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Tsurube-bi (釣瓶火, つるべび)
Today’s yokai seems to be very closely related to another yokai with a very similar name: the tsurube-otoshi. Tsurube-bi is occasionally referred to as tsurube-otoshi or tsurube-oroshi, depending on the region, and they are considered by yokai researchers to be two species of the same yokai. From a casual glance, the chief difference seems to be that one is made of fire and the other is made of flesh, however they are actually much more different than they appear. They are considered to be a type of hi-no-tama, or fireball yokai, but more specifically they are said to be the soul of a tree lingering in the forest.
Tsurube-bi first appears in Toriyama Sekien’s Gazu Hyakki Yagyō. Sekien wrote no explanatory sentences, and it wasn’t until much later that a clear explanation of this yokai was developed.
Tsurube-bi are found in the Shikoku and Kyushu regions. They appear late at night in trees, usually conifer trees, as floating and bobbing blueish-white orbs of fire up in the branches. Occasionally they drop down and then float back up. Sometimes the vague shape of a human or bestial face can be seen in the flames.
Other than that, tsurube-bi do pretty much nothing at all. They do not hurt people, and their fire doesn’t even produce any heat or burn anything. Just an eerie, but somewhat playful and beautiful orb of light in the mountains and forests.