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"Schippeitaro is a strong and beautiful dog".
—from Mrs. T. H. James's Schippeitaro (1888), illustrated by Suzuki Munesaburo.

Shippeitaro[1] or Shippei Taro[2] (also given by the German spelling Schippeitaro[3][4]) (しっぺい太郎,[7] 竹篦太郎,[8] 執柄太郎[9]) is the name of a helper dog in the Japanese fairy tale by the same name.

Translations include "Schippeitaro" in Andrew Lang's Violet Fairy Book (1901), taken from a German copy, and Mrs. James's "Schippeitaro" (1888), which share the same plotline: The mountain spirit and its minions (in the guise of cats in this version) demand a yearly human sacrifice of a maiden from the local village. The hero, a young warrior, overhears the spirits hinting that "Shippeitaro" was their bane, and discovers it to be a dog. The dog is substituted for the maiden inside the container for the sacrifice, and when the spirits arrive, the hero and dog attack the cats and vanquish them.

The evil spirits appear as monkeys in most instances of the tale, as in the version of "Shippei Taro" given in Keigo Seki's anthology (translated into English 1963). In fact, this folktale is classified as "Destroying the Monkey Demon" (Sarugami taiji) tale type by Japanese folklorists. Tales in the group includes tales where the dog has no name, and even those with no helper dog appearing at all.

In variants, the dog may have Suppeitarō, Suppetarō or a variety of other names, for example, "Sōtarō of Kōzenji [ja] temple in Shinano".


The version of "Schippeitaro" in Andrew Lang's The Violet Fairy Book (1901) was taken from Japanische Märchen und Sagen collected by Professor David Brauns [de] (Leipzig, 1885).[10][11][a]

The story of "Schippeitaro" (1888) as told by Mrs. T. H. James (Kate James[13]), was number 17 in the "Japanese Fairy Tale Series" printed by Hasegawa Takejirō, who issued many such chirimen-bon or "crepe-paper books".[14] Mrs. James's version follows a storyline identical to Lang's version.[15]


Below is the summary of the Lang/Mrs. James version:[4][16]

A young warrior wandered the land in search of adventure, eventually finding an enchanted forest, wherein he slept in a shrine (or chapel).[b] He was awoken at midnight by ferocious yowls from cats, who were dancing and yelling, some saying, "Do not tell Shippeitaro!" He got up and continued on, eventually finding a village where he heard a female voice lamenting and pleading for help. He was told that every year they had to sacrifice a maiden to the spirit of the mountain, and it was this girl's turn this year. She was put in a cage (or cask) which, in turn, was put in the shrine.[c] He inquired about Shippeitaro: a dog of the prince's overseer,[d] living nearby. The warrior visited the overseer and persuaded him to lend him the dog. He went to the cage, replacing the maiden with Shippeitaro. The cage was brought to the shrine, and the cats came. A huge black cat opened the cage, and Shippeitaro jumped out and killed it. Then, with the help of the warrior, killed several others before they fled. The warrior brought Shippeitaro back to his owner in the morning, and every year a feast was held in honor of the warrior and Shippeitaro.[e]


The Lang/Mrs. James version which features cats as the antagonists is actually atypical. In most Shippeitaro tales, the malevolent spirits appear as monkeys (or baboons).[18][f]

An example is "Shippei Taro" published in Keigo Seki (ed.), Robert J. Adams (tr.), Folktales of Japan (1963), which was collected in Monou District, Miyagi. The priest in the story defeated the ogres (whose remains were those of dead monkeys) by replacing the young girl placed in the chest to be sacrificed with the dog Shippei Taro, which he found far away in Nagahama of Ōmi Province.[g][20][21]

Seki has actually collected a number of variant tales from the field. In Seki (1978), Nihon mukashibanashi taisei, the provisional count is 67 examples: it includes tales where the dog helper does not appear at all, and the dog's name may be only a slight variant (Suppeitarō, Suppetarō (すっぺい太郎, 素平太郎, すっぺ太郎), an alternate reading (Takeberatarō[h]) or altogether different. The dog may be Shippeitarō/Suppe(i)tarō from Ōmi or Tanba or some other province. And in several examples, the dog appears as Sōtarō (早太郎, 草太郎) or Heibōtarō (へいぼう太郎, 兵坊太郎) of Kōzenji [ja] temple in Shinano Province.[22][23] The evil spirits may be in the form of monkey, cat, rat, or badger (both a true badger or mujina and the "raccoon dog" or tanuki).[24]

Old printed book[edit]

Shippeitaro breaks out of his box and destroys the wolves.
—from Zōho Shippeitarō (1796), printed from a drawing by Toyokuni.

