Kappa (mythical creature)

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Kappa (mythical creature)

Post  Admin on 10/27/2008, 1:16 am

Kappa (mythical creature)


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


A drawing of a kappa which was reported to have been caught in a net on Mito East beach in 1801.



Kappa (河童) are mythical creatures, water imps found in Japanese folklore.
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Appearance


Most depictions show kappa as child-sized humanoids, though their bodies are often more like those of monkeys or frogs than human beings. Some descriptions say their faces are apelike while others show them with beaked visages more like those of tortoises. Pictures usually show kappa with thick shells and scaly skin that ranges in color from green to yellow or blue.
Kappa inhabit the ponds and rivers of Japan and have various features to aid them in this environment, such as webbed hands and feet. They are sometimes even said to smell like fish, and they can certainly swim like them. The expression kappa no kawa nagare ("a drowning kappa") means that even the experts make mistakes.
The kappa's most notable feature, however, is the water-filled depressions atop their heads. These cavities are surrounded by scraggly hair, and this type of bobbed hair style is named okappa atama for the creatures. The kappa derives their incredible strength from these liquid-filled holes, and anyone confronted with one may exploit this weakness by simply getting the kappa to spill the water from its head. One trusted method to do this is to appeal to the kappa's deep sense of etiquette, for a kappa cannot help but return a deep bow, even if it means losing its head-water in the process. Once depleted, the kappa is seriously weakened and may even die. Other tales say that this water allows kappa to move about on land, and once emptied, the creatures are immobilized. Stubborn children are encouraged to follow the custom of bowing on the grounds that it is a defense against kappa.[edit]


Behavior


Kappa are mischievous troublemakers. Their pranks range from the relatively innocent, such as loudly passing gas or looking up women's kimonos, to the more troublesome, such as stealing crops, kidnapping children, or raping women. In fact, small children comprise one of the gluttonous kappa's favorite meals, though they will eat adults as well. They feed on these hapless victims by sucking out the entrails (or blood, liver, or "life force", depending on the legend) through the anus. Even today, signs warning about kappa appear by bodies of water in some Japanese towns and villages. Kappa are also said to be afraid of fire, and some villages hold fireworks festivals each year to scare the sprites away.
Kappa are not entirely antagonistic to mankind, however. They are curious of human civilization, and they can understand and speak Japanese. They thus sometimes challenge those they encounter to various tests of skill, such as shogi (a chess-like game popular in Japan) or sumo wrestling. They may even befriend human beings in exchange for gifts and offerings, especially cucumbers, the only food kappa are known to enjoy more than human children. Japanese parents sometimes write the names of their children (or themselves) on cucumbers and toss them into kappa-infested waters in order to mollify the creatures and allow the family to bathe. There is even a kind of cucumber-filled sushi roll named for the kappa, the kappamaki.
Once befriended, kappa have been known to perform any number of tasks for human beings, such as helping farmers irrigate their land. They are also highly knowledgeable of medicine, and legend states that they taught the art of bone setting to mankind. Due to these benevolent aspects, some shrines are dedicated to the worship of particularly helpful kappa. Kappa may also be tricked into helping people. Their deep sense of decorum will not allow them to break an oath, for example, so if a human being can dupe a kappa into promising to help him, the kappa has no choice but to follow through.[edit]


Origins


There are several theories for the origins of the kappa in Japanese myth. One possibility is that they developed from an ancient Japanese practice of floating stillborn fetuses down rivers and streams. Another theory is that the kappa were invented to explain the swollen anus common in drowning victims. The name "kappa" may be derived from the term for "robe" used by the Portuguese monks who arrived in Japan in the 16th century; they called this garment a capa, and the monks' appearance is not unlike that of the similarly named Japanese sprites, from the loose, shell-like cloaks to the tonsured hair. Some modern commentators even suggest that the kappa may be space aliens, and many of their pranks are similar to those often attributed to UFOs.[edit]


Kappa in fiction


Embedded in popular folklore as they are, Kappa are popular figures in modern times on Japanese animation, children's toys, and literature. Modern depictions make them much less monstrous, showing them instead as cute, cartoonish figures.
A notable literary appearance is the short story "Kappa" by Akutagawa Ryunosuke. They also appeared in a more sinister form as the organization of INKlings in Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. The kappa were also the inspiration for the creature in the film Ringu; Kappas have recently been introduced in Western literature, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The creatures have been featured in the sixth installment of the Final Fantasy series of roleplaying games (though renamed "imps" in the English translation), and were the inspiration for the "Koopas" in the Super Mario Bros. series of video games. In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, the Ninja Turtles tend to be confused with Kappa during their time travels to Japan's feudal era. One Pokémon, the Lombre, was undoubtedly derived from the imp. Jaken from InuYasha is a kappa as well.
It also "starred" in the famous farming game "Harvest Moon" by game company Natsume, in which if you keep throwing cucumbers for 10 days into the lake near the mountain, the kappa will grant you more energy to work during rainy days.
The James Bond novel The Man with the Red Tattoo by Raymond Benson featured a Japanese assassin nicknamed "The Kappa", because of his short height. The Kappa tried to assassinate Bond and his female colleague with mosquitoes carrying a deadly virus, but defected to Bond's side after being captured. And in Super Mario World, a part of the world map shows a mountain with its peak filled with water, which, in the booklet, is called Kappa Mountain.

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