Monday, August 29, 2011
illustration friday (disguise)
Japanese folktales are full of stories of how humans are tricked by shape-shifting creatures. Two of the creatures most strongly associated with disguise are the fox and the tanuki. Whereas the fox tends to be sly and somewhat cruel, the tanuki tends to be a buffoon. My submission to this week's Illustration Friday illustrates a famous folktale called Bunbuku Chagama involving a tanuki that disguises itself as a ceremonial tea kettle. There are many versions to the story, but this is the version I learned as a child:
One day a tanuki is chased around the monastery grounds by a Buddhist monk who has come to the end of his patience over the tanuki's mischief. In a last-ditch effort to escape, the tanuki changes itself into a ceremonial tea kettle. But when the unsuspecting monk fills the kettle with water and places it on the hot coals of a hibachi in preparation for tea, the tanuki suddenly starts reverting to its true form. For some reason, it gets stuck half-way between its true form and the kettle disguise. The tanuki does manage to escape the monk, however, and in the end, it achieves success as a circus performer.
The accompanying quote is from a popular English nursery rhyme. I find the imbalance between the cultural background of the image and that of the words to be amusing. ;p