A-Yokai-A-Day: Tengu Tsubute

There’s a typhoon bearing down on Japan right now, and aside from the wind and rain, all sorts of things are flying through the air. Fall leaves, dirt and sand, tiny pebbles and pieces of torn election posters… And of course everyone is in their homes where it is dry and warm, so the mountains look wild and untamed, full of life, and probably teeming with yokai. Its the perfect weather right now for today’s A-Yokai-A-Day:

Tengu tsubute
天狗礫
てんぐつぶて
“stone thrown by a tengu”

Toriyama Sekien’s tengu tsubute

Tengu tsubute is a phenomenon that happens to people usually when they are walking out in the mountains alone. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a stone flies through the air and hits them!

Stories like this are found all over Japan. Mysterious objects which have no business being in the air—such as rocks—fly through the sky and hit a random person. But when you look around there is no one or nothing there that could have thrown the object. The conclusion is that a tengu, or maybe a prankster tanuki or kitsune, must have thrown it!

Why would a yokai do such a thing? Well, one answer is that many yokai are just annoying jerks who like to play jokes on people. This is precisely the type of thing that entertains them. However, because tengu are involved, another answer is common. Tengu are not usually portrayed as tricksters. Instead, they tend to be portrayed as punishers of the wicked. The person who gets hit by a random flying tengu tsubute may not be so random after all; maybe they committed some sort of crime or sin and got away with it, and this is the tengu’s way of making sure they get some form of divine punishment.

Tengu tsubute is not always just a harmless annoyance either; in some tales, the person who gets hit by the rock will become terribly ill—possible even die! Even if they don’t become sick, those who encounter this phenomenon are generally said to have some sort of misfortune (aside from being hit by a flying rock, that is).

In some instances, people don’t get hit by the rocks. They only hear the rock land next to them, but when they look, there is no rock there at all! Perhaps it is an invisible rock, or perhaps it disappears as soon as it lands, due to some tengu magic?

Tengu tsubute, upcoming in my Patreon project

 

One thought on “A-Yokai-A-Day: Tengu Tsubute

  1. And here I thought you were going to write about a BOULDER coming down from the mountain. Something like that would Really spoil someone’s day! Speaking of storms (we’re having a bit of wind and rain a storm here), I wondered if tengu were once storm spirits; being flying creatures and rather belligerent, they would be ideal representatives.

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