Kotengu - in Popular Folk Tales

In Popular Folk Tales

Tengu appear frequently in the orally-transmitted tales collected by Japanese folklorists. As these stories are often humorous, they tend to portray tengu as ridiculous creatures who are easily tricked or confused by humans. Some common folk tales in which tengu appear include:

  • "The Tengu's Magic Cloak" (天狗の隠れみの, Tengu no Kakuremino?): A boy looks through an ordinary piece of bamboo and pretends he can see distant places. A tengu, overwhelmed by curiosity, offers to trade it for a magic straw cloak that renders the wearer invisible. Having duped the tengu, the boy continues his mischief while wearing the cloak. Another version of this story tells of an ugly old man who tricks a tengu into giving him his magical cloak and causes mayhem for his fellow villagers. The story ends with the tengu regaining the coat through a game of riddle exchange and punishes the man by turning him into a wolf.
  • "The Old Man's Lump Removed" (瘤取り爺さん, Kobu-tori Jiisan?): An old man has a lump or tumor on his face. In the mountains he encounters a band of tengu making merry and joins their dancing. He pleases them so much that they want him to join them the next night, and offer a gift for him. In addition, they take the lump off his face, thinking that he will want it back and therefore have to join them the next night. An unpleasant neighbor, who also has a lump, hears of the old man's good fortune and attempts to repeat it, and steal the gift. The tengu, however, simply give him the first lump in addition to his own, because they are disgusted by his bad dancing, and because he tried to steal the gift.
  • "The Tengu's Fan" (天狗の羽団扇, Tengu no Hauchiwa?) A scoundrel obtains a tengu's magic fan, which can shrink or grow noses. He secretly uses this item to grotesquely extend the nose of a rich man's daughter, and then shrinks it again in exchange for her hand in marriage. Later he accidentally fans himself while he dozes, and his nose grows so long it reaches heaven, resulting in painful misfortune for him.
  • "The Tengu's Gourd" (天狗の瓢箪, "Tengu no Hyōtan"?): A gambler meets a tengu, who asks him what he is most frightened of. The gambler lies, claiming that he is terrified of gold or mochi. The tengu answers truthfully that he is frightened of a kind of plant or some other mundane item. The tengu, thinking he is playing a cruel trick, then causes money or rice cakes to rain down on the gambler. The gambler is of course delighted and proceeds to scare the tengu away with the thing he fears most. The gambler then obtains the tengu's magic gourd (or another treasured item) that was left behind.
  • "The Tengu, and the Woodcutter": A tengu bothers a woodcutter, showing off his supernatural abilities by guessing everything the man is thinking. The woodcutter swings his axe, and a splinter of wood hits the tengu on the nose. The tengu flees in terror, exclaiming that humans are dangerous creatures who can do things without thinking about them.

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