Jorōgumo

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Jorōgumo (by Toriyama Sekien).

Jorōgumo (Japanese Kanji: 絡新婦, Hiragana: じょろうぐも) is a type of Yōkai, a creature, ghost or goblin of Japanese folklore. According to some stories, a Jorōgumo is a spider that can change its appearance into that of a seductive woman.

In Japanese Kanji, Jorōgumo is written as "絡新婦" (literally meaning "binding bride") or "女郎蜘蛛" (literally meaning "whore spider"). Jorōgumo can also refer to some species of spiders, but in casual use it can refer to the Nephila and Argiope spiders. Japanese-speaking entomologists use the katakana form of Jorōgumo (ジョロウグモ) to refer, exclusively, to the spider species Nephila clavata.

Stories[edit]

The Edo period legend has it that a beautiful woman would entice a man into a quiet shack and begin to play a Biwa, a type of Japanese lute. While the victim would be distracted by the sound of the instrument, she binds her victim in spider silk threads in order to devour the unsuspecting person as her next meal.

Magical spider[edit]

According to legend, when a spider turns 400 years old, it gains magical powers. Stories of Jorōgumo can be found in Edo period works, such as "Taihei-Hyakumonogatari" (太平百物語) and "Tonoigusa" (宿直草). In many of these stories, Jorōgumo changes its appearance into a beautiful woman to ask a samurai to marry her, or takes the form of a young woman carrying a baby (which may turn out to be a spider's eggsack).[1]

Drawings, such as the one in Toriyama Sekien's book Gazu Hyakki Yakō, depicts Jorōgumo as a half-woman/half-spider surrounded by her spider children.

Waterfall spiderwebs[edit]

A Jorōgumo is also known as the mistress of the Jōren Falls (浄蓮の滝) in Izu, Shizuoka. The legend has it that 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 stump of a tree, which was pulled from the ground and drawn into the waters.[1]

After this incident at the Jōren waterfall, the villagers became afraid and stopped going to the waterfall. However, one day, a woodsman logger from out of town, unaware of the story of the Jōren Jorōgumo, began cutting wood in the area. After he accidentally dropped his axe into the water, he dove into the pool to find it; then a beautiful woman appeared and returned the axe, telling him never to tell anyone about her. While the logger kept the promise, he began to feel anxious about the incident. One day while he was drunk, he told his secret and finally felt at ease. He then fell into a deep sleep never to awaken again.[2]

In a variation of the story of the Jōren waterfall, the logger falls in love with the woman Jorōgumo and starts visiting the falls every day to see her. But as time passes, he starts growing weaker and weaker. A monk from a neighboring temple believes the logger has been trapped by the spider, so he and the logger go to the waterfall together, and the monk reads a Buddhist Sūtra there. While the monk reads the sutra, spider threads appear from the pool and attempt to wrap themselves around the logger, but the monk shouts his Buddhist chant and they disappear. Though the logger soon realizes that the woman was a spider, he cannot forget his love for her. He then asks for help from a Tengu, master of the Yōkai of the mountain, but the Tengu forbids this love. The logger was unwilling to give up his love for the Jorōgumo. While running back to the waterfall he is caught by the silk threads and finally falls into the water, never to surface again.[3]

Protection from drowning[edit]

There are many stories throughout Japan of a tree stump being pulled into the water in place of the lumberjack from the previous tale. One such example is that of Kashikobuchi (賢淵), Sendai. Here, just after the stump is pulled into the pool, the lumberjack hears a voice saying, "How clever, how clever" (賢い、賢い / Kashikoi, Kashikoi). For this event, the area came to be called Kashikobuchi, which literally means "clever abyss".[1][4] In Kashikobuchi, the Jorōgumo is worshiped as a goddess who protects people from drowning, and a monument and a small Torii still stand at the location.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Hanns Heinz Ewers short story "The Spider" (1919) centers around a mysterious girl whom the protagonist names Clarimonda. She is an early appearance in Western literature of the concept of a Jorōgumo.
  • Jun'ichirō Tanizaki's short story "Tattoo" is about a sadistic tattooist Seikichi who draws a Jorōgumo picture on an innocent maiko's (apprentice geisha) back which somewhat awakens an evil streak in her.
  • In the Clover Studio/Capcom action-adventure videogame Ōkami, the first boss is a large, female demonic spider known as the Spider Queen (also Geisha Spider or Prostitute Spider) that is based on this character in Japanese mythology.[5]
  • Juri Han of Super Street Fighter IV may have had her character design based on a Jorōgumo. She is a sensual, venomous, provocative woman whose nickname is Spider and dons a spider design on her back.
  • A Jorōgumo is featured in the eleventh episode of the first season of Grimm.
  • The video game Diablo 3 features a seductive demoness named Cydaea, the Maiden of Lust, who is in the form of a humanoid spider.
  • In the anime/manga xxxHolic, Watanuki´s right eye is stolen by the Jorōgumo and afterwards eaten by her to improve her magical powers.
  • Jorōgumo were one of the eastern-themed monsters introduced in the Pathfinder RPG's third Bestiary.
  • In "Digimon Adventure 02" one of the antagonists, Arukenimon (or Arachnemon in the Japanese) is based loosely off of the Jorogumo. She shape-shifts between a normal, human-looking woman and a spider-woman.
  • In the 11th episode of Rosario + Vampire anime "New Term and a Vampire" the protagonists fight a jorōgumo monster.
  • In Dark Souls the protagonist battles the chaos witch Queelag, and afterwards has an opportunity to meet and speak with her nameless sister. Both of them appear as beautiful young women from the waist up, with the rest of their body being that of a giant spider.
  • In Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons the older brother is seduced by a girl, who leads them to her lair before transforming into a spider and attacking them.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c 村上健司 『妖怪事典』 毎日新聞社、2000年、190-191頁。
  2. ^ 人文社編集部 『ものしりシリーズ 諸国怪談奇談集成 江戸諸国百物語 東日本編』 人文社、2005年、59頁。
  3. ^ 宮本幸枝 『大人が楽しむ地図帳 津々浦々「お化け」生息マップ - 雪女は東京出身? 九州の河童はちょいワル? -』 技術評論社、2005年、80頁。
  4. ^ a b 賢淵JR東日本 えきねっと 内)
  5. ^ Okami Official Complete Works (book).

Further reading[edit]