They’re all here! I took it upon myself to create an illustration of a Mythological creature or character for every letter of the alphabet, trying to span across a multitude of cultures and creature-types. Another thing I wanted to accomplish with this project was to find some the more unusual and/or obscure creatures that don’t get as much representation in artwork. Individual Tumblr Posts with said creatures’ descriptions are below.
Again, I’ll be making this into a small run of books as a way to test the waters. If there’s more demand for a larger run, I’ll definitely be looking into it!
Amaterasu [天照], Amaterasu-ōmikami or Ōhirume-no-muchi-no-kami is a part of the Japanese myth cycle and also a major deity of the Shinto religion. She is the goddess of the sun, but also of the universe.
In Japanese mythology, Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, is the sister of Susanoo, the god of storms and the sea, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon. It was written that Amaterasu had painted the landscape with her siblings to create ancient Japan. She became the ruler of the sun and the heavens along with her brother, Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon and ruler of the night. Originally, Amaterasu shared the sky with Tsukuyomi, her husband and brother until, out of disgust, he killed the goddess of food, Uke Mochi. This killing upset Amaterasu, causing her to label Tsukuyomi an evil god and to split away from him; separating night from day.
There is also a long-standing rivalry between Amaterasu and her other brother, Susanoo. When he was to leave Heaven by orders of Izanagi, he went to bid his sister goodbye. Amaterasu was suspicious, but when Susanoo proposed a challenge to prove his sincerity, she accepted. Each of them took an object of the other’s and from it birthed gods and goddesses. Amaterasu birthed three women from Susanoo’s sword while he birthed five men from her necklace. Claiming the gods were hers because they were born of her necklace, she decided that she had won the challenge. The two were content for a time, but her brother became restless and went on a rampage, destroying Amaterasu’s rice fields, hurling a flayed pony at her loom, and killing one of her attendants in a fit of rage. Amaterasu, who was in fury and grief, hid inside the Ama-no-Iwato (“heavenly rock cave”), thus effectively hiding the sun for a long period of time. The world, without the illumination of the sun, became dark. The gods could not lure Amaterasu out of her hiding place until the goddess of dawn, Ame-no-Uzume, was able to trick her into reappearance.
Besides the fact that Irene Gallo being one of the best ADs, I am always excited to work onTor.com short story art there’s no way to tell what kind of subject matter will come along.
This piece accompanies Isabel Yep’s novelette A cup of Salt Tears - an eerie yet beautiful story. You can read it here. The audiobook of IQ84 by Murakami Haruki accompanied the working of this piece, it was quite the perfect track.
“Makino’s mother taught her caution, showed her how to carve her name into cucumbers, and insisted that she never let a kappa touch her. But when she grows up and her husband Tetsuya falls deathly ill, a kappa that claims to know her comes calling with a barbed promise. “A Cup of Salt Tears” is a dark fantasy leaning towards horror that asks how much someone should sacrifice for the one she loves."
While I was doing research for this project, I learnt a lot of interesting facts about Kappa (河童 "river-child”), including their obsession with shirikodama (尻子玉 “Small Anal Ball”). It’s believed that kappa lure their victims into the water and gain power by taking their shirikodama, a mythical ball said to contain their soul which is located inside the anus. Check out the amazing manga by Hokusai titled 同河童を釣るの法 (“How to fish for Kappa”).
In the folklore of the japanese island of Kyushu, the Nurikabe is the ‘wall poltergeist’. It appears as a large white wall in front of people who are out walking about late at night. If you try to pass the wall it will fall on you and crush you. If you turn and run from it it will reappear in front of you. The only way to escape is to hit the bottom of the wall with a stick, and it will disappear.
According to ancient East Asian belief, originating from Chinese mythology and is also used in Japanese mythology, The Red Thread of Fate is tied around the ankles or little fingers of two people who are destined to be together by the gods, regardless of time, place or circumstances. The thread may tangle and stretch, but it will never break.
