth bothered me.)
So, after such inspiration, I’ve decided to blog about kitsune. If you’ve read anything about Japanese mythology, you’ll have come across kitsune at least once. They’re that common.
What are kitsune?
Kitsune are fox spirits. Not dearly departed fox ghosts, but spirits, meaning possessing supernatural powers.
In their fox-form, they have up to nine tails. The more tails they have, the stronger and older they are. Kaine, not being very strong or old, would only have three tails. When a kitsune reaches nine tails, they turn white or gold. Think back to Pokemon. Vulpix is foxy brown colours and only has six tails. Then she evolves into Ninetails, with nine tails and golden-white colouring.
3 Kinds of Kitsune
By behaviour, there are about three types of kitsune (more when you take local legends into account). Generally, you have zenko (servant of Inari), yako (trickster), and ninko (possessor).
Zenko foxes are benevolent and celestial creatures associated with Inari, the Shinto deity of rice. They’re the sort of fox you wouldn’t mind meeting in a dark alley. If you’re having trouble with a yako fox, you can petition a zenko fox for help. They’re also notoriously good at dispelling evil energies, and kitsune statues are used for that purpose in feng shui. To thank them for helping with your troubles, offer them aburage (fried sliced tofu) or inari-zushi (rice-filled pouches of tofu). They’re commonly white, a good omen, but they can also be black, which is also a good omen.
Yako foxes are mischievous, malicious and malevolent, all very bad M-words. They love to play tricks on humans, especially men. It’s easy and fun for them. They can summon fox fire to lead travellers astray, much like a will-of-the-wisp. Or they can shapeshift into a beautiful women to seduce men to their doom. If you do them a favour such as give them shelter, though, they’re bound to repay you. Just remember that they’re not human and don’t share the same human morality. They’ll repay you for boarding them by giving you stolen money from your neighbours.
Ninko foxes posses humans. While Yako foxes prefer taunting men, ninko foxes like to possess women. A person possessed by a fox is called kitsunetsuki. Possessed women tend to go crazy. They run through the streets naked or attack everyone around them. Until the 20th century, mental illness was commonly deemed as fox possession. They can be exorcised at an Inari shrine. If the excorcism isn’t working, the exorcists resort to beating or burning the victim to force the fox to leave. Before the modern era, families are ostracized from society if one family member is believed to be possessed.
Kitsunetsuki appears in the final story arc in Ghost Hunt, the Cursed House. Naru, the male lead, is possessed by the displaced fox exorcised from a young woman. Lin erects wards around him to keep him comatose so he doesn’t attack everyone.
So that’s an introduction to kitsune, except for their various powers, which range from shapeshifting to being able to see and hear everything in the world.
Would you like to see more kitsune in novels? Or have you seen kitsune in novels?