Mythical Creatures Series
An avian spirit, the tengu was responsible all sorts of mischievous deeds on humans, especially on pretentious Buddhist priests and samurai.
What is it?
In Japanese mythology, the tengu was thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and often protected mountains and forests with both Shinto and Buddhist attributes. Some legends say they reside in Kyoto, Japan. Myth tells that when they take human form, they have the ability to grow or shrink other human’s nose and when in bird form they had the power to stir up great winds. Known to be cannine monsters, most often they can be fierce and anthropophagous. It makes a noise like thunder and brings war wherever it falls.
Buddhism long held that the tengu were disruptive demons and harbingers of war because it was said the tengu were known to set ablaze temples.
Tengu appear frequently in the orally-transmitted tales collected by Japanese folklorists. One such story is:
The Tengu, and the Woodcutter”: A tengu bothers a woodcutter, showing off his supernatural abilities by guessing everything the man is thinking. The woodcutter swings his axe, and a splinter of wood hits the tengu on the nose. The tengu flees in terror, exclaiming that humans are dangerous creatures who can do things without thinking about them.
The tengu are highly skilled in martial arts and formidable warriors, and as such many men have tried to track them down to learn their martial arts secrets.
They use their shape-shifting abilities to play pranks of travelers and were said to be able to take the form of anyone they crossed paths with. They can also speak to humans without moving their mouths, and move instantly from place to place without using their wings.
They are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics – half bird, half human. They have large, red beaks or noses, glowing eyes and wings. The long, red noses are relate to a tengu’s hatred of arrogance, and over time they became know for their protection of Buddhist Law, especially since corruption was a major issue on monasteries.
Appearances In Culture
- They often appear among the many characters and creatures featured in Japanese cinema, animation, comics, and video games. One of the most famous modern fictional Tengu is the Tengu named Haruka, from the Japanese animation/manga comic Tactics.
- In the Pokemon series, there is a evolutionary family based on the tengu: Seedot, Nuzleaf and Shiftry; they are known for cruel pranks and long noses.
- The games Mega Man 8 and Mega Man and Bass also feature the boss character Tengu Man as one of Dr. Wily’s creations.
- Digimon has their own version of Karasu-tengu, which is the Karatenmon. Dan Hibiki’s father, Gou Hibiki in theStreet Fighter series is red faced and has a long nose.
Did you know? The term tengu and the characters used to write it are borrowed from the name of a fierce demon from Chinese folklore called tiāngoǔ.
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