When looking for inspiration for characters in my books, I tend to draw a lot from mythology and/or folklore. This way I don’t feel like I’m borrowing too much from other Fantasy stories (although they tend to use inspiration from this as well) and it also means I sometimes discover some mythological stories that I never heard of before – but find ways of integrating them into my story.
One such story was the legend of the Yuki-onna, which is a Japanese folklore myth. Her name basically translates as “snow woman” (sometimes snow witch) and she is almost like the Japanese equivalent of a succubus. She appears as a female spirit during heavy snow storms (usually a beautiful woman) with pale skin, black hair and cold lips, mostly she appears in some kind of dress or kimono. Depending on which story you read about her, she is either a friendly spirit that helps travellers through heavy snow, or a relentless hag that freezes men with either her breath or a kiss. Sometimes, she even seduces men with the intention of killing them and other times she bursts into houses and freezes the people inside. In a few other versions, she has been seen as a ghost holding a child (leading to some speculation that she is the spirit of a woman that died protecting her baby) and in this instance she is very protective around children.
Yuki-onna is very popular in Manga and Fantasy based video games, with versions appearing in Final Fantasy, Yu Yu Hakusho, Rosaria + Vampire, Dokki Dokki Doctor and even Pokemon. The appearance of a black haired woman with white skin has also been used in a few Asian horror movies – like The Grudge or Ring.
There are quite a few myths about the Yuki-onna, but the most famous one (which has been adapted into films and books) is this one:
Basically, it goes that two men (one old and one young) encounter the Yuki-onna during a heavy snow storm. The Yuki-onna freezes the old man, but spares the young man (finding him beautiful). However, she threatens him that if he ever tells anyone about he, she will kill him. Years later, the man marries a beautiful woman and lives happily with her, eventually they have children together. Amazingly, the woman doesn’t age and looks strangely familiar to the man. He recounts with her the memory of when he met the Yuki-onna and tells her the story.
You can probably guess what happens next. Be ready with that dramatic music!
The woman reveals that SHE is the Yuki-onna and reminds him of the promise he made. However, she doesn’t kill him because a) Technically he never broke his promise as he told her and no one else; and b) She is concerned with the safety of her children. She disappears but threatens that she will return to punish him if he ever mistreats their children. Fortunately, the man is a loving father and she never returns again. In some versions, it ends with the man dying of old age, his children at his side, and he goes to meet the Yuki-onna in Heaven – where they live out the rest of eternity together, watching over their children.
I kinda found this concept quite interesting – the fact that a creature like this can be cold and spiteful, but also loving and protective. It’s a trait that you don’t get with many succubus stories (because traditionally succubus’s are only concerned with seducing men with the intention of killing them), so this is why I think this story stands out a little for me.
In actual fact, the Yuki-onna was actually a big inspiration for one of my characters in Trapped on Draconica – Zarracka Dragonkin, and I did take a lot of influences from the folklore. She is a woman that possesses ice breath and tends to use her beauty to get what she wants. And she is also extremely cold hearted and enjoys tormenting her enemies. She doesn’t really have that much of a soft side though – at least not at the moment.
Yuki-onna I think is one of the more underrate folklore stories – unless you read a lot of Japanese mythology and I believe that the above story shows both sides of the Yuki-onna’s personality very well. It’s a good love story as much as it is a chilling (pardon the expression) ghost story.
Thanks for reading. Do feel free to leave a comment below.
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