Story Time! Yuki-Onna

Posted: October 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: fiction | No Comments »

I’ve always enjoyed the various versions of the Japanese folk tales about Yuki-Onna. So I figured I would write up my own version. It’s just like a Hollywood remake of a classic, but without Will Ferrell. Anyways, I hope you enjoy it.


In the remote wilds of Northern Japan, there was a small village. This is a retelling, passed down over time, of something that happened in this village quite some time ago. Specifically, about the family of the village lumberjack, and the unusual events that befell them.

The lumberjack and his 18 year old son, Tomio, worked hard all year long to provide firewood for the village. They had to put in even longer hours during the harshest months of winter to keep up with the demands of the cold villagers. On what was perhaps the coldest day in recent memory, the lumberjack and his son were working in the hills, far from the village. While working on a recently felled tree, the pair were caught up in a severe snow storm. This wasn’t too unusual for the hills at this time of year, so the father and son hurried back to a small shed they had nearby. This shed was certainly not as sturdy as a proper house, but it kept them out of the worst of the wind and snow. As the afternoon wore on they came to the conclusion that they would not be able to get home that night. The pair desperately tried to keep warm enough to sleep in their tiny shed, and it was late into the night before they found any rest.

Tomio awoke at some point during the darkest hours of night to the feeling of snowflakes on his cheek. Looking sleepily around in the dark, he saw that the fire had gone out and the door to the shed was wide open. As his eyes adjusted, he came to realize there was a figure looming between him and his father. A surprised gasp escaped Tomio’s lips, and the figure turned and knelt down towards him. She wasn’t a menacing figure at all once he could see her closely, but instead a beautiful young woman clothed all in white. Her long hair fell on to his brow as she looked him in the face and softly said, “You’re too young, and too pretty, and I’m too foolish. You’re going to live through this night after all. You will never speak one word of what you saw here though. Not to a single soul, that is your promise. Or you will quickly meet the horrible end from which you have just been spared. Now sleep, boy.” Tomio dreamily drifted back to sleep as the face of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen faded between his eyelids.

In the early morning, Tomio was startled awake by his own violent shivering. The door of the shed had indeed blown open in the night and the fire had gone out. Jumping up to wake his father, Tomio found to his horror that his father was dead. Still laid out on the floor and huddled under his small blanket, he was covered with frost and all the colour was gone from his face. Tomio could never remember the rest of that day, but they tell him that he woke everyone up that morning as he ran into the village wailing for help. Tomio and his mother mourned deeply, but with time and necessity, their lives continued.

Working harder than ever by himself to provide wood for the entire village, Tomio often worked late into the evening. On the one year anniversary of his father’s death, Tomio stopped work before sunset to go home and have dinner with his mother. On the road into the village that evening he came to be walking alongside a young woman carrying a large satchel. Tomio offered to help her with her bag as they were walking the same direction, and they chatted as they walked. He of course couldn’t help but notice the young woman’s startling pale beauty. The two of them were both instantly comfortable chatting together, and before either realized it, they had arrived at the center of the village. The woman said she intended to walk on to the next village, but Tomio insisted that it was much too far to go on a winter evening. He invited her to have dinner with him and his mother, and to even spend the night in their guest room as the village had no guesthouses. The beautiful young woman introduced herself as Oyuki and shyly accepted his offer of hospitality. The three of them enjoyed a very nice dinner and Oyuki got along fantastically with Tomio’s mother. As well as with Tomio himself. So much so in fact, that she never did journey on to that next village. A year to the day they met, Tomio and Oyuki were married.

One year to the day of their marriage, Oyuki gave birth to a boy, which they named after Tomio’s father. The boy was healthy and they all lived happily in Tomio’s family home. The loving family was popular amongst the locals, and almost the entire village turned out for the boy’s birthday party one year later. Everyone praised the couple’s happiness, honour, and the beauty of their son. The birthday party lasted well into the evening despite, or perhaps because of, the fierce winter storm raging outside. After all the guests had left, and his son and mother were sound asleep, Tomio joined his wife by the window, where she sat watching the storm. The soft shadow from the snow on her beautiful face took Tomio back to the memory of his father’s last night. For perhaps the first time since that night, he was reminded of the beautiful woman he thought he saw in the shed. Hesitantly, Tomio told Oyuki his story of how he woke up that night, and how he was never certain if he had really seen a woman in the shed or not. Oyuki angrily shoved Tomio to the floor, and as she stood over him, she screamed, “Tomio, you have done more than prove both of us to be fools! You have destroyed our beautiful life together by failing to keep a simple promise. That was me on that night!” Before Tomio’s eyes, the wife he knew gave way to the ghostly form of the woman he had seen in the shed. The windows of the house crashed open, and the ghostly form of Oyuki disappeared out into the night as the storm angrily blew into the house.

The villagers could never agree on how or why the entire family had slept so soundly that they didn’t notice the freezing cold. Nor could they settle on a reason why Oyuki had disappeared. All they knew for certain is that the morning after the birthday party they found Tomio, his mother, and his son, all frozen to death in their home. Every window in the house was wide open and each of them was covered in frost where they lay.

To paraphrase the almighty Google,

Yuki-Onna is a Japanese folklore spirit. She appears on snowy nights as a tall, beautiful woman with long black hair. Her inhumanly pale or even transparent skin makes her blend into the snowy landscape. She sometimes wears a white kimono, but other legends describe her as nude, with only her face and hair standing out against the snow. Despite her inhuman beauty, her eyes can strike terror into mortals. She floats across the snow, leaving no footprints, and she can transform into a cloud of mist or snow if threatened.

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//shawn

ps: I have no idea who to credit for the picture. Let me know if you know.



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