“Kappa the water Monster of Japan”
The kappa or "water child" is one of the various monsters that enrich Japanese literatures and folklores. Described as a child sized monster or “water kami” meaning water god or deity it is detailed as a green turtle like creature with a shell, it has webbed hands and feet and a bird like beak but the one thing that makes up a kappa is the round bowl like shape above its head that is the source of its vitality. It is uncertain if this monster has a murderous intent or if it is indeed a kind spirited creature seeing as various works of literature and speakers give such a monster different mannerisms in regards to its behavior with humans. Although depicted as courteous it is none the less a flesh eating thing “It attacks horses, cattle, and humans, usually dragging its prey into the water, where, according to various legends, it feeds on their blood, or drains their life force, or pulls out their livers through their anuses, or sucks out their entrails, leaving nothing behind except a hollow gourd”(Shumacker). It is a water monster to be reckoned with which is why the Japanese villagers even till today throw offerings in the rivers to the kappa, offerings such as pickles and other vegetables that they believe a kappa eats.
The Kappa is a monster that has the power to make those who see it submit to its will or install fear into people, because the Japanese believe in this creature they know of two ways to escape it “One is to bow politely to him. He will bow in return, which will spill the water from the depression on his head. This leaves him powerless until he refills his spot with water. This gives the victim time to escape. The second method is to carve the name of each family member into a cucumber and throw it in the kappa’s watery home. This keeps the named people safe for a year, after which the ritual must be repeated”(Conway, pg 112). After processing this weakness of the kappa it is evident that the monster itself has a mind of its own meaning that it is not controlled making it a self willed monster. It is interesting how the kappa if found by a human and the human helps the kappa it in turn helps the human for on year “Maybe that is the way human beings think. But we have our own way of doing things. Our reward is for one year. So you have to let me do it for one year” (Fujita pg 137).
This demonstrates the kappa’s responsible nature making it a contradiction to its bloody appearance in other tales. It gives us the sense of wonder as to which is the true nature of this creature is it flesh eating blood sucker as depicted by many or is it a monster that lives up to its word and is courteous to others. Maybe the misinterpretation of such a monster lies in effect with the fact that they are like people unreadable in behavior.The behavior of such a monster influences us to ask the origin of it. The Kappa is a monster that has origins from china, India and Japan but those that hold on strongly to the stories of the kappa are the Japanese. This monster is a part of Japanese Shintoism, which is a way in which the Japanese people manage to relate the solidarity of their culture with folklore, history and mythology by past and present means such as the rituals used to keep away the kappa. Aside from cultural rituals by the Japanese the Kappa symbolize various different aspects of the country of Japan. They receive publicity in magazines and represented as different things such as children born with deformalities “ Kappa’s children” is here undoubtedly a supernatural euphemism for unwanted, possibly deformed, infants” (Ivy, p 123). The Kappa are seen as a representation of children nonetheless in most stories. Also seen as bad omens Kappa are also symbolized as the cause of drownings.
Nevertheless the view of the kappa has changed throughout the years in different regions of Japan. The monster that was once depicted as the evil dangerous being that lived in the waters of Japan is now to some the cuddly creature in recent works of literature. “In Japan, for instance, a creature called the kappa was long known for pulling children underwater and drowning them. Today, Japanese children are more familiar with a cute, friendly kappa that appears in consumer products such as toys, movies and children's books” (AMNH). From evil to advance, the Kappa is one of the various monsters that are portrayed differently throughout the passage of time. In all what makes a kappa a monster is its features, its will power to kill humans and the power it possesses.
Conway, D.J. Magical mermaids and Water creatures: invoke the magic of the waters. U.S.A: Pan-American and international Copyright Conventions, 2005, Print.
Fujita Hiroko, Sakurai Miki, Stallings Fran, Wright Harold. Folktales from the Japanese countryside. U.S.A: Greenwood publishing Group, 2008, Print.
Ivy, Marilyn. Discourses of the vanishing: modernity, phantasm, Japan. London: The university of Chicago Press, 1995, Print.
Shumackher. Mark. “Kappa= river Imp or sprite or Monster”. Japanese Buddhist Statuary. 2011. 06 April. 2011. <http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/kappa.shtml>
N.A. Water Creatures of the Deep. American Museum of natural history. 06 April. 2011. <http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/mythiccreatures/water/taming.php >