Yuki Onna (“snow woman”) is a spirit or yōkai in Japanese folklore. She appears on snowy nights as a tall, beautiful woman with long black hair and blue lips. Her inhumanly pale or even transparent skin makes her blend into the snowy landscape. Some legends say the Yuki Onna, being associated with winter and snowstorms, is the spirit of a woman who perished in the snow. She is at the same time beautiful and serene, yet ruthless in killing unsuspecting mortals. In many stories, Yuki Onna appears to travelers trapped in snowstorms and uses her icy breath to leave them as frost-coated corpses. Other legends say she leads them astray so they simply die of exposure. Other times, she manifests holding a child. When a well-intentioned soul takes the “child” from her, they are frozen in place. Parents searching for lost children are particularly susceptible to this tactic.
Unlike many other dragons found through out the world the Chinese Long and the Japanese Ryu are benevolent yet powerful celestial beings. Protectorates, bringers of rain and good fortune their effigies are regularly seen in Buddhist, Shinto and Daoist structures. They are just all around the best of the dragon world in my opinion.
Kitsune(狐) is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives. Kitsunebi(狐火) is a kaika (atmospheric ghost lights and fires of unknown origin similar to the will-o’-wisp) told about in legends all across Japan outside Okinawa Prefecture. As its name implies, it has a close relation to kitsune (foxes), and there are many theories stating that the glow of the sigh or long breaths of a fox, other than that it is also said that a fox is knocking together its tail and causing a fire, or that it is the glow from a ball that the fox possesses called the kitsunebi-dama (kitsunebi ball).
Izanami (given as 伊弉冉尊), meaning “she who invites”, is seen as a Japanese goddess of the Earth, creation, and death. As the former wife of Izanagi, god of the sky, they represent the creation deities that produced the land masses and mythological figures of Japan.
The first gods summoned two divine beings into existence, the male Izanagi and the female Izanami, and charged them with creating the first land. They descended from the bridge of heaven and made their home on the island. They bore six more islands and many deities. However, Izanami died giving birth to the child Kagu-tsuchi, the god of fire.
Izanagi lamented the death of his wife and undertook a journey to Yomi, the underworld. He searched for Izanami and found her. At first, he could not see her for the shadows hid her appearance. He asked her to return with him. Izanami spat out at him, informing her husband that he was too late: she had already eaten the food of the underworld and was now one with the land of the dead. She could no longer return to the living. The news shocked Izanagi, but he refused to leave her in Yomi. While Izanami was sleeping, he took the comb that bound his long hair and set it alight as a torch. Under the sudden burst of light, he saw the horrid form of the once beautiful and graceful Izanami. She was now a rotting form of flesh with maggots and foul creatures running over her ravaged body. Crying out loud, Izanagi could no longer control his fear and started to run, intending to return to the living and abandon his death-ridden wife.
Izanami woke up, shrieking and indignant, and chased after him. She also sent Raijin, the god of thunder, and shikome (foul women) to hunt for Izanagi and bring him back to Yomi. Izanagi burst out of the entrance and pushed a boulder in the mouth of the Yomotsuhirasaka, the cavern that was the entrance of Yomi. Izanami screamed from behind this impenetrable barricade and told Izanagi that if he left her she would destroy a thousand residents of the living everyday. He furiously replied he would give life to a thousand and five hundred.
Kitsune, messengers of the rice god Inari, at a shrine called Mizu-Inari in Waseda, Tokyo. You’re wondering what they’re holding in their mouths? One has a key to the granary; the other one has a tama or jewel, which represents both financial and spiritual health.
The Jorōgumo is creature from Japanese folklore, depicted as a spider that can change its appearance into that of a beautiful woman. In this form, the Jorōgumo would entice men into a quiet location and begin to play a biwa, a type of Japanese lute. While he is distracted by the sound of the instrument, she binds her victim in silk threads and devours the unsuspecting individual. A Jorōgumo is also known as the mistress of the Jōren Falls in Izu, Shizuoka. In the legend, a man was resting at the foot of the waterfall when his feet were bound with a vast number of spider threads. To free himself, he cut the threads and tied them to a tree stump, which was pulled from the ground and drawn into the water. After this incident, the villagers became afraid and avoided the area. One day, a woodsman from out of town, unaware of the Jorōgumo, began cutting wood near the falls. After he dropped his axe into the water, a beautiful woman appeared between the rocks and returned it to him. The man falls in love with her and begins visiting the falls every day to see her, only to grow weaker after each visit. Although the woodsman eventually discovers the woman was the Jorōgumo, he cannot forget his love for her. While running back to the waterfall, he is caught by silk threads and finally falls into the water, never to surface again.