There is also a kibyōshi type printing from the Edo Period, the Zōho Shippeitarō (1796) meaning the "expanded version" that was written by Nansenshō Somahito (南杣笑そまひと) with illustrations by ukiyo-e artist Toyokuni. This book illustrates spirits of the monkey, fox, kappa, tanuki (racoon dog), hare, and wolf kind devouring the human sacrifice, and in the culminating scene depicts Shippeitarō defeating wolves.[9][25]

Tale type[edit]

In Japanese folklore studies, the "Shippeitarō" story is classed under the tale type Sarugami taiji (猿神退治, "Destroying the Monkey Demon" or "Monkey Spirit Conquest"), categorized as Type 91 by Seki.[26][27][28] This general tale group is more broad, and includes tales where a dog is not involved at all.[27]

Since the story concludes with the heroes halting the practice of offering maidens as human sacrifice, it draws a parallel to the legend of Saint George and the Dragon, and there is some similarities also to the story of Susanoo saving Kushinadahime from the great serpent Yamata no Orochi.[29]

In the Aarne–Thompson classification, the tale is classed as "The Dragon Slayer" type, AT300.[21]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lang in the Violet Fairy Book only cites "Japanische Märchen",[10] but in his Pink Fairy Book (1897), he provides the longer and fuller citation naming Brauns.[12]
  2. ^ Mrs. Smith calls it "little temple" or "ruined shrine", in contrast to Brauns's Kapelle and Lang's "chapel" which have Christian connotation.
  3. ^ Brauns writes Käfig "cage", concurring with Mrs. James's rendition as "cage". This in Japanese would be kago (),[17] which can also denote a basket, including those with lids. The illustration in Mrs. Smith's book (drawn by Suzuki Munesaburo) depicts such a lidded basket (Cf. also kōri (行李) or wicker trunk). Lang for some reason rendered this as "cask", which was illustrated as a barrel by Henry Justice Ford.
  4. ^ It reads "the head man of our Prince", in Mrs. James's text
  5. ^ Mrs. Smith's version simply concludes with the warrior seeking new adventures.
  6. ^ Seki also gives monkey in the main, with cat, rat, badger as subtypes.[19]
  7. ^ "Collected in Mono-gun, Miyagi-ken by Keisuke Sugawara" (Seki 1966, p. 33)
  8. ^ takebera is just the kun-yomi reading of shippei (竹篦).


  1. ^ James (1888), Preface
  2. ^ Seki (1963), p. 33
  3. ^ James (1888)
  4. ^ a b Lang (1901), pp. 36–40 (Violet Fairy Book)
  5. ^ Seki ed. (1978), Nihon mukashibanashi taisei, 7 pp.45–58
  6. ^ Kobayashi (2012), p. 84
  7. ^ Various examples in Seki (1978), Nihon mukashibanashi taisei.[5][6]
  8. ^ James (1888), "Copyright reserved" notice (endpaper)
  9. ^ a b Nansenshō (1796).
  10. ^ a b Lang (1901), p. 40.
  11. ^ Brauns (1885), pp. 50–53 (Fraktur font); Schippeitaro (in Latin font online at
  12. ^ Lang, Andrew, ed. (1897), "Uraschimataro and the Turtle", The Pink Fairy Book, New York and Bombay: Longmans, Green, p. 25n
  13. ^ Sharf (1994), p. 10
  14. ^ Sharf (1994), p. 62
  15. ^ Cf. the text itself: James (1888)
  16. ^ James (1888), James (1889)
  17. ^ Kobayashi (2012), p. 84
  18. ^ Kobayashi (2012), p. 81
  19. ^ Seki (1966), p. 52
  20. ^ Seki (1963), pp. 33–36
  21. ^ a b Hansen, William F. (2002), Ariadne's Thread: A Guide to International Tales Found in Classical Literature, Cornell University Press, pp. 119–121
  22. ^ Taguchi (1987), pp. 2–3 (table)
  23. ^ Kobayashi (2012), pp. 86–94 (table)
  24. ^ Seki (1966), p. 52; Taguchi (1987), pp. 2–3 (table); Kobayashi (2012), pp. 86–94 (table)
  25. ^ Kobayashi (2012), p. 96.
  26. ^ Seki (1966), p. 52
  27. ^ a b Knight, John (2003). Waiting for Wolves in Japan. Oxford University Press. p. 92., citing Nakamura, Teiri [ja] (1989) Dobutsutachi no reiryoku [Spiritual powers of animals] pp. 54–5; and Nagano, E. (1991) Sarugami taiji in Nihon Minwa no Kai (ed.) Gaidobukku nihono no minwa [A Guidebook to Japanese Folktales] pp. 115-116.
  28. ^ Anderson (1969), p. 277, note 26
  29. ^ Anderson (1969), p. 277.